Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is the UMC a Missional Church?

Over the past few months I've been reading several books on the topic of "Missional Church." I must say that the reading has been very illuminating. The writers have helped me understand more clearly the nature and purpose of the church. The ideas of the missional church movement are deeply gratifying because they give us a contemporary way of interpreting the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition for United Methodists wondering what being UM is all about. I say this because all of the missional church leaders look to John Wesley as an example of missional, transformational leadership and to the eighteenth century Methodists as an example of missional community.

The question we need to ask today is "How will the United Methodist Church reclaim its missional identity?" I say this because the UMC turned away from its missional ethos many years ago. To read about what I mean by the term "missional" go here: What is a Missional Church? Another, slightly lighthearted, take on missional church may be found here: You Might Have Missional Tendencies If...

My study of Missional Church has helped me understand that the ministry we call "Accountable Discipleship" is designed for missional congregations and for those seeking to become missional. This is true because the roots of Accountable Discipleship are planted in early Methodism. It's aim is to form congregations centered in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that live as sign-communities of the reign of God.

The writings of David Lowes Watson, Darrell Guder, Alan Roxburgh, Alan Hirsch, and others make abundantly clear that accountable discipleship is not a program. It is how congregations become and witness in the world as missional, Christ-centered communities. The primary purpose of accountable discipleship is to form vital congregations that witness to Jesus Christ in the world and follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A side benefit of building up the body of Christ and participating in Christ's mission in the world is that persons are formed as his faithful disciples. As they grow in discipleship they will experience the blessings of life in God's household. But the blessings come only through loving obedience to Christ and serving along side him in the world.

If you want to explore what it means to be a missional church I recommend the following books:

Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (January 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 1587431645
Darrell Guder (Editor), Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (February 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0802843506
George R. Hunsberger (Editor), Craig Van Gelder (Editor), The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America.
  • Paperback: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (March 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0802841090
Alan Roxburgh, Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World.
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass (April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 078798325X
Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmanns
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0802808298
David Lowes Watson, Forming Christian Disciples: The Role of Covenant Discipleship and Class Leaders in the Congregation
  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 1579109462
Is your congregation a missional congregation?