Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Missional and Progressive

I'm reading A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation by Rick Rouse and Craig Van Gelder (Fortress, 2008). In part I'm reading this because I've been looking for a primer on the missional church movement to use with my Elders. I'm just getting started with this brief book, but as I was reading I started thinking -- how might we be missional and progressive?
I ask this question because the more I read in missional oriented works I keep getting reminded that by most definitions to be missional is to be evangelical -- even conservative in theology even if not in practice. Yet, I'm drawn to the missional ideal because I believe that if the church is to be renewed it must understand that it's work must be tied up with what God is doing -- in the neighborhood. Thus, we become agents of God's mission.
So, taking a break, I looked up the words missional and progressive. Doing so I came upon a piece by my former philosophy professor at Fuller -- Jack Rogers. Jack was on the progressive side of things at Fuller during that era (early 80s) and has become more openly progressive over the years.

In this posting Jack spoke to the issue of being missional -- something the Presbyterians (like the Disciples) are talking about becoming -- while embracing the LBGT community. Jack notes that the drive to become missional is coming from the theological conservatives, but across the denomination there is openness to the idea -- so, he asks: what is missional?
So, he raises the issue:

Yet, what was extraordinary about this assembly is that collectively the majority of commissioners seemed to recognize, on some level, that in order to create a missional church we have to grant equal rights to our members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The two issues are interconnected. Think about it – if the goal is for the church to be woven into the very fabric of society – we can’t have preconceived notions about our neighbors. We have to go out with open hearts to preach and practice the message that we are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Affirming the equality of all God’s people is a prerequisite for reaching out in Christian service to all God’s people. So the GA approved overtures to grant equal rights to people who are LGBT and also approved steps to create a more missional church. In so doing, I believe the Assembly found a new way forward.

This is, of course, not simply a Presbyterian issue. If we are to be a congregation where our ministry is interwoven into the very fabric of society, where we are engaging in the work of God in the neighborhood, who is our neighbor?


Jack Rogers said...

Hi Pastor Cornwall:

I'm delighted to discover your blog! Thanks for your thoughtful post -- and the link! All the best to you in your ministry and writing.

Jack Rogers

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


I'm glad you stopped by. In many ways your class -- I took it in 1982 -- was pivotal in my own faith journey.

Anonymous said...

Hi...Not sure I follow you on the "missional" evangelical thing. If you haven't read Darrel Guder's book Missional Church I'd recommend it, as well other stuff put out by the Gospel and Our Culture Network. (Stormfront; Treasure in Clay Jars) They have more of a mainline/progressive feel if even a bit urban more than suburban. Thanks for you insight. I had a class with J. Rogers in the mid-70s! Geez is he old or what?

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,

I just finished reading Soul Survivor: How my faith survived the church, by Philip Yancey. It's a collection of mini biographies of individuals who impacted the author's own life and faith.

Your mention of 'missional' finds me pondering Yancey's bio of Ghandi, and how irate many "Christians" were when Yancey published a cover bio of him in Christianity Today. Yet, here was a man who practiced the ethics of Jesus beyond what few Christians ever attempt.

Why is it, that so many Christians want to pass the buck by hiring missionaries, rather than taking the gospel to the streets in their own neighborhoods? If Jesus had only ministered to those "worthy" of hearing his message and joining his church, would we even know of him today?

You've asked a good question, Bob. Now to find the language and the Way to speak it to those who are suffering nearby. A friend of mine (from another era) has written that "Desire is prayer [.]" Can we learn to desire to illustrate Christ, without also attempting to win visitors to our buildings? Ghandi did.