Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One (Allelon Missional Series)
Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren
Baker Books, 2009
This book is part of the effort of the Gospel and Our Culture Network to explore how churches can minister in an increasingly post-Christian and post-Modern culture. Roxburgh and Boren argue that the primary need today is for churches to move from an “attractional” way of ministry to a “missional” way of ministry. In the attractional paradigm, “The common theme is that church is about an event (usually the Sunday morning services) and about getting people to attend that event…” Though they are not against doing things that are “attractive,” the authors argue that this paradigm now needs to be partnered with a missional paradigm. Rather than the primary question being, “How do we attract people to what we are doing?” the missional church asks, “What is God up to in this neighborhood?” and “What are the ways we need to change in order to engage the people in our community who no longer consider church a part of their lives?”
Roxburgh and Boren offer the image of a river. There are three “currents” which make up this missional river. First, the current of “mystery” refers to the unfathomable decision of God to choose a people through whom he would bring blessing to others. Second, the current of “memory” refers to the larger Story to which the church belongs. Third, the current of “mission” refers to the reality that the church has been called as a sign and witness of God in the world. Being missional means making a commitment to being shaped by mystery, memory and mission.
The book then provides three topics which can help churches understand what it means to be missional. First, the authors urge us to reconsider our ministry context and the fact that the West is now a mission field. Second, the authors urge us to rethink the Gospel and to realize it is not about God meeting our needs but about God using us to meet the needs of others. Third, the authors urge us to re-imagine the church as a “sign, witness and foretaste of God’s dream for the world.”
The authors offer four ways for a church to discern where it is on the missional journey. Reactive churches respond to the changing culture by turning inward and becoming more dissimilar from their neighborhoods. Developmental churches respond to the changing neighborhood by improving what they are already doing. They focus on increasing their “attractiveness.” Transitional churches realize that no matter how many improvements are made, many of their neighbors won’t come—no matter how attractive the church is. Thus, they launch new efforts to go to these neighbors. Transformational churches enter fully into a journey of engaging their neighbors in new ways. In the book’s final chapters, the authors propose a pathway for churches to move from reactive to transformational.
Overall, the book is a helpful introduction to the concept of being missional and a useful resource for individuals or groups who wish to better understand Western culture and how ministry might change in that context.