The Missional Long View (Part Two)

kinnon —  July 11, 2008 — 4 Comments

During the Rick Meigs’ initiative Missional SynchroBlog, I wrote a post on The Long View. That post was partially prompted by a conversation Alan Roxburgh (A-Rox) and I had while wandering a beach in Portugal this past spring. I had the HD camera with me and recorded Alan against the ages-old Atlantic Ocean cliffs of the Algarve, encapsulating our conversation in this video below. (RSS Readers may need to click through to the actual post to see the video.)

As Alan says above, we have the privilege of being called to be a part of shaping a future we are probably not going to see. In light of that, I was struck by this comment from Kevin Kelly riffing on Freeman Dyson (in the NYTimes).

…while progress runs on exponential curves, our individual lives proceed in a linear fashion. We live day by day by day. While we might think time flies as we age, it really trickles out steadily. Today will always be more valuable than some day in the future, in large part because we have no guarantee we’ll get that extra day. Ditto for civilizations. In linear time, the future is a loss. But because human minds and societies can improve things over time, and compound that improvement in virtuous circles, the future in this dimension is a gain. Therefore long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential. The linear march of our time intersects the cascading rise and fall of numerous self-amplifying exponential forces. Generations, too, proceed in a linear sequence. They advance steadily one after another while pushed by the compounding cycles of exponential change. [emphasis added]

Missional communities have within them the potential to exponentially infect the communities where they have been strategically placed by the hand of God. As they live out their lives now, embedding themselves into the very warp and woof of the community life – they embody the profound possibility of working as leaven – permeating the entire “loaf” of their community.

As Alan says in the video, this way of thinking runs counter to the ROI mindset of much Western church planting. (We have an expectation of Return on Investment when we provide funding for church plants.) The McDonalds/Consumer Church mindset of numbers now is what kills the spirit of missional church. As Dave Fitch writes, (blogging about missional leaders)

In my opinion it takes at least 5 years of “seeding a community” before one even begins to see an ethos of community and new life develop that can be a cultural carrier-transmitter of the gospel.

Only a long view allows us live in the midst of the now and the not yet. We have a real expectation and hope of seeing the Kingdom lived out in our communities – but we recognize that we may be like those in Hebrews 11 who do never see the fruit of their labour. Does this mean we abandon the life and return to a consumer church model? God help me, no! As I’ve said before, Hudson Taylor and David Livingston did not see the overwhelming harvest that continues to come from the seeds they planted as missionaries in China and Africa, respectively – but they lived with both an expectation and a hope for that harvest.

As the Christendom model of church wheezes to an end, not with a bang but a whimper, this next reformation sees us following the Spirit of God back into the neigbourhood – realizing that He is on the move – building his kingdom amongst the people in those neighbourhoods. As Colin Greene insists in Part Two* of the Allelon Metavista Café interview, this still means we must be able to effectively communicate the Gospel story – but much of the communication will come in how we live our lives amongst our neighbours. Might I again suggest that Luke 10 provides us with the Jesus-model of neighbourhood “ministry”.

Kevin Kelly reminds us that long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential. We must live our lives faithfully amongst our neighbours. Not avoiding gathering as believers as we live our lives out day by day, but realizing that we, the tangible Kingdom of God in the midst our neighbourhood – exist for those very neighbours. And though we may not see it in our own lifetime, we have a real expectation for the exponential growth of the Kingdom of God in our neighbourhoods.

Fitch says this at the end of the aforementioned blog post,

Like a fermenting revolution evolving out of a tired and reified ancien regime, these tiny bands of Christians have come on the scene committed to live a life together of worship, spiritual formation, community, hospitality and service to the poor (of all kinds). In ways never imagined by the machinations of the mega church, many of these bands are already infecting their neighborhoods with an embodied gospel that cannot be denied, only responded to. Knowing Christendom is gone, they carry no pretension. Instead they embody the gospel in its most compelling, authentic, non-coercive form. This new wave of Christians is small in number and possesses little to no resources financially. Most do not impress with their grandiose visions. They do not hang in the halls of power. They do not make a show of their successes. Yet their vision of a simple Christian habitat as witness in the world reminds me of the Irish missional orders God used to effect a profound conversion of European society in the 4th century. We have seen the world changed like this once before (read How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill). Could we be in the early stages of seeing God move in a similar fashion once again? Let us pray it be so. [emphasis and link added]

INFORMATION: Note that the A-Rox video at the beginning of this post is available as a downloadable HD or SD file here. The Colin Greene video *mentioned above will not be available until after July 15th.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

4 responses to The Missional Long View (Part Two)

  1. It’s almost like you and others are saying that you are not seeing God working through these missional/emerging communities, nor will you, because it could take generations for it to really show fruit. Actually, I think that is exactly what your are saying. You are not seeing fruit now, so you excuse that or rationalize that by suggesting that it could take generations.

    If that’s true, what seeds are being planted now, that will take so long to bring about fruit? What exactly is the Gospel story that is being communicated in these communities by the emerging/missional folks that are there?

    Why is it that I can look to inner city churches (not so much in our city, for sure but definitely others)that are bearing great fruit for Jesus Christ as the Gospel goes out, where I see incredible examples of transformation, but you emerging/missional folks are now actually making excuses for your lack of fruit by suggesting it is going to take such a long time. Do you think it might have something to do with your understanding of what the Gospel actually is?

    What is the Gospel according to Bill Kinnon?
    You are on top of all things emerging/missional, on the cutting edge, what exactly is the Gospel according to those folks?

    How does your long view help out the heroin addict that you encounter on the streets of downtown Toronto now?

  2. George,
    Let me help you with a little statistical reality. The evangelical church is losing ground in North America. Conversion growth is falling further and further behind population growth. The transactional approach to the gospel so popular in the last millennium is no longer working amongst a post-Christian people who only know the Christian story as told by those who hate gays and abortionists – and believe American free-enterprise/ political conservatism is a biblical mandate.

    That is the reality seen by Bishop Leslie Newbigin when he returned to the UK in the seventies, after decades as a missionary in India. He saw that we needed to become missionaries to our own culture. Do me a favour and read his book Foolishness to the Greeks. Then read David Fitch’s The Great Giveaway.

    Read Roxburgh’s The Missional Leader and The Sky is Falling. Read the Pew Foundation’s latest report on the Church (where a vast percentage of “evangelicals” are actually universalists) and read the Barna Organization’s many reports on the decline of the evangelical Church.

    When you’ve done all that, come back here and engage the conversation from a position of knowledge rather than uninformed disdain. Until then, I will return to ignoring your comments.

  3. Hey, no problem Bill. I appreciate all the knowledge you have and your clever way of articulating that knowledge.

    I have a lot to learn for sure. I continue to find it interesting though, that folks in the emerging/missional world cannot answer simple basic Gospel questions. There is a lot of pontificating that goes on with respect to how the church has done things in the past and it seems to me the whole missional/emerging thing is a big reaction to that which is all fine and good. But, come on, answer some basic simple questions. What is the hope that you have to offer to the very people you want the Christian world to believe you have so much compassion for. What is that long view hope for the heroin or crack addict. That’s a pretty simple question for a redeemed follower of Jesus Christ, yet you guys cannot answer. So everything you say, as clever as it is, makes no sense because in the end you have no hope to offer. But you want us to believe how loving you really are and how you are the ones that really care and that really reach out to those on the margins and are the only ones doing so.

    I’m not talking about you personally, rather the emerging/missional community generally.

    What I find sad is that in the end, after all the rhetoric, there is not much there. I don’t see evidence of any fruit in the way of transformed lives.

    As I indicated to Darryl Dash, what really bothers me is how many people in the rest of the Church and in particular young people, are buying into the nonsense that they are being told. It’s a works Gospel that the emergering/missional community is communicating and it does not save. That’s why you will never read or hear those in your community talk about the need to deal with personal sin. They themselves haven’t dealt with their own sin, it’s not a big deal to them, they are all about love man. And showing us how cool they are with their tattoos and all. Again, generally speaking.

    So, I have asked around blog world a bit now, in the missional/emerging conversation and still no answers. What is the goal when you reach out, (now with your long view), and what is the hope that you can offer to that heroin or crack addict. It’s such a simple question, the answer to which can literally save people, not just help them out practically.

    The people that I have asked so far, cannot answer, they have no real hope for these people, they are involved in another gospel, a false gospel. But I imagine your readership is rather large, maybe someone reading this can help me out with that and show me a emerging/missional work where lives are being transformed for the glory of God, not just helped out.

    Thanks again for your time, we still got to do coffee some time. I love the Danforth.

  4. We in the church often think that what is happening here – in the church – is only happening in the church. The reality is that these cultural shifts that Al discusses, are also impacting every other institutional order in Western society. At the heart of all this change is a simple idea. Authority is no longer in the system, but in the character of the person. It is seen and measured in how well they are able to establish relationships of trust, and how willing each person is to take the initiative to act in a way that is beneficial to the group.
    As my 18 year son and I stood in the grocery store line talking about text messaging, I made the off hand comment that I fit better in his generation than in my own. He just laughed and agreed, and pounded fists.
    We old guys should be grateful for a younger generation to guide us into the future. I hope to hold long enough to enjoy the journey.


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