How is God at Work Outside the Church… If At All?

russian-church-afar.jpg I’m a week behind in the series now, but I hope to catch up. I really do have good intentions. Anyway, last week in the Missional Prelude series, the gang was talking about how God is at work outside of the church. As is the pattern, Ed Stetzer opened things up on Monday with the question: “How and Why is God at Work Outside the Church?” He then started namedropping, opening with “J.C. Hoekendijk,” who some may remember has been discussed in a prior series. Ed writes, “For Hoekendijk, the concept of shalom (a Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness, and welfare) was a more all-inclusive notion than salvation…. Salvation was broadened and, in some ways, redefined.”

Salvation in a Prologue to Missional Discussions

jesus-peace.jpg Ed Stetzer suggests that we can avoid the trouble that shipwrecked the missio dei movement in part “by going back and looking at the roots of the missional movement and having a robust theological discussion that heightens our awareness of the issues at hand.”

To this end, our synchro-series turns its attention first to the intersection of missiology and soteriology. One might expect this relationship to be “a given,” but perhaps for just this reason it bears a slightly closer inspection. In his intro-post on Monday, Ed notes that “some consider the transmission of salvation as a physical process” (sacramentalist) while “[o]thers think that salvation is transferred by moral action[, where] salvation is not so much something to be acquired by some individual or organization and conveyed to others, as it is something created by shifting the state of affairs.” Thirdly, he writes, “Evangelical theologies have generally represented a third idea: salvation is a work of grace, accomplished by Christ, and received by faith alone. In the meritorious sense, the recipient is passive.”

Prologue to Missional Discussions

oed.jpg Seems a little odd to be writing a prologue after all this time, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a back-story, as may be inferred by those who may have noticed posts at other blogs with this same title. I’ve written a lot about the meaning of missional, its distinctives, and what it means to be missional — besides innumerable casual mentions on this blog. I finally drafted a missional series index that lists the posts I did during my major series (2007) defining the concepts inherent in the term as well as the nine-post series I did (2008) summarizing the missional synchroblog when more than 50 bloggers participated in hashing out what it means to be missional. With a couple of other miscellaneous posts thrown in, this is a total of 25 posts just from me. That’s a lot of words, and some may wonder why I’m doing this once again. No, it’s not because I skipped it last year and am overdue, but it’s for two major reasons.

A Missional Reaction to Social Reengineering

The upshot of the church’s focus on developing relationships with new members is that “the socialization process was so effective that most churches could cut people off from their previous relationships within two years, replacing the old ties with a new ‘family.'”

“The missional church, as you might guess, has an allergic reaction to the reach-and-assimilate social reengineering of people.”

— Reggie McNeal, Missional Renaissance, p.59

On the People of God

The biblical record often observes that when the people of God mistakenly think they are God’s only or primary concern, they become callous to the very people God is wooing. This attitude reflects poorly on God and earns his judgment. Jesus’ beef with the Pharisees focused precisely on their failure on this point. They misrepresented his Father while claiming to be his representatives on earth. The church that claims to be the people of God must submit itself to the role of participating in the mission of God in the world. The very notion that the church can be successful apart from an improved world reflects a disconnect from God’s mission and even raises the question of whether or not people who think this way are even recognized by God as his people.
— Reggie McNeal,
Missional Renaissance, p.37

Further Missional Reading

Monopoly Houses I realized I have some 40 draft posts sitting waiting to be finished, and I discovered this one among them. I think it was a sort of epilogue to the series I did a while back defining missional. That means that these links will be to older posts, so if any of the links fail, that’s the reason. I decided to publish it pretty much as-is, meaning it was never polished into a coherent form. The image was already attached to the post, though I don’t remember why… now it reminds me of incoherence. ;^) Essentially the post is a list of background and deep background on missional theology and concepts, probably some notes I was keeping as I worked through the material. Perhaps you’ll find some good stuff here for further reading as well.

The History & Future of (Consumerist) Christian Theology

shapevine-video-still This afternoon I watched the online video of a roundtable with Brian McLaren, John Franke, Scot McKnight, Darrell Guder, and Tim Keel hosted by Lance Ford. (Recorded October or November 2008, currently on the front page at; sorry no direct archive link.) This group represents quite an exceptional emerging/missional brain trust, and the conversation is a good one from which one can pick bits to ponder almost at will. Here’s a bit of conversation that stuck out for me:

Changing the Scorecard

[T]he old church scorecard of how many, how often, how much–all bottom-line measures that are calculated in terms of church activity–is counterproductive to participating in the missional renaissance. The old scorecard keeps us church-absorbed. As long as we use it, we will continue to be inward-focused, program-driven, and church-based in our thinking and leadership.
Reggie McNeal