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Protecting God’s Creation.

Embracing Gospel Justice.

Nurturing Spiritual Fulfillment.


During Lent, our church has been participating in a wonderfully challenging program, Lent 4.5.  The  program is aimed at cultivating hearts and lifestyles of Christian simplicity.   Over the course of the Sundays in Lent, we have (and will) explore topics such as simplicity, consumption, food, water, energy, transportation, and giving and generosity.

We’re asking questions such as: How do we faithfully live in God’s creation?  How do we view and use our limited resources?  Are we being consumed by marketers and advertisers?

The congregation’s response have been beautifully mixed.  Some folks are really digging all the ways we’ve explored caring for creation.  Others aren’t quite on board…yet.  But God is moving in powerful ways…challenging the skeptics and motivating the passionate!

Over the next few days I’ll share some of the videos I’ve made that highlight the weekly themes.

Lent 4.5 is produced by the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, KY.

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After describing the nature and leadership of a missional church, the authors examine how such a church might organize itself for its missional vocation?  The authors outline three principles for the structuring of the missional church.  First, the scriptures are authoritative for the formation of the structures.  The authors point to the early church as one that makes clear that the church must have structure.  The early church structured its life around regular meetings, mutual encouragement, hymns, and instruction.  Leadership functioned for guidance and oversight.  Even more, in each early church context, the church was a concrete reality (think of the Incarnation), not a nebulous abstraction.

Second, the authors claim that a missional church structure must have cultural diversity within its structures.  They argue that from the outset, the church was mandated to be multicultural (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth).  We might also think of those gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost.  The Church is multicultural because God’s people are formed in distinctive ways in each context (233).

Finally, the local particular community is the basic missional structure of the church.  “The basic form of Christian witness is a company of followers of Jesus called by God’s spirit and joined together as God’s people in a particular place” (233).  The authors point out that this definition of “church” is particularly challenging in North America.  The North American assumption is that this organization or structure will manifest itself as a local congregation.  Oftentimes, these local congregations are determined by geographic.  But now, however, people move, change jobs, or live in multiple places.  The authors challenge the North American context to re-imagine what communities and parishes look like.  If the church is more than a building or a place, what might a “local particular community” of believers look like today?  How might it function to give glory to God in its context?

The analysis of local churches, the authors argue, begins with testing the structural integrity of local churches.  Only after we know the history or a particular church can we discern how the local church might be more than a geographic holding place for the community.  We must be open to the scriptures confronting and transforming out mindset, attitudes, and assumptions about our structure (247).

While the authors raise several valid claims about “particular communities,” the particulars of any proposed structure are absent.  I would have appreciated a more concrete vision of how these three principles work together to form the Church in the North American landscape.  The chapter left me feeling this way: It’s raining (Christianity is in trouble).  I am currently covered by an umbrella (the structure I have always known).  However, the authors have taken away from umbrella (structure) and not replaced it with anything (despite the rain!).

This is the eighth review in a ten-part series looking at Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell Guder.

From member-centered to mission-centered…

After concluding chapter three with a call for critique of the existing church structure in North America, the authors issue a further call at the beginning of chapter four: “There is a need for a reinventing or rediscovering the church in this new kind of world” (77).  They argue that the church is no longer the “chaplain to the culture and society,” and that the church has lost its privilege and influence.  Yet, the authors note that in this time of crisis there is both danger and opportunity.  The church may struggle to be relevant, but it can still be faithful.

The authors begin their vision of the church in the new world by asking as series of question about the church.  First, they ask, “Is the Church is a place or a people?”  For many people, the church is a place.  You go to church on Sunday, or you belong to a church.  As a result, mission is viewed as an ecclesiocentric (Church-centered) activity.  Mission is “activities arising out of the church with an aim to extend the church of plant it in new places” (81).  David Bosch, however, articulates the church as a people, as a body of people sent on a mission (81).  The church is a community of gathered people who are called to be sent into the world in mission.  Mission in this way is theocentric (God-centered).  The Church is a community spawned by the mission of God and gathered up into that mission.  This mission, missio Dei, is explicitly Trinitarian.  Mission is grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ, supplanted by the reality and power of the Spirit, and originated by God at creation.

Next, the authors ask, “Is the Church a ‘sent people’ or a vendor of religious goods?”  Unfortunately, the authors claim, the language about church today still indicates that we think of church as a vendor of religious services and goods, and the clergy are the sales representatives (85).

How do we foster a new, theocentric view of church?  The writers propose that Christians today must rehear the gospel afresh.  We must contemplate the NT vision of the church against today’s cultural, social, and religious trends.  We need to re-hear what Jesus, himself the gospel, proclaimed: The kingdom of God.  “This central theme shaped for Jesus the sense of his mission as well as the mantle of that mission that he passed to this followers” (89).  As Jesus said, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (Matthew 10.7).  Today, Christians are to witness to the same reign of God that Jesus announced; a reign characterized by peace, justice, and celebration.

The church is initiated by the reign of God and directed to embody it.  The church is to be a sign and foretaste, an agent and an instrument of God’s kingdom.  By living as a unique community “brought together across the rubble of dividing walls” the Church may bear witness to the reign of God (103).  Also by sharing in the servanthood of Jesus and announcing the presence and authority of the reign of God the Church lives outs its vocational call.

The authors’ call for a rediscovery of Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of God reminded me of Mortimer Arias’s thesis in Announcing the Reign of God.  Simply put, both works argue for a “back to the basics” form of mission.  Let’s do what Jesus did.  Let’s say what Jesus said.  I wonder, however, how we hold that notion in tension with the fact that we don’t live in the same world as Jesus.  Attitudes, assumptions, values are all different.  Perhaps we announce and embody the everlasting truths of love, mercy, and forgiveness, reconciliation that Jesus proclaimed but maybe we do it with what the authors call a “post-Christendom accent (109).”

This is the fourth review in a ten-part series looking at Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell Guder.

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