Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Characteristics of a missional congregation.

Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

Our missional church study group has been intentionally reading and discussing missional theology for several years. We recently finished working through one of the seminal and early works in missional thinking: Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. I want to highlight the image of a missional congregation which Newbigin outlines in Chapter 18, “The Congregation as a Hermeneutic of the Gospel.” As I regularly visit the churches in our presbytery, I see many glimpses of these characteristics. I believe Newbigin has captured in his six, short descriptions the basic outline of what a missional congregation may look like. These characteristics may inspire good conversation in our congregations as we continue to explore new directions in ministry and mission.

It will be a community of praise (page 227). Then, too, the Church’s praise includes thanksgiving. The Christian congregation meets as a community that acknowledges that it lives by the amazing grace of a boundless kindness (page 228).

Second, it will be a community of truth (page 228) A Christian congregation is a community in which, through the constant remembering and rehearsing of the true story of human nature and destiny, an attitude of healthy skepticism can be sustained, a skepticism which enables one to take part in the life of society without being bemused and deluded by its own beliefs about itself (page 229).

Third, it will be a community that does not live for itself but is deeply involved in the concerns of the neighborhood (page 229).

Fourth, it will be a community where men and women are prepared for and sustained in the exercise of the priesthood in the world. The Church is described in the New Testament as a royal priesthood, called to ‘offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God’ and ‘to declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (I Peter 2: 5,9) (page 229 – 230).

Fifth, it will be a community of mutual responsibility. If the Church is to be effective in advocating and achieving a new social order in the nation, it must itself be a new social order (page 231).

And, finally it will be a community of hope (page 232).

May it be so in our churches.