Saturday, June 17, 2006

Books You Should Read on the Missional Church

Lately I have been reading books on the concept of the missional church -- partly because this is a topic that interests me and partly because I am trying to move the church that I am involved in to become missional.

Here are some of the best books I have read on the missional church issue over the past couple of years.

The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church
- Reggie McNeal

Written primarily to senior pastors and "contemporary" mega-church pastors, Present/Future encourages church leaders to think about 6 questions relating to:
  • replacing church growth with a vision for kingdom growth
  • developing disciples rather than church members
  • fostering new apostolic leadership
  • focusing on spiritual formation rather than church programs
  • shifting for planning for the future to preparation for the challenges of an uncertain world
  • replacing the idea of "every member a minister" to "every disciple a missionary"
For those who have done a lot of reading on the missional church, this book is not revolutionary. However, it will help you begin asking the right questions that can help you begin thinking in a missional direction. It is a great book to give to your senior pastor, church elder, etc.

The Shaping of Things to Come
- Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch

The authors present a new paradigm for doing church and missions. The book lays out the fact that the current western model of doing church is failing, and that attempts to maintain the status quo are most likely futile. Frost and Hirsch go on to present a missional model of the church, that those tied to the status quo will resist. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the future of the western church. BUT, this is probably not the book to give to the senior pastor of a mega-church.

This book resonanted with much of what I have been thinking and feeling over the past few years. My sense is that many mega-churches will be closing their doors in the next 10-20 years. Their campuses will become office complexes and shopping malls. Instead, we will find the growth and development of smaller communities of missional believers who are forming "churches" that look very different. Pottery studios, book stores, community centers, coffee shops, etc. will become the face of Christianity, as we penetrate our culture rather than conform to it or just retreat into our own ghetto.

Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World
- Bob Roberts

Another book to give to your senior pastor and church leadership that will help them think through the purpose of the church. This book is a call for the church to be missionary -- locally and globally. While there is a strong focus on church planting, the call is to plant churches that are missionary -- churches that want to engage their communities and see them transformed.

Roberts calls these churches "glocal". But the idea here is that glocal churches create disciples who, transformed by the Holy Spirit, infiltrate culture both locally and globally. As God transforms our lives, and those transformed lives form transformed communities, and those transformed communities serve the world locally and globally, community transformation takes place.

Again not a book that is revolutionary if you are familiar with missional church concepts, but one worth giving to those leading churches who are open to thinking in new ways.

Breaking the Missional Code
- Ed Stetzer and David Putnam

A good book for senior pastors and church leaders who have a desire to see the Gospel connect with their communities. Taking much of the good from Donald McGavran, the church growth movement, and the ideas and concepts developing in the emerging church and missional church movements, the authors talk about the need to understand their social context and communicate the message of the Gospel to those they sense God wants them to reach.

The thesis of the book is quite simple.
One size does not fit all, but there are cultural codes that must be broken for all churches to grow and remain effective in their specific mission context. Breaking the Missional Code helps leaders go beyond the idea of becoming "missional" and talks about the implications and consequences of being missional.

One of my favourite ideas in the book is their definition of a disciple. So often discipleship has been defined as someone who knows the Bible, practices the spiritual disciplines, etc. Here is the definition offered by Stetzer and Putnam. A disciple is:
  • someone who loves Jesus and loves like Jesus
  • someone who lives like Jesus
  • someone who leaves behind what Jesus left behind
A definition that is simple, profound and thought provoking. My question is -- am I a disciple?

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