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More Empirical Indicators of a Missional Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 3, 2004

On to #2 of the Empirical Indicators of a Missional Church (my comments in red):

2. The missional church is a community where
all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus.


What it looks like: The disciple identity
is held by all; growth in discipleship is expected of all.

This one challenges some of the assumptions of seeker-sensitive churches.  While their concern that we remove obstacles to the Gospel is praiseworthy, there has tended, in my opinion, to be a deterioration of discipleship in many seeker churches (since in many seeker churches the only way you can actively engage in a process of discipleship is if you "opt in" to pre-existing discipleship classes).  Such models make discipleship a commodity, rather than a calling or a community exercise.  I believe the biggest challenge to discipleship today is consumerism/commodification. 

Persons are not expected automatically to know the ‘way of doing things
in the reign of God.’ Citizenship in the reign of God is learned. The learned
protocol involves primarily those behaviors and processes that witness
to the way of Jesus, who is forming his people for life in the reign of
God. The community does not simply rely on ‘how we’ve always done things
here,’ or ‘that’s how we Baptists/Lutherans/Presbyterians/ Methodists/etc.
do it,’ or even ‘that’s how we do it in the company where I work.’ Rather,
the community seeks critically to integrate already-learned practices with
skills and habits of Christian discipleship. This community shows evidence
of growing, changing, and deepening the skills and habits of discipleship.
Nurturing citizenship in the reign of God is an overall priority of the
church for all members of the community of faith.

 

  •  New participants in the community indicate that
    they are being helped to integrate their life with the practices and habits
    of life in the reign of God.
       
  • This
    point, and the paragraph following it seem to be a bit vague on what
    the "practices and habits of life in the reign of God" are…any
    insights from anyone?

     

  •  Existing participants in the community indicate
    that they are engaged in a life-long process of integrating their life
    with the practices and habits of life in the reign of God.
  •  Illustrations can be given of how people are
    learning how to pray, and are discovering prayer as a powerful resource
    for living in the reign of God.
  • I never
    experienced the burdensome need for prayer at anytime in my life as
    much as during the last 6 months since Missio Dei has been meeting.
    Prayer is essential not only so that we can express our hearts to God,
    but so that he can express our hearts to us.  It has been amazing to me
    how a group of people submitted to God in prayer can have some of their
    plans and strategies pushed aside, to be replaced by a new "plan" which
    comes from the heart of God.

     

  •  The community demonstrates a variety of ways
    in which participants train, mentor, or nurture one another as the community
    seeks to develop, across the entire spectrum of participants, the capabilities
    (ways of thinking, perceiving, and behaving) required of disciples who
    are attempting to follow Jesus Christ.
  • We need to get creative about
    how we "do" discipleship.  It is difficult to take a purely fluid
    approach, where people are left to themselves to invite others into a
    discipling process.  A purely programmatic or classroom approach tends
    to make discipleship informational rather than formational.  We need to
    diversify our discipleship portfolios.  At Missio Dei, we are trying to
    foster discipleship in our house gatherings, as well as in 1:1 Life
    Transformation Groups (which we are having difficulty starting).  But I
    am also hoping to implement something like classroom training, training
    through ministry partnership, and regular retreats.  Discipleship, as
    Brian MacLaren has pointed out, needs to be comprised both of
    engagement (on the job training) and retreat, both missionary and
    monastic.

  •  Members can identify several different ways of
    thinking, perceiving, and behaving that are characteristic of life in Christ
    which differ significantly from the ways of the culture in which persons
    find themselves on a daily basis. They can give at least two or three examples
    of how those differences are being practiced in the life of the congregation.
    (Examples might include rejection of competitive and coercive ways of interaction,
    use of language that expresses a Christian worldview, attitude toward money
    and possessions that reflect God’s generosity and abundance, exercise of
    power through service rather than domination.)
  • We need to be distinct.  Our ethos is different than the surrounding culture’s.  If we can’t see any real difference in our ethos and its expression, then we aren’t being faithful.  We have to be different in more ways than just the message we proclaim.  Our actions and practices must be different.  We need to treat people differently.  We need to treat money differently.  We need to be different.

  •  The church organization is characterized by the
    participants as one that is ever open to change, to new and expansive ways
    of organizational thinking and behaving that enable rather than block the
    cultivating of faithful discipleship.
  • I’m convinced that genuine "systems thinking" is a profound rarity in our day.  We desperately need systems thinkers to develop new ways of doing church unique to their situations.  We too often just take the trendiest model or paradigm and slightly tweak it to our purposes.  This is unacceptable.  We need to discern the expressions of church and the practices of discipleship that best reflect what God is calling us to do in our specific time and place and boldy attempt to live it out. 

    for further reading . . .

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