Home > Brian's Blogs, Missional Church, Renewal > Renewal Update 12: Class Begins!

Renewal Update 12: Class Begins!

Today I began my first Doctor of Ministry seminar from Fuller Theological Seminary.  The seminar is titled Missional Leadership and is led by a great author and teacher, Reggie McNeal.  Here are a few things we’re discussing:

In introducing the “missional church,” it is important to understand that “missional” is more of a worldview and not a methodology.  That is, to be “missional” is to think about the church, the world, and the intersection of the two in a certain way.  “Missional” is not about “how” you “do church.”  Perhaps the most significant example is that a “missional” worldview does not say “I go to church” as if church is a place, rather, a “missional” worldview says “I am church – certainly not the whole of church, but I am sent by God on God’s mission.”

Here are what Reggie (yes, we call him Reggie), sees as three major worldview aspects in missional thinking.  I’ll elaborate on each one more in subsequent posts since this is the outline for our class.  A missional worldview is:

  1. Externally focused.
  2. People focused.
  3. First-century leadership focused.

Today we began our discussion of the first aspect of missional church, the external focus.  This is a major worldview shift because for a long time (possibly since Constantine in the early fourth-century), the church has maintained a primarily internal focus.  I’ve already discussed this at length in my posts on Reggie’s book, The Present Future (see here and here and here).

A key point that Reggie made that resonated with me is this: The church is not the center of God’s mission.  The world is the center of God’s mission.  The purpose of the church is not to love and serve ourselves but to love and serve the world as God loves the world (John 3:16).  Yes, God primarily works through the church to accomplish His mission (though He doesn’t always need to, consider the many Muslims that are having visions and dreams about Jesus); however, the mission is not to build up our kingdom (translation: have more money and bigger attendance on Sunday mornings) but to be used by God to build up His kingdom, even if new kingdom dwellers never step foot in our church.

This is the difference between an internal focus and an external focus:  Is it about us, or is it about God?  Let me answer the question: it’s about God.  The church is so selfish and inward that it is going to take a change in worldview (primarily our view of the church) to change it.  Viva la missional church!

By the way, here is the beach I walked yesterday:

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  1. August 5, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Yes!

    And no.

    The church is WAY too inwardly focused (preserving the “institution”, etc.). But the argument about whether we should be primarily inward focused or primarily outward focused has always seemed to me to miss the point. It feels a lot like the “affirmative action” argument about whether we should favor minorities or favor the majority. We shouldn’t “favor” either.

    As a church mediator, I have worked with a number of conflicts among congregations who are extremely outward-focused to the detriment of relationships within the church. I so love Reggie’s work and I know his heart–to try to correct an unhealthy inward focus by emphasizing the outward focus. But I don’t think painting it as “either/or” quite lines up with Christ’s ministry. Can’t we just be “people-focused”, whether we find them inside the church or outside?

  2. Zach
    August 5, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    dllmcseqr
    i love you, daddy!

  3. Brian McLaughlin
    August 6, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Blake,

    You are right. It can never be either/or. Both are essential components to fulfilling God’s mission.

    I think where Reggie is coming from, as you well know, is that we don’t have to help our people become internally focused. That happens naturally. So the emphasis on external is to become more wholistic, but we’ll have to blow the external trumpet more since it doesn’t come naturally and we have a whole institutional system to change.

    But, I really do like Reggie’s clarification of theology which is new for some people: the church exists to bless the world (this goes back to Genesis 12), the church does not exist to bless itself. That is a radical reorientation that needs to happen.

  4. August 7, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Amen! I love Reggie. Tell him Blake Coffee says “hey”.

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