Home > Brian's Blogs, Missional Church > What is the/a Missional Church? (6)

What is the/a Missional Church? (6)

To date, Craig Van Gelder’s The Ministry of the Missional Church has approached the church from a theological angle: understanding the nature of the church and her relationship to the Holy Spirit.  Today Van Gelder begins to apply this theology by talking about how the church responds to a changing world.

Here is Van Gelder’s big idea: “It is the premise of this book that in the midst of this process of constant change taking place within congregational contexts a congregation needs to understand the ministry of the Spirit.  God’s intent often is to use such change either directly or indirectly to move a congregation in new directions of meaningful ministry under the leading of the Spirit” (48).

Now let’s tease this out by looking at Van Gelder’s major points:

  1. Contexts Always Change (i.e. Change Happens).  A well known quote says “change is the only constant.”  Van Gelder mentions two primary types of change:
    • Incremental change is slow and continuous change that may take place over decades – think of how automobiles change over time.
    • Dramatic change is rapid and discontinuous that takes place rapidly – think of the development and impact of the internet.
    • Change of either form can be both helpful and harmful.
  2. The Church Must Respond to Change.  Van Gelder believes that “congregations have the biblical mandate to recontextualize their ministries in such rapid times of change” (50).  He believes there are three traditional responses to change:
    • Relevance.  Some respond to change by attempting to become relevant to the new context.  This is most evident in Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback.
    • Resistance.  Some respond to change by denying and/or ignoring it.  This is evident in many traditional churches.
    • Adaptation.  Some respond to change by adapting some things from the new context while maintaining other things from the old tradition.

With these two major points in mind, Van Gelder proposes a fourth way to respond to change: “the alternative approach being proposed here is that the church is always both forming and reforming.  This reinforces the logic that the church always needs to be both confessional (claiming and reclaiming its identity in relation to the historic Christian faith) and missional (engaging its context and continuously recontextualizing its ministry)” (54).

Here is basically how Van Gelder envisions the church as forming and reforming:

  1. The church is always forming (missional).  “This means that congregations seek to become contextual even as they maintain the historic Christian faith…In doing so they invite change even while they seek to maintain continuity.  The ministry of the Spirit helps congregations engage in both processess simultaneously” (55)
  2. The church is always reforming (confessional).  “This insight represents an effort to make congregations more responsive to their heritage…By recovering something from its past through reform, it is hoped that the church will become more responsive to its present” (55).

Well, that is his proposal in brief.  Next time we’ll tease this proposal out in more detail.

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  1. October 13, 2008 at 3:44 pm

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