The Missional Church

by Larry Chouinard

My article on preaching was published in the Baptist mag a month ago, & brought some strong response … 3 intelligent & gracious articles from Bible college lecturers (2 of whom I’ve studied under previously) …. I’m not convinced by their responses, & have the opportunity to respond in 800 words next month. As I’ve been thinking this through, I see I need to clarify the two key aspects I was trying to address in my article (as it appears they disagree with both of these J ). The two key aspects I see are –

1. There is no Biblical mandate for preaching as it is practiced in modern western churches (ie monologues mainly to converted people) – preaching in the NT is always in the context of evangelism. From the pro-preaching side, it appears that they see preaching as having some elements of ‘spiritual mystery or magic’ (my words) & they talk of the mystery, the high calling of the preacher etc If they are correct, then preaching shouldn’t be questioned or critiqued in the same way we critique the effectiveness of other forms of communication (ie preaching to the choir might appear to be out-dated & ineffective, but it is a spiritual mystery & hence we need to do it anyway). Whereas, if I am correct, then monologue preaching to church congregations isn’t essential, & can be critiqued along with all other forms of communication we choose to use.

2. Preaching (as practiced in modern western churches) is expensive, ineffective, creates dependency & Biblical illiteracy etc In contrast, the pro-preachers argue that it is effective, imparts spiritually etc etc, & we actually need more of it more effective versions of expository preaching etc … ie they say the problem is a lack of quality preaching, rather than too much of it.

These are key questions for the house church movement. If the Baptist preachers are right, and preaching is biblically essential (#1 above), or a very effective &/or spiritual form of communication (#2 above), then the house church movement is typically missing something that is either essential or very effective.

I’m interested in some feedback from you if possible. Do you think this is a reasonably accurate analysis?????

Also – a bit further expansion regarding whether preaching to the choir (preaching to the church members) is extra-biblical. I think there are 3 main options/viewpoints …

Preaching to the saved is extra-biblical. There are no clear examples of it in the NT. All preaching in the NT is in the context of evangelism
Preaching to the saved can be seen in the NT scriptures. However, it is just an example of one of the things they did, & isn’t normative or prescriptive for churches today (eg like meeting in people’s homes).
Preaching to the saved can be seen in NT scriptures, AND is prescriptive/normative for us today, & hence presumably all churches of all times. This view seems to effectively raise this form of preaching to the same level as say baptism or prayer. (spiritual mysteries)

With #1 & #2 above
– ‘You’ might still decide to preach in particular situations, because you think it will be an effective form of communication
– ‘You’ will be willing to evaluate all forms of communication, including preaching (if you choose to preach)
– Your preaching might at times be very effective, and teach people or move them spiritually. People might even say they have encountered God during one of your sermons. This could be due to a combination of prayer, study, presentation, the power of God’s words, people having expectations, & the HS moving etc. However, this does not mean that preaching has a biblical basis that makes it essential, or raises it above critique.

#3 above seems to be the view that the proponents of preaching believe

What do you think? Is this a reasonable & biblically-sound analysis? I look forward to hearing from you (if you have an opinion).

Have a good week – here are some thoughts from Larry Chouinard regarding the features of a missional church.

…. happy reading.

Blessings
David Allis
www.edgenet.org.nz

The Missional Church by Larry Chouinard
From https://web.archive.org/web/20070805043249/http://lchouinard.blogspot.com/2006/01/missional-church.html

Two significant definitions helps us to isolate certain features of a missional church:

“The missional church rejects the association of Christianity with American values and the association of the church with entertainment, marketing, and corporate business models. The missional church is reading both Scripture and culture with new eyes. It sees that what is determined by the Christian faith is more than being a good, upright citizen. It sees the church as something different from the smooth corporate model of business. This emerging church calls for honest, authentic faith that seeks to be church in the way of a more radical discipleship.” (Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Evangelism, p. 129)

“A missional church is one whose primary commitment is to the missionary calling of the people of God. . . it is one that aligns itself with God’s missionary purposes in the world. . . The missional church is a sent church with one of its defining values [incarnating Jesus’ life and values in the culture it is embedded]”. (Frost and Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come, p.229)

(1) A missional church is externally focused.
(2) A missional church is culturally engaged without being absorbed.
(3) A missional church is incarnationally not institutionally driven.
(4) A missional church is about discipleship not church membership.
(5) A missional church is patterned after God’s missionary purpose in the world.
(6) A missional church seeks to establish Kingdom outposts to retake territory under the control of the Evil One.
(7) A missionary church seeks to plant,grow, and multiply missionary communities.
(8) A missionary church trains and equips new leaders to enter territories under seige by Dark Forces. We learn in the context of mission not in the security of our comfort zone.
(9) A missional church highlights character, virtue, and compassionate deeds as the most effective witness to God’s Kingdom.
(10) A missional church connects to Jesus through mission not doctrinal precision.
(11) A missional church adopts an organizational structure and internal forms based on mission not ecclesiastical traditions.
(12) A missional church sees itself as organic and not in static institutional forms.
(13) A missional church pursues relationships across generational, ethnic, economic and cultural lines of distinctions.
(14) A missional church seeks to partner with the community to “seek the shalom” of the community.
(15) A missional church assembles to seek God’s presence and to be realigned with God’s missionary purpose.
(16) A missionary church seeks to reawaken a movement ethos as together we engage our cultural context.

On his website, Larry asked “What other features would you add if the 21st century church is to be missional?”
People commenting on his website I response to this question suggested the following extra aspects –

A missional church –
– sees broken communities as invitations to enter not warnings to avoid
– something about weakness rather than strength (Christus Victor is about the Cross)
– something about being formed as apprentices of Jesus as a measure of success
– possibly another piece relative to structure .. rather than visible and institutional, connected and networked, often invisible, seeping into the cracks and crevices of society.. permeating (salt and light). Often when we think of incarnational we think of visible because of the connotation of enfleshment.. but enfleshment has more to do with presence than with visibility.
– to be missional is to understand the mission heart of God, as an attribute, and a willingness to participate with Him in what he is doing
– must be a “cruciformed church” shaped by the way of life and values envisioned by the cross. Success is defined by our witness to the Crucified One in humble acts of service, not the corporate model of personal returns and benefits. Paul expressed it best: “I have been crucified with Christ. I myself no longer lives, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:19-20). Thanks Len for stimulating these thought.
– Big vision…may that be a huge attribute of the emerging church. That we would always live in the reality of being pioneers, pilgrims, frontiers, never being happy with settlement. That we would be a community that beds down at night with it’s eyes on the horizon, always looking to the future…always moving towards and expanding His Kingdom. Living in the reality of His presence…living and moving.
– focus holisticly – whole person in his/her whole life by the whole body of Christ on the community and people and do it in an active missional process which is different from other processes.

And “it is easy to imagine a missional church, but another thing to be a missional church”

And “it is the individuals in the church taking on a missional way of life that will then allow the church to truthfully be defined as such. My personal struggle as of recent, has been the discovery that I love thinking about this for the church, but have only recently stopped to realize that I need to think about this for me!”