Missional Perspectives 06, Missionally Responsive Trajectories

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Missional Perspectives for Church Leaders 06 - MISSIONALLY RESPONSIVE TRAJECTORIES


Part of the following ministry resources: Missional Resources and Church Leadership, Philosophical Foundations. It discusses perspectives that were important to the first edition of the site, and is now part of the site archive that is not updated past 2012.

Missionally Responsive Trajectories are part of several Philosophies of Church Leadership and Renewal, which also include Church Growth, Emergent/Evaluating-Emergent, and other Missional/Missio Dei.

For all the articles in the series, see the index at the bottom of the page.

The more commonly discussed philosophies of church leadership and renewal are Missional/Missio Dei and Emergent. Many, however, do not adhere strictly to one philosophy. While still responsive to the new environment, they integrate their missional impulses with other commitments. I have divided them into five categories:

Note: This is guide is a convenience duplicate of Church Leadership Foundations, Missionally Responsive Philosophies.

Resurgent Reformed

Mark Devine (Evangelicals Engaging Emergent, 4-46) describes a group of doctrine-friendly emergent types who share concerns about the church’s marginalization and the need to contextualize afresh in the current mission environment, but who also strongly affirm classical orthodox theology.

In this respect, Marc Driscoll, before his ministry was discredited because of inappropriate behavior, founded an organization, the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative. While that organization no longer exists, another entity that Driscoll formed and that was taken over by others after his ministry ended, Acts 29 Network, still carry the spirit of the original Resurgent movement. It operated from a five-point theological foundation:

  1. Gospel centrality in all of life
  2. The sovereignty of God in saving sinners. 
  3. The work of the Holy Spirit for life and ministry. 
  4. The equality of male and female and the principle of male servant leadership.
  5. The local church as God’s primary mission strategy.

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Missional - Convergent with Conventional

In a manner similar to the Resurgent Reformed, but under a different banner, this is an attempt to blend many of the missional concerns raised by Emergents with an appreciation for “conventional” or established, traditional churches. An example is the recent publication by Liederbach and Reid, The Convergent Church. They use the term “convergent” as a response to “emergent,” with both praise and concern. They say:

“Our concern with the Emerging Church Movement (ECM) lies not with the questions they are raising, the conversations they are generating, or the thinking they are doing. Rather, our concern is with the proper handling of the nexus of cultural relevance and innovation with theological precision and orthodox foundation.” (24)

The authors provide a balanced critique of Emergent, believing it has much to offer as well as dangers to avoid. They also realize that much of the Emergent assessment of conventional churches is justified, though perhaps not to the extent that ECM takes it. They attempt to “listen to the critiques and ideas of the ECM while being careful not to reject necessary foundations or truths of the gospel message.” They are “convinced that fresh, relevant, and effective ministry requires a convergence between two paradigms of thought and ministry: so-called ‘conventional’ Christian approaches and ‘emerging’ ones.” (22) They expand:

We believe that similar to the production of strong alloys in a steel mill, where two metals are melted, cleaned of imperfections, and forged together, an alliance between these two movements is the wisest course of action. Thus it is our thesis in this book that by taking the best of conventional convictions regarding doctrine and truth and gleaning the best from the ECM concerning cultural engagement and relevance, a Convergent Church can be forged that will provide the most biblically faithful and methodologically effective disposition for the Western church. Thus a convergent Christian is less concerned with reacting to what is wrong with the conventionals in their practice or with fussing about where the ECM misses the point theologically than with identifying the strengths of each of these movements and amalgamating them to bring maximum glory to the King of the universe and make the maximum possible impact on the world for Christ. (25)

This spirit of convergence pervades their text and several recent resources that are featured on this site. Another example is Jim Belcher, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional.

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Missional - Convergent with Attractional

This attempts a hybrid approach to ministry that combines the strengths of Emergent and the gains of the attractional mega-churches. An example is the work of Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson in the Exponential Conferences. It is a blend of church-growth theory, exponential thinking, and incarnational missiology into one of the largest movements among churches today. The book by Hirsch and Ferguson,  constitutes a manifesto of this movement.On the Verge,

Missionally Responsive - Evangelical

These resources are culturally responsive, but maintain a biblically conservative, evangelical, conversionist view of evangelism. They share this with the Resurgent Reformed, Convergent with Conventional/Attractional, and Evaluating-Emergent (without the polemic). They affirm Evangelical convictions about the nature of evangelism and offer biblical foundations and practical strategies. They are, nonetheless, missional in the sense described by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson:

In its simplest form, the term “missional” is the noun “missionary” modified to be an adjective. Missional churches do what missionaries do, regardless of context. …If they do what missionaries do – study and learn language, because a part of the culture, proclaim the good news, be the presence of Christ, and contexualize biblical life and church for that culture – they are missional churches. (Comeback Churches, p. 4)

I suspect Van Gelder and Zscheile would catagorize these as “discovering missional” or “utilizing missional.” See their review in Missional Church in Perspective (72-75, 83-84).

There are at least three representative streams of this trajectory. The first reflects a more classic Protestant perspective with Evangelical overtones, such as Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. Dever, John Piper, D. A. Carson, and others are part of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals led by Ligon Duncan. The “About Us” section of their website expresses the spirit of their movement:

The purpose of the Alliance’s existence is to call the Church, amidst a dying culture, to repent of its worldliness, to recover and confess the truth of God’s Word as did the reformers, and to see that truth embodied in doctrine, worship, and life. …Since 1994, the Alliance has been an association of evangelical pastors, teachers, leaders, and Christians committed to the great evangelical consensus arising from the protestant reformation, working together for the recovery of the biblical, apostolic witness of the Church. It fosters a collaborative movement of reformed evangelical Christians, to promote robust, biblical, historic, confessional Christianity through media, events, publications, networking, and more. It has encouraged the Church to evaluate its message and methods, according to Scripture. It has warned the Church against false doctrine. It has advocated for sound doctrine, warm piety, catechetical instruction, biblical worship, faithful cultural engagement, and scriptural methods of evangelism and church growth.

The Alliance shares characteristics with the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative. The two organizations are not formally linked, and are different in some respects, with The Alliance the more polemic of the two. But there are enough similarities that some authors identify with both groups. Of these two, only the Resurgent Reformed see themselves as aligned with the missional movement, or having any affinity with the emergent conversation.

A second stream arises out of the research-based Effective Evangelism approach that while more substantive than the church growth genre, operates on many of the same assumptions. Examples are Alvin Reid and Thom Rainer, Evangelism Handbook, as well as Rainer’s The Unchurched Next Door. A small number of these are academic overviews of the beliefs and practices of evangelism, such as Thomas P. Johnston, Charts for a Theology of Evangelism.

A third, and perhaps the largest group of this genre are simply evangelical in the broad sense, such as the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship reflected in Will Metzger, Tell The Truth. Another volume edited by Scott Dawson, Complete Evangelism Guidebook, includes authors ranging from campaign evangelist Luis Pulau to apologist Josh McDowell.

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Missionally Responsive - Eclectic

Many resources recommended on are not aligned with Emergent/Evaluating Emergent, Missional-Missio Dei, Resurgent Reformed, Missional-Convergent, or Conservative Evangelical. They are more eclectic and have a wider appeal. At the same time, these volumes are indeed missionally responsive, taking seriously the challenges of our current culture, offering reasonable critique of conventional approaches to ministry, and suggesting new and better paths for greater effectiveness.

These resources are not fundamentally theological in nature, and as such probably fall into Van Gelder and Zscheile’s categories of “discovering missional” or “utilizing missional.” See how they affirm the strengths but also offer helpful critique to these understandings (Missional Church in Perspective, 72-75, 83-84)

Examples of this eclecticism are the excellent books in The Columbia Partnership (TCP) Leadership Series produced by Chalice Press. The Senior Editor for this series is Dr. George Bullard, who is also Vice President and Strategic Coordinator of The Columbia Partnership.

Another batch of literature I would place in this category is that produced by the Alban Institute. Alban recently ended its independent existence which for decades produced research, training, and materials for the improvement of congregational life. They now operate a blog through Duke Divinity School and do limited publishing through another organization. Although their resources expressed mainline Protestant perspectives, denominationally organized polity and liberal theological and social orientations, they wrote with sensitivity to all faith traditions, and contain valuable insights that translate well into other contexts. 

For more articles on missionally responsive resources, see the Related Areas below.

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Related Ministry Resources

Other Philosophies of Church Leadership:

Missional Perspectives for Christian Ministry:

Related Ministry Resources:

See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry:

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