Keller on Fitch on Kimball on Missional Growth?

kinnon —  December 8, 2008 — 30 Comments

Triple D pointed to Dr. Tim Keller’s comment @ Dave Fitch’s post on the Dan Kimball Missional Growth mini-blogstorm. Tim says this,

I pastored a small church in a small town for 10 years, a church in which everyone knew one another, lived within a few miles of each other, never moved out of the area. We ate together, spent lots of time in each others’ homes, and were deeply involved in the life of the community around the church. All the ministries were quite ‘organic’–there were few programs. Outreach, pastoral care, community service–all happened quite naturally through relationships.

I’ve also pastored a very large church in Manhattan for 20 years, in which there is tremendous mobility, where people learn, are cared for, and minister mainly through large-scale programs. My conclusion is that –in the final analysis–neither approach to church is better at growing spiritual fruit, reaching non-believers, caring for people, and producing Christ-shaped lives. I said ‘in the final analysis’ because each approach to church–the smaller, organic, simple, incarnational church, and the larger, organizational, complex, attractional church–has vastly different strengths and weaknesses, limitations and capabilities.

The two constants to effectiveness are: a) getting the gospel right (not moralistic or antinomian, not individualistic or collectivistic) and b) contextualizing the whole church to the culture around (not over-adapted or under-adapted.) To think that the key is in the methodology (organic/incarnational vs organizational/attractional) is a mistake that comes, I think, from a lack of experience. There are great and terrible examples of all these methods and models. All kinds are thriving and all kinds are failing. [emphasis added]

My response to Tim would be this.

TimKellerPreaching002.jpg If every megachurch in the world helped to plant 100s of different kinds of churches in their city, putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to church planting, only began to worry about a building after nearly 20 years (and a building that won’t even come close to seating the 5,000+ people who attend all the services at Redeemer’s multiple rented locations), encouraged the artistic expressions of the people in their midst, focused on the hurting, lost and broken, stayed in the heart of their city, and loved that city as desperately as Redeemer loves New York – then folk like me would sit in stunned silence praising God with our mouths shut. (Two dear friends of mine, will wish I had kept my fingers stilled when they read the rest of this.)

But may I be so bold as to suggest by virtue of both significant experience and as much research, Redeemer is the exception, rather than the rule. And Redeemer is not immune to the consumer culture that infects much of Western Churchianity. In one of our many interviews with Bishop Graham Cray, Graham stated that the church in the west is so enmeshed in consumer culture that it fails to recognize that this is the very water in which it swims. (He also said this when he spoke at Wycliffe College earlier this year. Graham chaired the committee that produced The Mission-Shaped Church document for the Church of England and is now Archbishop’s Missioner leading the Fresh Expressions team.)

This past summer, Imbi and I became friends with a successful New York-based documentary and feature director. We first discovered she was an MK (missionary kid), then later discovered that she still believed (not necessarily the norm for MKs) and then later that she’d been attending Redeemer for 14 years.

redeemer.gifAt one point, after many conversations she commented on how she really only wanted to attend Redeemer when Tim was preaching. (There is no doubt that Dr. Tim Keller is one of the finest preacher/teachers I have ever had the privilege of hearing – however briefly. And I will take every opportunity to do it again.) To her mind Redeemer and Keller are inextricably linked. No Keller/No Redeemer. The Redeemer brand and Tim are virtually interchangeable.

We have a niece who attended Redeemer for just as long, if not longer. She experienced significant love and care from the church, but, to her as well No Keller/No Redeemer.

bruxy1.jpg In Toronto, the fastest growing church (probably in the country) is The Meeting House where Bruxy Cavey is the winsome teaching pastor. The Meeting House (where a number of our nieces and nephews attend) with it’s multiple satellite locations approaches approximately 4,500 in attendance. Bruxy appears live via satellite from the “Theatre” of the church’s main building.

Like Keller, he is an engaging and articulate preacher/teacher, though with a slightly different hairstyle. The Meeting House has strived to build it’s church around home churches, but might I be so bold again as to suggest that if something were to happen to Bruxy (God forbid), the church would likely become numerically the fastest shrinking church in the country – until they found a suitably gifted replacement, if they could. The church has grown around Bruxy’s preaching/teaching gift.

Bruxy and Tim did not create this consumer culture, but it is the one that we all either swim in and with, or against. Fitch, who has had experience in very large churches, has written passionately (both in his book, The Great Giveaway and on his blog, Reclaiming the Mission) about our need to resist the culture of consumerism.

Every church must make a decision as to how it shall engage culture. Shall she seek God in all of culture, flat out reject and separate from culture or seriously engage culture for what is of God, and what is so contrary to the gospel that it must be rejected. Here is where some of us argue that the consumer culture is simply irredeemable and must be resisted. For we see that the gospel becomes commoditized when translated into these modes. You cannot make the salvation of God into a sellable commodity to be recieved for its benefits. It cannot be received as a transaction (there are those of us who see the Bridge Illustration as the seeds for a transaction oriented gospel). Salvation rather is the invitation into “dying, picking up your cross and following Christ.” It is the invitation into a way of life. It is metanoia, repentance, and a stunning commitment and participation in the life of God in His Mission. I have argued in The Great Giveaway, that the evangelical church (in several specific ways) has succombed to commoditizing the gospel (of salvation, of preaching the Word, of even justice) and thereby given away being the church/Mission in America.

Missional (organic/incarnational in Tim’s comment) is not a methodology. It is not a pragmatic approach to growing the church that is used as the best model and method to reach a particular people group. At it’s best, missional runs counter to the consumer culture, realizing that much of the West is long post-Christendom. Missional believes that Aslan is on the move and that we are to follow the Spirit into the mission field which is our very own culture.

I will argue that for most of us, the missional conversation is only a couple of years old. I was not engaged in the conversation until the summer of ’06 in spite of my 20+ year friendship with missional theorist, Alan Roxburgh.

In fact, from the early ’90’s until 2004 the church that had the most impact on me was a multicultural megachurch in Pittsburgh where Imbi and I were both ordained. I worked there as a media consultant two weeks of every month from 2002 – 2004 after deciding not to move there as originally planned. (Oddly enough, during the late nineties, we attended a Toronto plant of Redeemer’s after leaving our neighbourhood Baptist Church where Imbi and I were both leaders. The local church was fragmenting under the weight of the supposed “Toronto Blessing”.)

To apply statistical analysis to the effectiveness of missional at this point is about as silly as judging the effectiveness of Jesus ministry at the time of his resurrection. (How many were gathered in the Upper Room?)

“Ah but Bill! Look how quickly the church grew after Pentecost.”

“Ah but Friend! Look how soon the Spirit scattered that church to the corners of the earth. And remember that it wasn’t until Constantine that anything remotely representing a megachurch came into existence. Oh. Sorry. Yes. The Coliseum does resemble some megachurches. Thanks, Joel. And Christians did provide much of the entertainment, now didn’t they.”

I will continue to love and honour churches like Redeemer and the Meeting House, which are the very best of megachurches, while critiquing the more predominant consumeristic megachurch culture of places like Willow Creek, Fellowship Church Plano and Joel Osteen’s Coliseum-sized church in Houston – churches that actively promote & market their methodology as THE way to grow churches in the west. All of us, however, must come to a realization that any church in the West swims either with or against the tide of consumerism – whether small, medium or large.



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.

30 responses to Keller on Fitch on Kimball on Missional Growth?

  1. Wow, I cannot express how much that I have appreciated the last several posts. As a local church mainline pastor, I know that the church at large, no matter the denomination, is in trouble. You have shed more light on why. For some reason Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Those words strike fear and trembling in my heart.

  2. Thanks for your take on this. I have a question for you. If I read your post correctly, your assertion is that people who follow after a teacher (like Keller) are a product of our consumer culture).

    In 1 Cor 1-3, we see that the church in Corinth was fractured because the people were following after specific teachers; some Paul, some Cephus, and others after Apollos (who was an amazing teacher according to Acts 16 cf).

    Paul makes it clear that he taught these people properly, yet they still chose to follow after human teachers.

    Do you see any similarities between the church in Corinth the the experience you describe above? If so, what are they? How does the teaching of Paul in 1 Cor. 1-3 address the concerns you mention above in your post?

  3. You rock man! May you awake more often full of such fire.

  4. Dear Sir,

    Thanks! Excellent post!


  5. Pastor M,
    Thank you. I see nothing but the flaws in what I’ve written. Your encouragement is very much appreciated.

    I would say that all in the 1st World are products of a consumer culture – a culture we paint as incredibly attractive to the developing world. I believe Dr. Keller to be a very fine man who did not set out to build a church around his gifting. (Nor do I believe that Redeemer simply reflects that gifting.) Dr. Keller passionately loves the lost and the city of New York. That passion is infectious.

    That being said, many of us hero worship Keller, as Paul describes 1st Century believers hero worshipping specific teachers in 1 Corintians. We put him on a pedestal. The sin is ours and it is simply a reflection of this sea of consumerism we all swim in – as well as our fallen tendency to want a King to rule over us. (1 Samuel 8 comes to mind.)

    Rick and Lee,
    Thank you.

  6. Amen. Consumer culture is so corrosive, yet it still remains largely unchallenged in our communities. We name it as a Power, but are so overwhelmed by it, we don’t know how to engage it.

    Several years ago, I hosted a conference on “Christianity in a Consumer Culture.” David Fitch’s book had just come out, so I asked him to lead a workshop on his book. We had Ron Sider, Sondra Wheeler, Vincent Miller, and Rodney Clapp as plenary speakers. Turnout wasn’t very good (except for teh overwhelming number of practitioners that wanted to present). Mainliners outnumbered evangelicals 3:1. Which was odd considering that the majority of presenters and all of the sponsors were evangelical.

    Our theological imaginations are so tied to consumer capitalism that I sometimes despair. Even the most radical movements in the mainstream (like the New Monasticism) are under the threat of being neutralized by consumer commodification as book deals, promotional tours, expensive conferences, and celebrity push the movement into something controllable and profitable.

  7. Mark,
    Yesterday, Imbi and I shot an interview with Paul Young who was in town at the Canadian Youth Workers Conference sponsored by CanadaFire and Youth Specialities. (Paul is a very gracious guy.) The cost for the conference was $225 per kid – plus the cost of staying in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. (The hotel where the event was staged is easily $200+ per room.)

    Granted, there were some good speakers, but when we wandered down to the conference floor to find a friend, we were disgusted by all the Jesus junk available in the lobby. It was as if a Family Christian bookstore had exploded. Yet I doubt that any of the “youth workers” there would have understood us had we said anything. We would have been speaking a foreign language to them. (They probably would have doubted whether we were believers.)

    The Open Source movement needs to inform the church in the sharing of ideas. We need to kick at the marketing darkness ’til it bleeds daylight – to paraphrase Cockburn. When Zondervan, Leadership Network, Baker et al come knocking – we need to ask how exactly this helps the Kingdom’s advancement. These outfits are rabidly in search of the new new thing – they are looking for the next hot topic/author/idea to sell. How exactly will this line up with what Aslan is doing?

  8. “Missional (organic/incarnational in Tim’s comment) is not a methodology.”

    Well said. Good post.

    Nobody wants to be a slave to methodology, yet articulating the alternative is difficult.. Difficult, no doubt, because the alternative is Spirit, which cannot be adequately expressed in methods or creeds.

  9. Good discussion.. the challenges go deep..Newbigin writes (The Open Secret, 64)

    “My own experience as a missionary has been that the significant advances of the church have not been the result of our own decision about the mobilizing and allocating of “resources.” This kind of language, appropriate for a military campaign or a commercial enterprise, is not appropriate here. The significant advances in my experience have come through happenings of which the story of Peter and Cornelius is a paradigm, in ways of which we have no advance knowledge. God opens the heart of a man or a woman in the gospel. The messenger (the “angel” of Acts 10:3) may be a stranger, a preacher, a piece of Scripture, a dream, an answered prayer, or a deep experience of joy or sorrow, of danger or deliverance. It was not part of any missionary “strategy” devised by the church. It was the free and sovereign deed of God, who goes before his church. And, like Peter, the church can usually find good reasons for being unwilling to follow. But follow it must if it is to be faithful. For the mission is not ours, but God’s.”

  10. To build on what John L. said …”Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.” ~ Vincent van Gogh ~

    I hesitate to say anything, because it seems immensely shallow in the face of what is a complex issue of paradigms in conflict. But I’ll say something anyway because I think we’ve got to keep pushing back on each other to go below the surface stuff of “methodological models.” We’ve got to get even more specific about our entire paradigm, or else we will never do more than lob blog comments past each other in eternal parade of serial monologs.

    I have suggested numerous times (and outright stated) on my blog that many specific aspects inherent to various paradigms and their methodological models quench the Spirit. These “paradigm planks” stop or block a Body of believers from creating and crossing the threshold of minimum requirements for being **biblical** – regardless of what model is used.

    For instance, could we at least agree across all methodological models that if we are not equipping and relationally discipling (i.e., mentoring) people in their spiritual giftings to use those gifts at a level appropriate to their spiritual maturity, we are falling short of God’s explicit imperatives to prepare His people for works of service?

    I know it will take work to define/describe every one of those terms as we use them in our paradigm (equip, relational, disciple, mentor, spiritual gift, appropriate, spiritual maturity). But if we don’t, we’ll be stuck in the equivalent of a Christendom playground yelling match about whose model wears army boots, and other terribly disturbing mixed metaphors! And we will never be able to identify which specific models have high susceptibility for failing at this particular threshold imperative for being the Body of Christ – and then maybe actually sort of kind of work together to help each other out to pursue equipping God’s people do what He designed each one to do.

    Of course, that assumes collaboration for the Kingdom’s sake is actually an assumption in our paradigm-model-etc., in which case I could be utterly mistaken.

    Okay, then. Further up and further in …

  11. Bill, thanks to Rick Meigs I came to your blog today. I appreciate your take on the mega-church as I have been a part of one for most of my adult life. I agree with your criticism of the mega-churches “that actively promote & market their methodology as THE way to grow churches in the west.” I am sad that many have bought into such thinking, including my own church to some degree. We have sent leaders to Willow Creek for years, bought into The 40 Days of Purpose, and all to no avail as we have been in decline for the past 10 years. While there are many factors contributing to the decline in my church, I think the lack of a creative and indigenous expression of church is partly to blame.

  12. Bill,

    Is this discussion mega vs. missional, or attractional vs. missional? I would say that the vast majority of attractional churches are smaller.

    Very small churches are organic, and very large churches are clearly not, but that still leaves a lot of churches in the middle, that aren’t good enough to be the best show in town, and survive the departure of pastors, but aren’t exactly organic either.

  13. Bill,

    You are so right on mega-churches being built on personalities. (albeit many times unintentionally)

    In the 1970’s the 100 largest Churches in the US were almost ALL Independent and Southern Baptist. The Church that I attended while in college ran thousands in attendance and was on that top 100 list. Today they run 200. Most of the Churches that were on that top 100 list in the 1970’s are no longer on it.

    The one common denominator these churches had was that they ALL had a man as the focal point. Remove the man and down goes the Church.

    Of course the Bible condemns the cult of personality, but it seems here in America we just can’t break the habit. We need our superstars and our celebrities,


  14. I find myself totally alienated from every one of these self-identified “movements”. I find their issues often missing the point. By branding them mega-, missional or emergent, they are playing into this consumer game. They are trying to segment the marketplace by their ideological and organizational distinctives.
    As a Presbyterian minister who works as an organizational consultant, I find that what these movements are really about is validation for the movement’s leaders and their ideas. This has been true for generations, not just with the current generation of movement marketers.
    One of the ways I talk with client churches about the differences in churches is about their congregational “self-consciousness.” Many of these problem churches are self-consciously promoting their way of being the church. I understand this better because the church I attend with my family is really unaware of why it is a healthy church. They just are. There is an intentionality about what they do, but it isn’t something that they are interested in promoting. There is no conscious programmatic marketing of our church to the outside world stating we represent whatever it is. As a result, we are far more diverse economically and politically, though not sufficiently racially, than most churches I know. We are happy, growing and learning to be the church in a new era. I know the secret why, but I don’t want say so because then we might become recognized in a way that would be unhealthy for us. The last thing we need is to be self-conscious promoters of our branded approach to being a healthy church.

  15. Ed wrote, “By branding them mega-, missional or emergent, they are playing into this consumer game. They are trying to segment the marketplace by their ideological and organizational distinctives.”

    Yes, yes, yes! Wish I had written that.

  16. hey bill, thought i’d just say how much i appreciated how you articulated this here. i kept nodding and nodding and nodding. thanks

  17. From a business perspective, they are playing an old 20th branding game, where products and features are the distinctives. A 21st century branding perspective is built on the character of the social interaction between the product and consumer. Trust and confidence therefore become the keys to whether a brand is authentic and worth our loyalty and investment. Trust in the sense I believe that your church is open, honest and worthy of my trust. Confident in the sense that you can deliver what you promise. In essence a question of competency. For churches this simply means that people experience God’s love before that come to understand it. The intellectual apprehension of truth follows the experience. And the experience is not totally subject to institutional control. It happens organically and serendiptously. I know this goes against Reformed epistemology, but in reality what we experience dictates what we believe, and not vice versa.
    So, if they want their movements to be treated as authentic representations of the Christian church, ultimately, it won’t be primarily by their articulation of a distinctive theological system, but by the authentic nature of their church community’s experience of God’s love. And yes, it really is that simple.

  18. After a partial night’s sleep, I want to make one additional point or clarification. This issue as Bill observes is really a blindness on all our parts of the influence of consumerist culture. The rush to categorize with a title what is happening in a church is what I’m pointing at. The problem is that the good things that are “emerging” – let’s say – are real experiences for people. The sense of openness, transparency and authenticity of faith is real for people. However, by placing labels on it, it abstracts them out of concrete experience and makes it something for study. This is a strength of the Western tradition. Being able to place at arm’s distance our experience, with the inevitable result that it ceases to be our experience, and rather our analysis of our experience.
    My understanding of this has come through my experience. For twenty plus years, I sat in worship services listening, praying and singing. Then about four years ago, I began to worship. What was the difference? I found myself emotionally moved to joy and to sadness by the service. I felt that I was in the presence of God. This experience was not a stereotypic charismatic or pentecostal experience. Far from it. It was however, a genuine experience of God’s love more than anything else. It was genuine because the service was not manufactured to create that experience. Instead, the service was a response in total to the lectionary readings for that day. Go figure.
    All this may be a very minor point. However, when you place a label on something like this, you invite attention and an industry of books, video and conferences can easily grow from it. People want answers and they want authenticity in the life experience. The question is whether they get that by the old traditional methods of marketing, or by capturing it by surprise from friends and family. If the church is the first viral social movement then traditional branding methods are not the answer to its spread.

  19. Ed Brenegar has already alluded to this above, but this post seems to be oscillitating between overly broad and overly narrow definitions of consumerism depending on the point made. After all, every counter-cultural impulse that is in any way attractional can always be its own consumer culture, and *will* be its own consumer culture.

    “At it’s best, missional runs counter to the consumer culture, realizing that much of the West is long post-Christendom. ”

    You could also argue that Redeemer has done just that. Feeding a crowd with 5 loaves and 2 fish would also be consumerist, in the eyes of the crowd, and up to a point.

    If you are going to end up defining consumerism so broadly I’m struggling to see what the ‘answer offered by the missional/attractional model’ actually is. In my experience, churches that consciously attempt to do this sort of thing seem to end up only attracting the Peter Pans of the evangelical world, which is it’s own niche, no?

  20. Bill,

    I resonate with much of your post. I would say, however, that you didn’t quite catch Tim’s point. TIm never, ever, would argue against a church being missional. Rather, what he said was to equate ‘missional’ with ‘organic/incarnational’ is simplistic. That is a massive difference. That is exactly what you have done: here is your comment:
    “Missional (organic/incarnational in Tim’s comment) is not a methodology.”

    Do you see how you equated missional with organic/incarnational? This is what you asserted and assumed, but it is the very thing that Tim is arguing needs to be proven. I agree with him.

    In a highly urban, complex, rapidly paced, transitory context like NY city, where little of life is ‘organic’ as defined by contemporary missiologists, it may simply not be contextually wise or possible to effectively reach Manhattenites with an approach as organic and incarnational as that which was so effective in rural Virginia.

    Your larger concern, about the personality-driven nature of so many large churches, is a compelling issue. It has dogged the church throughout it’s history- who wanted to be a London preacher in the days of Spurgeon? We will always have, and have always had, these kinds of churches throughout our history (Chrysostom had the first mega- church in the mid- 300’s). I think you are wise to show that at best they should be considered anomalies, not a template for most church practitioners. They are generally not helpful to the progress of the gospel, with some outstanding exceptions.

  21. Hey Bill,

    Just posted a response:
    link to

    I say you get it half right. That’s not bad. Way better than my average, I’d say! 😉

  22. In relation to Danny Mac’s comment, I think there’s something important to be said about non-commuter urban and inner-city churches where people live in the area and therefore serve there.

    In my seemingly never finishable blog series on “paradigms that aren’t missional,” I’ve actually been working on one post about certain types of urban churches that ARE “missional” even if they wouldn’t necessarily identify themselves with the missional movement. Here’s some thoughts on that from a review I wrote on the movie, *The Second Chance* (2006), about the partnership between a suburban and an inner-city church. It has the tagline: “Same faith. Same city. Different worlds.”

    [QUOTE] *The Second Chance* addresses conflicts between multiple generations, races, economic classes, urban-suburban, politics of city vs. neighborhood, ecclesiology models, approaches to context and ministry … It made me reflect on how urban-center ministry transcends most titles in contemporary North American movements like “missional” and “emerging” and “neo-monastic.” I doubt that leaders of inner-city churches/ministries would necessarily identify with dynamics in those movements, and yet it seems to me that they embrace a core feature in common with them: contextualization. *The Second Chance* shows what it looks like to be committed to the people in your context: Refugees with good education but no credentials here for finding commensurate work. People with addictions to overcome – some open, others hidden. Socio-economic range. Various forms of abuse, injustice, and violence.

    Do we sometimes get too hung up on formulating our abstract strategies for contextualization, so we can then go implement them? What if we focused on witnessing the concrete, everyday issues of those around us, and committed to respond – wouldn’t that give us street cred for eventual strategies? And then, do we need to pit those two approaches against each other? Is there a way that “going glocal” can be infused with both? [END QUOTE]

    Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the biblical balance for “cultural engagement” includes being both contextual (connecting with the people and resonating with aspects of local culture that aren’t anti-biblical) and countercultural (contrasting with the culture by resisting aspects that are anti-biblical). Is it possible that working in a context where such a high percentage of people live in marginalized settings, and serving in ways meaningful to them in their concrete needs, is inherently countercultural … and therefore fits with “missional”?

  23. Steve in Toronto December 9, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I am afraid that the large Church built around the model of a Charismatic Preacher was the inevitable result of evangelical Protestants de-emphasis of the Sacrament of Holy Communion in favor of the sermon. Unless we see a much more holistic understanding of worship return to the Evangelical church we will continue to see large churches faltering and even falling as this current generation of “Alpha Male” Preachers passes from the seen. One of the advantages of an Episcopal system of church governance is that that you can make men like Bruxy and Tim Keller Bishops. That way you can leverage their (very real) gifts to benefit more than just a single congregation. To be fair to Tim Keller he is is doing everything humanly possible to prevent redeemer from becoming just another mega church (I especially admire the work he is doing to promote church planting. His support for non- Presbyterian churches is especially admirable). I am much more skeptical of the Multi site video dependent model promoted by Bruxy and the meeting house.

    God Bless

    Steve in Toronto

  24. Steve in Toronto December 9, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    P.S. there was a great post on Michael Spencer’s Blog imonk about Bruxy and the Meeting house. Bruxy graciously responded to many of the issues raised in your post in the comments thread

    link to

  25. Bill (& all), thanks for all this. It seems like you’re really hammering (well!) on an idea that AA also considers very, very important to the health of its members and groups. You may already know all this, but AA practices ‘anonymity’ in a couple of distinct ways, and for more reasons than just keeping people’s admissions private. Their other concern gets at the very heart of your concern with the attractional model. It is their goal to pursue and practice humility and shared service by valuing “principles over personalities.” Of course, all churches would say they do the same, but AA takes several structural and cultural steps in keeping this a reality, which are too numerous to name here. Check out how they handle power, money, fame, learning, etc.–much of which is contained in their practices and 12 traditions (not steps)–and you’ll see what I mean. Brilliant stuff. I pray their ways enter this ongoing conversation more.

    So much of AA’s structure and ways are embodiments of the very NT truths that the Western Church has ignored or failed to respond to wisely (our myriad of addictions being just one, along with our failures in discipleship, personal change, and true body ministry).

    AA groups may not be everything that ‘missonal’ churches are wanting to be, but I believe they contain a lot more (globally proven and thoroughly biblical) ideas and practices than we realize. Thanks again.

    For those concerned, can we offer AA’s results as a “first fruits” of missional practices in advance of the Church-proper doing it? 😉

  26. Folks,
    Thank you so much for your passionate responses. I’m a little snowed in with work and wish I could properly respond to each point well made.

    I’m writing a followup to this post called Consumerism vs Discipleship (at least that’s what I called the MindMap) that hopefully will better articulate my almost half-right (or is that halfwitted) thoughts. I’m going to attempt to touch on Willow’s REVEAL, Open Source, Andy Crouch’s 3/12/120, Missional Orders and even the Wesleys. (My Mother’s family were staunch Methodists on Canada’s East Coast. Perhaps my Arminian tendencies have been encoded into my genetic material.) With the podcast recording I’m doing with Triple D and Dan MacDonald (neither of whom have any perceived Arminian tendencies) tomorrow – the post may not appear until Thursday.

    Please make a point of reading Triple D’s (Dr. Darryl Dash) response which is linked in his comment.

    Steve, let me say that your comment about the Bishopric resonates. I do think that Dr. Keller operates as a kind of a Bishop which benefits the whole church. As does David Fitch, in a much smaller (numerically) environment, no doubt – but with no less important repercussions for the wider church.

    I’ll need to make a point of reading Bruxy at the iMonk, as well. Thanks for the link.

    You need to begin writing at the Presbyterian Polis again – or become a guest author here, if you prefer.

  27. And, I really need to point you at my very dear friend who has commented here, Brad Sargent. Brad, who is a futurist, linguist, church planter, and missional thinker who writes deep analysis of where we find ourselves now. (He’d be a true Son of Issachar – 1 Chron. 12:32) Sometimes reading the density of his writing can be hard work – but it is more than worth the effort. Here’s another link to his site:
    link to

  28. The larger issue is how we use ideas to describe what we value. Consumerist can be overly broad, so can missional and emergent, though mega- implies broad, it appears. The challenge is how to translate the idea into personal disciplines and behaviors and methodologies and approaches that support personal commitment to being missional. The problem is when the idea is simply marketed as a one way to satisfy the marketplace for innovative church styles.
    This doesn’t even get into the issues of consumerism’s corrosive effect upon Christian spirituality, congregational life, and missional outreach. Branding today is experience and interaction, not the abstract value of products. If these movement marketers were smart, they look at how Barack Obama organized his presidential campaign, and copy it. Do it well, and we won’t be having this conversation in a year.

  29. Another new reader here. Thank you for this post! It’s helping me to articulate my own thoughts on this conversation.

  30. Bill – You may be right that many would not have understood this conversation (but there were a few of us there who would have got it).

    It did feel a bit weird walking through all the Christian Swag and having Starfield ramble on to try to contextualise the remarks of Campolo and Claiborne (seriously, let them speak for themselves…)

    And it was strange, receiving the stinkeye from certain members of various seminars for raising more missional-incarnational questions that dealt with a more pluralist society…but there were some rays of hope even in the midst of the consumptive big-biz conference.

    Thanks for your continued thoughts in this vein.



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