Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (The Gospel and Our Culture Series) by Darrell L. Guder and Lois Barrett provides some helpful thinking in what constitutes a “missional” church. Now I do believe strongly that the authors’ understanding of the Gospel is seriously defective as it is way too broad. But the following quotes are worth echoing.
Both members and those outside the church expect the church to be a vendor of religious services and goods. (page 84)
In the ecclesiocentric approach of Christendom, mission became only one of the many programs of the church. Mission boards emerged in Western churches to do the worked of foreign mission. Yet even here the Western Churches understood themselves as sending churches, and they assumed the destination of their sending to be pagan reaches of the world that needed both the gospel and “the benefits of Western civilization.” In like manner, Western churches also developed home mission or inner mission, as the emerging secularisms of Western societies presented us with new challenges. But it has taken us decades to realize that mission is not just a program of the church. It defines the church as God’s sent people. Either we are defined by mission, ore we reduce the scope of the gospel and the mandate of the church. Thus our challenge today is to move from Church with mission to missional church. (page 6)
The Churches of North America have been dislocated from their prior social role of chaplain to the culture and society and have lost their once privilege positions of influence. Religious life in general and the churches in particular have increasingly been relegated to the private spheres of life. Too readily, the churches have accepted this as their proper place. At the same time, the churches have become so accommodated to the America away of life that they are now domesticated, and it is no longer obvious what justified their existence as particular communities. The religious loyalties that churches seem to claim and the social functions that they actually perform are at odds with each other. Discipleships has been absorbed into citizenship. (page 78)
This one of the ways the church lives in but not of the world. The church’s particular communities live in the context of the surrounding culture, engage with the culture, but are not controlled by the culture. The faithful church critiques its cultural environment, particularly the dominant culture; affirms those aspects of culture that do not contradict the gospel; speaks the languages of the surrounding cultures and of the gospel; constantly rites to communicate the gospel in the surrounding culture, and is cultivating and forming the culture of God’s new community, a culture not of the world. To do so is parte of its being apostolic, sent into the world. (page 114-115)
As the church interacts with all cultures, the issue is not to identify the characteristics (language, tradition, beliefs, values, needs, customs) of a particular culture and then figure out how to relate or apply the beliefs and practices of Christianity to it. The primary issue, instead, is to identify, name, and critique the ways in which various social realities form or make—cultivate—a people. While unmasked through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, idolatrous principalities and powers continue to influence the dynamics and structures of all human cultures (we examined these processes in the last chapter). Consequently, culture is not monolithic stationary entity that Christianities should reject, accommodate, or even transform as a whole; it is, instead, dynamic process with which Christians should interact in a critical, discriminating, and constructive manner. (page 151)