Home > Brian's Blogs, Missional Church > What is the/a Missional Church? (7)

What is the/a Missional Church? (7)

Last week I began to discuss Craig Van Gelder’s vision for a missional church.  I reviewed his comments about how every church is facing a changing world.  Today we see some more specifics on how a missional church responds to a changing world.

First, Van Gelder helps us understand that God’s mission is a mission to the world.  In other words, the object of God’s mission has no boundaries: “This God, who created all things, is the same God who seeks to redeem all things (2 Cor. 5:16-21).  In fact, God is so passionate about this redemption that God chose to send God’s Son into the world to take on human flesh in order to bring about the world’s release from its bondage to sin.  The gospel is good news for the sake of the world.  This means that every context is a location where God seeks to be a work redemptively” (57).

But, even though God’s mission is creation-wide, every local church has a specific context (geography, language, culture, etc).  Therefore, “a congregation needs to proactively engage its context” (59).  In other words, even though God is at work in the entire world, He has placed you in one location.  Your job is to redeem that location, to redeem your context.

Van Gelder offers two broad pieces of advice to help a congregation.  Specifically, there are two primary questions that local congregations need to be asking:

  1. What is God doing?  Van Gelder sees this as an issue of faith and discernment: “The world belongs to God.  It is God’s creation.  The church must seek to discern what the Spirit of God is doing in relation to the dynamic changes that are taking place within a particular context.  These activities of the Spirit often present fresh opportunities for ministry to congregations” (59).
  2. What does God wnat to do?  Van Gelder sees this as an issue of wisdom and planning: “Congregations need to ask on a regular basis in regard to the contexts they seek to serve, What does God want to do?  This question requires wisdom and planning.  God desires to bring all of life into reconciled relationship.  The church must seek to understand how the intent of God, as expressed in the gospel, can work itself out in a particular context to contribute to this ministry of reconciliation” (60).

So a local congregation must regularly ask itself these questions about their particular context.  The answer to these questions will provide the church with vision, strategy, direction, planning, etc.

For a congregation to be able to do this successfully, it requires certain aptitudes.  Van Gelder outlines these aptitudes.  I’ll quote them with very brief comment:

  1. Spirit-led, missional congregations learn to read a context as they seek their contextuality.  In other words: understand the community immediately around you.
  2. Spirit-led, missional congregations anticipate new insights into the gospel.  In other words: expect to understand and live the gospel in new ways.
  3. Spirit-led, missional congregations anticipate reciprocity.  In other words: expect to learn from the community immediately around you.
  4. Spirit-led, missional congregations understand they are contextual and, therefore, also particular.  In other words: there is no model congregation.
  5. Spirit-led, missional congregations understand that ministry is always contextual and, therefore, is also practical.  In other words: there is no common program that works the same in every congregation.
  6. Spirit-led, missional congregations undersatnd that doing theology is always contextual and, therefore, is also perspectival.  In other words: learn to express your faith in ways that make sense to your community.
  7. Spirit-led, missional congregations understand that organizations is always contextual and, therefore, is always provisional.  In other words, there is no standardized church order or organization.
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