David Fitch responded to Mike Breen’s above-named blog post by claiming that a “missing ecclesiology” is what creates the failure of the “missional” church to grow more than individual “missional” disciples. I think he’s right.
I believe this “missing ecclesiology” is endemic to American Christianity (in part because of the individualism Breen focuses on) and is the chief cause Christianity in this hemisphere has been vulnerable to, even eager, to be chaplain to North American culture rather its primary critic, or at least court jester who shows and tells the rest of the world that the emperor is wearing no clothes!
I suggest that the biblical picture of God’s people contain just these later elements. And they are irreducible and non-negotiable. In whatever form we meet this people,
-wandering families -fleeing fugitives, -nomads, -a loose confederation of tribes, -a united then divided monarchy, -an exiled people, -a people oppressed in their homeland, -a people spread throughout the world,
God intends them to be what I call a “subversive, counter-revolutionary movement.”
“Subversive” because they do seek to take the world by coup, taking the reins of power and implementing a top-down program of reform. Rather, like the yeast they are called to be, this people seasons the loaf of the larger community by demonstrating in its own life what God intends human life to be and by seeding the surrounding world with random acts of kindness and intentional, systemic acts of justice. This people subverts from below as it were and possesses no plan for how the world ought to run itself or desire and intention to so run it themselves.
“Counter-revolutionary” because God’s people serve as the instrument by which God intends to counter the sinful revolt of humanity (the original revolution) and restore creature and creation to his creational purpose.
“Movement” because such a people, though a public presence in the world with appropriate institutions and structures, its heart is organic, rooted in a living relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul often mixes construction and organic metaphors when he talks about the church. According to Steven Addison a movement bears five marks:
-white-hot faith, -commitment to a cause, -contagious relationships, -rapid mobilization, -adaptive methods.
Clearly, this is NOT how the church in North America sees itself. I don’t to argue that claim. The evidence is incontestable. The church as God’s “subversive, counter-revolutionary movement” is what I understand “missional” church to be all about in its original and authentic sense. It’s about rethinking the church from the ground up in light of the triune God’s mission to reclaim and restore his creation according to his purposes in creation. That, nothing more or less, is the church’s reason for being. Until and unless we embrace this calling and resolve to structure ourselves to implement God’s vision, we will continue to flail and fail in being his people in this time and place.