Missional Movements

April 27th, 2011

Americans' participation in church is quickly following the secularized patterns of Europe. The methodologies used by the best of growing churches that made significant inroads in connecting to the unchurched culture in the 90’s are irrelevant to 60% of the American population today, according to Dave Ferguson and Alan Hirsch. Alan sent me a pre-released manuscript of their new book, On The Verge, a really important read I might add. I have been firmly entrenched in the missional church movement since I began to see some of the fundamental shortcomings of the church growth movement during the late 90’s. I began to articulate my “awakening” in my book, UnLearning Church, first published in 2002. Alan Hirsch has been one of the early prophet-pioneers of the movement. I first became acquainted with Alan through his work, The Forgotten Ways.

Alan and Dave remind Jesus followers that the church in its best form is a grassroots “bottom-up movement," a phenomenon involving ordinary people, with very little structure or involvement from official institutions.” What does it mean to be missional? “The church seeing itself as the primary means to transfer God’s redemptive message to the world.” What is a missional movement? “The church as a more fluid structure; a social force traveling like a virus from one person to another, with leadership who lead from the front.”

The authors remind us that the church Jesus designed is a movement and not a religious institution. “If this isn’t the case, then there’s no way to understand why Jesus reserves his harshest criticisms not for the so-called sinners but rather for the religious people of his day. It also explains why he chose and empowered ordinary people and not the religious elite to take the gospel to the world.” The authors are not denying the necessity of structure. But they rightly point out that the original church structure is radically different from the kind of structure that emerged with the Christendom form of church. This book is not an attack on institutional churches but an attempt to help established churches clarify and reconnect to the missional DNA of Jesus’ movement. What does this mean? “To become truly exponential, churches have to significantly de-professionalize the ministry, simplify ecclesiology, and activate the whole people of God.”

Our Ginghamsburg Senior Leadership Team in conjunction with our Leadership Board is working on an organizational strategy to simplify our current staff structure and maximize unpaid servant leadership. The church growth models of the 80’s and 90’s were highly structured, programmatic and staff dependent. Missional churches are simplifying structures to be organizationally agile, missionally responsive and culturally adaptive.

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