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:
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.
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!