Mission without church

David Fitch make an interesting comment about ignoring the role of “church” in mission.  He says that whilst the concept of Missio Dei has achieved a profound reshaping of the church’s identity there are two potential pitfalls:

1.  A tendency to “backload” the missio into the sending of the Son, and/or

2. “frontload” the missio into the Spirit’s work in the world.

The role of the church then can become either a) the following of a “personal Jesus” as individuals into mission, and the church simply becomes a retrospective construct, or b) the joining of individuals with justice movements in the world, where the church is dispersed into the world’s struggle for justice.

In either case, Fitch argues, there is the possibility that the church gets dispersed out of existence. This is less of a problem as long as there is already a church from which to recruit individuals for this missional involvement! As long as there is a church, individuals will go forth into mission.

But as the church diminishes however in the West, the problem becomes more acute: Where will these individuals/or groups come from that go into the world without the church which shapes these individuals into the “church as mission”?

This is a similar concern addressed by Stuart Murray in response to John Drane’s stakeholder model of church

John Drane’s proposal was mentioned in Post-Christendom: a ‘stakeholder model, in which there could and would be a place for diverse groups of people, who might be at different stages in their journey of faith, but who would be bound together by their commitment to one another and to the reality of the spiritual search, rather than by inherited definitions of institutional membership.’

Murray-Williams argues:

But [emerging] churches need custodians of their story and values. Inclusivity and open-ended belonging without core maintenance is unsustainable and dangerous, as membership-averse emerging churches are discovering. Other emerging churches are reconfiguring monastic patterns that establish a core community and allow for various stages of commitment to their core values.

The reality is that, at present, Fitch’s anxiety is right; we still need strong Christendom-style congregations, in order to release and resource emergent congregations. 

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