BroMayn, Me, Jared Wilson & Dave Fitch to Kimball et al

kinnon —  December 4, 2008 — 11 Comments

UPDATE 5: Brother Maynard works/writes to unpolarize the discussion and refers to the missional network that Dan, Scot McKnight & Erwin McManus are beginning. Might I humbly suggest that the proof will be in the pudding as to whether it's missional or not.

UPDATE 4: Gentle Julie Clawson does a pretty effective smackdown of Brother Kimball's Out of Ur-edited thoughts.

UPDATE 3: Erika Haub further proves why she's one of the best writers in this conversation with "The church that came to me." If you don't tear up when you read it, you ain't breathin'.

UPDATE 2: Dan wrote in the comments of the Out of Ur piece that CT's editing has rather skewed the intent of what he was writing. He will be publishing his full article pre-edited version at his blog. (It's not there at the time of this update.) In terms of this discussion, Jamie Arpin-Ricci's post is an important corrective.

ORIGINAL POST BELOW:

My MT buddy, Brother Maynard, had a great response to Kimbal's Out of (y)Ur (missional mind) post from earlier in this rapidly evaporating week.

The nature of the beast is that it lives at grassroots levels and many expressions never grow large enough to attract a lot of attention. Typically, this may be by design, as some will plan to multiply and remain small. The number of well-known small church networks is not huge either, but such a model takes considerable time to develop. In defense of the theory of missional church, I have to say it has some pretty good heavyweight theologians, missiologists, pastors, thinkers, and cultural observers getting behind it. It makes sense, and on an intellectual level, the theory is sound, having been presented, critiqued, and dialogued upon at a scholarly as well as at a practical level. And there’s a good reason for the theory to get such an exceptional level of vetting: because the fruit of the praxis is going to take years — perhaps decades — to fully observe, understand, and evaluate. How long did Willow Creek run their programs before saying “oops, these aren’t doing what we thought?” With missional church, the additional vetting of the theory is precisely because we don’t want to give ourselves for years and years to something we don’t believe will have positive results in the long run.

The ever brilliant and challenging, Gospel-Driven Jared Wilson asks,

When can we stop thinking of fruit as "number of recruits"? I love seeing thousands of conversions too. But I love thousands of disciples even more.
(SNIP)
One of the challenges of missional Christianity in the churched world is getting people (who are) used to instant everything to buy in to a long obedience in the same direction. It's a long-term investment, not because what we're doing is ineffective but because the habits, patterns, strongholds we are patiently and lovingly rebelling against have been generations in the making.

As I wrote on Triple D's blog in a comment about the Ur post, (with some mild fixes)

Although Dan is seen as an "emerging leader" Dan does swim in the megachurch world – as do his friends Erwin McManus and Scot McKnight. (Dan speaks at Willow's Shift Conferences as an example, Scot attends Willow when he's in Chicago and Erwin pastors a megachurch – this comes in reference to their new network, The Origins Project.) This is what I said in an email to some Missional Tribe friends,

Had Dan asked me, I would have pointed him at Life on the Vine in Chicago – a slowly growing and "successful" missional church where David Fitch is one of the co-leaders. I would also have pointed him at what's happening in Lincolnshire in the UK and any number of other Fresh Expressions of church there. It is completely disengenuous of Dan to "wonder about missional" when the reality is that for most of us the conversation and its implications are less than five years old.

Further, and something that Ed Stetzer responded to when I said it to him in Chi-town two weeks ago – missional suggests a long view. It's not the North American McChurch approach – but rather a belief that through both proclamation and witness to our neighbours, we will permeate our neighbourhoods with the sweet aroma of Christ. (Unfortunately, scripture says to some it will be the fragrance of life, to others, death).

My friends in Lincolnshire, Pete and Kath Atkins believe that they will not see the full fruit of their efforts in their lifetime – but that that fruit will be abundantly in evidence in the future. (Livingstone saw virtually no fruit in Africa – yet his missions work was key in the rapid expansion of the Gospel in the 20th century.) (Listen to the interviews I recorded with them and AlRox – here and here.)

Are there a host of missional experiment failures – no doubt. But I'd use (the bizarre mega/giga attractional examples of) Ed Young Jr and Joel Osteen to trump those comments any day of the week.

Dave Fitch weighs in with three questions for attractional. I'll quote from one. (Note the good comment from Triple D on Dave's post, too.)

Missional types see the very life lived between three or more people as that which reveals Christ's forgiveness, reconciliation and the gospel looks like. It is the social-linguistic context that makes possible the communication of the gospel to post Christendom people who have no context to understand the gospel at all. Attractional mega churches attract, appeal to a need, provide an attractive package and by their sheer numbers work against this kind of community that makes possible this kind of encountering of the gospel. Sure it is still possible to split people into smaller groups, but the sheer formative power of the large attractional gathering trains the habits of every believer into self selecting a comfortable community for other purposes other than mission. The sheer habit of coming to church for something and pouring untold energy and resources into this "event" removes people (who both serve and come) out of the orbit of being in the lives of non-Christian people.

At the end of BroMayn's post he points to the need to gather the missional stories that will counter misunderstandings of "missional church" by good folk like Dan. He hints something with more of a grassroots feel is coming. A Missional Tribe, perhaps?

UPDATE: I should add that the dialogue that Dave Fitch references between he and Ed "the Energizer Bunny" Stetzer will be up in the not too distant future. Maybe even as part of what BroMayn was hinting at, eh!

kinnon

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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.

11 responses to BroMayn, Me, Jared Wilson & Dave Fitch to Kimball et al

  1. Great compilation.

    Thanks as always for the link, brother.

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  2. Nicely laid out, Bill!

    A wee correction from your abbess: Dr. McKnight is “One T” Scot….

    And yes, there are untold numbers of groups of missional folks living missional gospel without the benefit of the terminology or the baggage that accompanies it!

    My current experience says that this takes much longer because missional is primarily a listening orientation. And listening one another into free speech, as we like to say with our Allelon brethren and sistren, takes much longer that most people are willing to allow. Our weekly missional learning community of 8 couples is half way though listening to each of us tell our stories — however we choose to define it — one story each week. This after meeting almost every week since February. It continues to be a profound experience — something that none of us in the group (most of us leader types) has ever experienced.

    There is hope that I am learning to listen in this precious missional group. Now that is a very measurable outcome, in my book!

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  3. Fixed Scott’s, err, Scot’s name. Thanks.

    The listening the other into free speech was taught to Allelon by Church Innovations President, Pat Keifert who learned it from the Dakota Indians. They were the ones who had focused on Luke 10. It’s a rather cool story that we need to get Pat to tell. You can read more about on the CI site, here.

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  4. CT edits guest blog posts?? In the words of sir Weeble, “Blehmh!” (trans. Blimey!)

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  5. Dan asks a very valid question. Why all the piss and vinegar in response? It’s not like he’s writing for SOL or anything…

    How about some serious looks at what “fruit” looks like, and how any of us will evaluate if we’re being effective in the advancing Kingdom, or if we’re just developing a theological justification for a Star Trek-ish “non-interference” with culture (people) around us?

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  6. P.S. For those who don’t know, Bill is a valued friend of mine. I’m serious when I say I’d like to see us all talk about what fruit looks like and how (or even if) we’re paying attention to whether or not we’re bearing any.

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  7. I don’t know if Bill allows plugs for outside links, but I’ve written about what fruit looks like under the topic of how to define/quantify spiritual maturity.

    I won’t link it without permission, but my conclusion there (and my 2 cents here) is that spiritual maturity may not be easily quantifiable. I don’t know why we insist on fairly modern, pragmatic terms. If we’re eschewing them to keep us from our obligations to share the gospel in word and deed, I agree that’s laziness and dereliction of duty and the opposite of missional ecclesiology. But if we’re eschewing them because, well, the Bible isn’t really inordinately concerned with counting heads (I think most of the mentions are descriptive, not prescriptive), then I think that’s okay.

    I think the closest Scripture comes to a measuring stick for fruit is the fruits of the Spirit. Look for those in increasing measure.
    Participating in church activities can be deceiving. The fruits of the Spirit less so.

    But I don’t have a system for measuring those either.

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  8. Bill OK”d the link (thanks, Bill!):
    link to gospeldrivenchurch.blogspot.com

    It’s a longer version of what I wrote above, equating spiritual maturity (fruit) with “greater gospel awakening.”

    I spent 14 years in two different Willow model seeker churches, in leadership positions in each (student minister one, teacher and then young adult minister in the other). I’ve been in the trenches and even was an apologist for the attractional machine most of my twenties.

    Lots of “fruit” = people making a decision for Christ, then participating in the machine of the church. I saw very, very little greater gospel awakening. And those I saw it in, myself included, eventually left the attractional paradigm.

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  9. It’s a very good post, Jared. You are always welcome to use links here. Robbymac too. Heck, even Peggy and Dave can too.

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  10. Oh, and I’m reading Robbymac’s book in the pic.

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  11. perhaps we can do big and small at the same time?

    rather than there being the polemic mega or small/missional options, what if we developed a vision not just for planting a single, organic, fresh expression of church (and then stopping there) but for a whole network of such small churches?

    plant a small church. grow disciples. grow missionaries like yourself. put leaders in place. then move onto plant a new one after just a few years. and your new missionaries could do the same.

    i know this is hardly a new idea but i personally would rather see 10 churches of 50, rather than one church of 500. i also think there’s a fair bit of evidence to suggest that newly planted churches are the fastest growing ones too.

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What do you think?