June 26, 2017

This Book Enacts God's Dream

The American folk singer Woody Guthrie was famous for playing a guitar that had scrawled upon it the words, "This Machine Kills Fascists." I've often wanted to scrawl on the cover of my Bible, "This Book Enacts God's Dream."

This may seem obvious but the word "missional" is simply "mission" as an adjective. It is intended to describe something else. Just as "alternative facts" or "fake news" change the meaning of the original noun (sorry, couldn't resist), the adjective "missional" is intended to change the meaning of the noun "church." A missional church is a church on mission. But it is not a mission of it's own making. The mission is God's as discovered through reading Scripture and discerning how God's action in these stories will influence our own.

The missiologists that coined the term "missional church" pointed out the weaknesses of the two general mission postures throughout church history:

Mission as colonizing; imposing culture.
Mission as consumer product: acquiescing to culture.
These missiologists read Scripture and saw something different than those who read Scripture wed to the market or state. They saw a God who was out ahead of his Church, reconciling all of creation to himself. As I've previously shared, there are a few simple questions to guide our own study in this direction:

In the text
Where is God's good news in this story?
Who is announcing God's good news?
Who is invited to respond?
In our context
What is God's good news in our story?
How are we being invited to announce God's good news?
Who are we inviting to respond to God's good news?
As you might assume, a Christian community that reads Scripture in such a way will lead them to organize their common life in a particular way. It will lead them towards a particular ethic. What happens when the agenda of the local faith community is not limited to what is endorsed by the market or state but rather a fearless pursuit of God's dream for this world? What happens when we begin to anticipate God showing up in our world, specifically in the face of our neighbor?

My argument is that "missional" is no more than the current term used to describe what has happened throughout the history of the church when God's people go about their shared discipleship with the perspective described here. In an effort to keep us humble (this isn't a conception of our own) while offering some validation to the imagination of some who already envision missional communities in their context, I'd like to take a look at some example throughout the church's history of what might have been called "missional communities" if conceived today.

Until then, some reading:
The Dream of God by Verna Dozier

Also in this series on "the meaning of missional":
The Domesticated And The Disappeared
Missional Roots in Monastic Movements
Where Death And Division Need Not Rule
This Book Enacts God's Dream
Missional Trajectory
Reading Scripture With The Other In Mind
Why Is 'Missional' So Important?
Missional Hermenuetic
Further Background
Where Do I Begin?