Emerging Missional Church…Working?

Recently at Forge we have taken a long hard look at ourselves and some of our history, our early claims and our dreams and hopes.

I think some of us hoped that ‘breaking up’ big churches and forming more relational little faith communities might just be what attracts hundreds of people and would be the answer to people’s claims that the church is irrelevant. (not nec Forge policy – to break up big churches!) Some years down the track this seems not to have been what happened. What has happened, at least in part, is many of these small communities have rescued people who may have ordinarily fallen away from fellowship with believers (Church) and maybe even with Christ. Some people on the fringes of faith may have been restored or introduced to Christ and some hard core ‘pagans’ who might never have graced the doors of a church have indeed met Christ over a beer and BBQ.  We at Forge are tweaking who we are (yes, we are big and ugly enough to see we can morph and grow as we get older!) whilst still holding to our passion for training people in missional ways individually and encouraging and fostering the growth and development of new experimental versions of ‘church’. Heck we always said it was a massive experiment founded on a passion for Christ and his Church, we want to keep experimenting! But we are also wanting to work with existing churches of all shapes and sizes and traditions in helping them re-imagine themselves as missional communities.

Articles like the one in Out of Ur by Dan Kimball spurs me on to make sure my focus (particularly as a worker for Forge Aust and a member of a type of Church I think Kimball is describing) is on building God’s Church, not just in having nice fellowship and good times, but really seeing the Kingdom of God impact everything it comes into contact with. I don’t feel comfortable with everything Kimball says in his article, but I think I agree with more of it than I care to admit quite frankly. I am not sure about –

“But for now, I would rather be part of a Christ-centered megachurch full of programs where people are coming to know Jesus as Savior, than part of a church of any size where they are not.”

But maybe I do…I guess I have sustainability issues, resource use issues and a whole host of other questions about that statememt personally, but if people are genuinely coming into the Kingdom, and following Christ and making a difference to the world…is any cost too great? Or does that question take me back to a place that ends in all sorts of dark corners 🙂 I guess the whole Husdon Taylor story…perservering in tough missional ground without seeing the fruit yet holding faithful to the gospel year in year out – this is the fly in my ointment. What if … what if we are just so used to “just add water” solutions in our “have it now” society, what if… Could be just my excuse… hmmmm

Here is a taster… the whole thing is here.  Al Hirsch has made some great comments regarding the article here, but I have added a teaser from them at the bottom.

Dan Kimball’s Missional Misgivings

Small, indigenous churches are getting lots of attention, but where’s the fruit?

I hope I am wrong. For the past few years, I have been observing, listening, and asking questions about the missional movement. I have a suspicion that the missional model has not yet proven itself beyond the level of theory. Again, I hope I am wrong.

We all agree with the theory of being a community of God that defines and organizes itself around the purpose of being an agent of God’s mission in the world. But the missional conversation often goes a step further by dismissing the “attractional” model of church as ineffective. Some say that creating better programs, preaching, and worship services so people “come to us” isn’t going to cut it anymore. But here’s my dilemma—I see no evidence to verify this claim.

Not long ago I was on a panel with other church leaders in a large city. One missional advocate in the group stated that younger people in the city will not be drawn to larger, attractional churches dominated by preaching and music. What this leader failed to recognize, however, was that young people were coming to an architecturally cool megachurch in the city—in droves. Its worship services drew thousands with pop/rock music and solid preaching. The church estimates half the young people were not Christians before attending.

Conversely, some from our staff recently visited a self-described missional church. It was 35 people. That alone is not a problem. But the church had been missional for ten years, and it hadn’t grown, multiplied, or planted any other churches in a city of several million people. That was a problem.

Read the rest here.

Al Hirsch says –

* I centainly don’t believe that attractional is not working.  What I have said is that it has appeal to a shrinking segment of the population, and that persistence  with a church growth style attractionalism, is in the long run, a counsel of despair. Are you suggesting that we simply stay with what we have got?  Surely not bro?

* If we persist with our standard measurements for mission, we will miss the point.  The issue is what idea of church is more faithful to the Scriptures. Genuine fruitfulness, surely, cannot simply be measured by  numbers but by ‘making disciples.’ How does one measure that?  By all accounts, current churches are made up largely of admirers of Jesus but few genuine disciples/followers–this is not a biblical idea of fruitfulness!

* Besides, the early church would not measure up to the current metrics!! If Rodney Stark is right, there was only 25,000 by …. (read the rest at Al Hirsch’s blog)


2 thoughts on “Emerging Missional Church…Working?

  1. Hi Scott!

    This is a wonderful post. I may link to this in a future post I am writing about this.

    As you may have read in my comments added to that post on Our Of Ur, the original article I wrote was edited and shortened and unfortunately lost some of the “heart” and further explanation I gave. My primary concern is hearing consistant criticism from “missional” churches about larger churches and the creation of the attractional/missional dichotomy. But at the same time, the more I explored I didn’t see or hear of the degree of evangelistic response as the larger churches had from those criticizing them. So I thought I would raise the question I did.

    I also ended the article with more of a statement that said something like “I would rather be in a small, medium or large church that is attractional and seeing people put faith in Jesus than in a church that claims to be “missional” but doesn’t see any new disciples made.” My point was that the size or type of church that matters, it is more about the urgency of seeing new (and healthy) disciples of Jesus who weren’t Christians before being made. Lives are at stake and I can’t help but be passionate when this seems to be a missing part of our conversation about all this.

    Anyway, thank you so much for writing such an honest and thoughtful post here.

    1. Thanks mate. Yes, it got me thinking for sure! We have a group that would fit many of your ‘stereotypes’ in many ways but is deeply relational fulfilling in many ways as you could well imagine. It feels like it is going through some change and challenge now, as it should, but I fear that we have too many varying points of view and theologies existing within to really get anywhere that looks like a unified approach to a true missional group! Thanks for comments and Happy New Year/Christmas etc !!

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