McnMiss 09-11-164

Missional Renaissance

Changing the Scorecard for the Church


Reggie McNeal

Jossey-Bass, 2009, 193 pp.  ISBN 978-0-470-24344-2



Reggie McNeal is the Missional Leadership Specialist for Leadership Network and the author of several popular books on the church.  Becoming a missional church requires three shifts: from an internal to an external focus, from running programs to developing people, and from church-focused leadership to community-engaged leadership.  The chapters describe what these shifts mean and give some suggestions for how to measure progress.  [See my observations and questions at the end. dlm]



"Missional is a way of living, not an affiliation or activity. … To think and to live missionally means seeing all life as a way to be engaged with the mission of God in the world."  


Missional renaissance is reshaping the landscape of what church can and should be.


1.  The Missional Renaissance

Altruism and a hunger for spiritual growth and vitality are giving rise to increased charity and voluntary entrepreneurship in communities.  Churches must move out of the institutional paradigm and focus on the community, on developing people, and acquiring a Kingdom mindset. 


A growing number of people, both Christians and non-Christians, are able and willing to take on social issues and engage human need.  A church should monitor its positive community impact. 


"The missional church engages the community beyond its walls because it believes that is why the church exists."  (6) "They look for ways to bless and to serve the communities where they are located."  (7) 


The missional church works to "help people shape their path for personal development," shifting the emphasis to "following Jesus into the world to join him in his redemptive mission." (10) 


Innovators see the church as a catalyst to mobilize all the community "to work on the big things God cares about."  (15)


2.  Missional Manifesto

God's people must be on mission with him to "restore and heal creation," intentionally "blessing people and sharing the life of God with them."  "...both truth and love must be present to reflect the whole heart of God for people." (32)


The welfare of people captures God's heart, both the restoration in his relationship with them and the benefits of that relationship.  Jesus followers work to enhance life and oppose things that steal life. 


3.  Missional Shift 1:  From an Internal to an External Focus

Church groups and individuals serve in the communities and with the people where they live and work.  The church converts members to missionaries.  It is not a destination but a "connector," not attractional but incarnational.  It focuses on service, humanitarian efforts and public service more than proclamation, teaching and evangelism.  It deploys people rather than assimilating and separating them.  It helps people integrate their life and mission. 


"They live their lives with the idea that they are on a mission trip.  On mission trips, people focus on the work of God around them, alert to the Spirit's prompting, usually serving people in very tangible ways, often in ways that involve some sacrifice or even discomfort." (54)


"Once we see what God is doing 'out there' in the world, it changes everything we do 'in here' in the church." (65)


4.  Changing the Scorecard from Internal to External Focus

The chapter is chock full of possible avenues of service.  The church evaluates itself not by internal statistics of giving and attendance but by the quality of life of the members and those they serve.  The calendar, schedule, facilities usage, finances, and people resource indicators track whether key community initiatives are more important than building larger church buildings, that the church is not a club but a mission post.


Church people may be assigned, and supported financially and with personnel, as missionaries to various apartment complexes or other housing communities.  The church may adopt a school or some other community institution. 


"North America is the largest English-speaking mission field in the world." (80)

[It is also the "mission field' with by far the greatest concentration of Christian resources.  dlm]


5.  Missional Shift 2:  From Program Development to People Development

Moving from programs to people development means focusing on maturation more than participation in church, application and debriefing life events more than didactic teaching, dealing with behaviors and outcomes as well as knowledge, growing through serving, and integrating versus compartmentalizing life.  Developing people is a labor intensive, highly-relational, long-term process. 


"We have operated off the faulty assumption that if people participate in our church programs, they will grow and develop personally."  "Developing people requires building relationships, not just delivering a product or service."  (90)


"We do not share the heart of God with the world because we do not have the heart of God.  This heart transplant does not occur by participation in church activities.  It comes from being in a vibrant, growing relationship with God." [This seems to be the crux of the issue.  dlm]


Americans have outsourced spiritual formation to the church.  "Everyday living is where spiritual development is worked out."  "Loving God and our neighbors cannot be fulfilled at church."  "…church activity is no sign of genuine spiritual vitality.  The lifestyles and values of church members largely reflect those of the culture."  (92-93)  [Genuine spiritual vitality grows through exercise, for example, in community service.  But if we do not have it at the outset, does service generate it?  How do we get the heart of God that works itself out in the world?]   


"Just as people are taking greater roles in choosing their educational pursuits, designing their workplaces, and managing their health care, they feel increasingly qualified to craft their own spiritual quests."  "But what if we actually begin to see ourselves as responsible for creating a culture where people get to participate in customizing their spiritual journeys based on their spiritual appetites and ambitions?  (97-998)  [Of course people should participate in their own spiritual growth goals, etc.  But there are two obvious dangers here.  One is the consumer approach and the other is people acting as their own judge and god, both big problems we are trying to overcome.  I'm sure the author would agree that outside guidance is still needed.]


"In a people development culture, the key issue is maturation.  Are people growing in every aspect of their life?  Are they becoming more like Jesus?  Are they blessing the world as the people of God?" (100) 


People need help debriefing their lives.  Rather than simply teach in a classroom and let people figure out how to apply it, stimulate life discussions and undertake intentional debriefing to unpack their lives and experiences and issues in light of Scripture.  Help people address their behaviors.  [This is an excellent application.]


6.  Changing the Scorecard from Measuring Programs to Helping People Grow

This is the most challenging shift.  It requires reallocating every resource.  However, a variety of indicators can be monitored in the areas of prayer, people, resources, finances, facilities, and technology.  Identify specific results in people's lives that signal genuine progress for them. 


"To change a culture, you have to change the conversations."   "This reality should cause spiritual leaders to think long and hard about the culture we are creating by what we say and how we say it." (122-123)


7.  Missional Shift 3:  From Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership

Kingdom-oriented leadership is organic, personal, prophetic, empowering, and focused on leading a movement rather than an institution.  The leader is a viral agent that infects the culture with God's love and creates a culture of ministry in the community.  Leadership is not restricted to clergy.  Leaders are focused on their Kingdom assignment rather than their church job.  They are focused on being missionaries in their sphere of influence. 


"The challenge is to connect with a culture that is unacquainted with the good news of Jesus." (137)  "These leaders create a culture of ministry and leader incubation that multiplies everyone's efforts." (140)


Train like Jesus did.  Deploy and then debrief.  Learning comes through debriefing life experiences rather than teaching.  It is relational and intensive on-the-job training, up-close and personal. 


Leaders may well need to become bi-vocational in order to shed some church responsibilities and to provide income for their ministry. [I understand the need for leaders to model what they want to see in their followers.  Jesus led his followers in ministering to people.  At the same time, in Acts 6, the leaders thought it would not be right to neglect the ministry of the word of God to serve widows and they assigned this work to others.  Where is the balance?]


8.  Changing the Scorecard from Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership

Leaders must consider four areas: perspective, skills development, resource management, and personal growth. 


"I recommend recruiting a personal prayer support team and then figuring out how to update these helpers on your personal and leadership needs.  When recruiting this team, you may even want to ask people to focus their prayers on specific aspects of your life and ministry…." (165) [I like this idea and intend to do it.]


"Leaders have to live the change they seek." (157)  "You view life as a mission trip, and order your own life around that view." (159)



A few of the things we may expect:

•     "An explosion of missional communities (MC) will occur.  These will be groups of believers and nonbelievers who will operate in non-institutional settings. …  Their community life will center on an intense desire to grow spiritually and to aid the community.  Some MCs will be connected to churches; many will not be." (179)

•     "Increasing numbers of Jesus followers will live out their missional expression in the context of their family … attending church services on special occasions."  (180)

•     "Many clergy will not be able to make this transition in their current church roles.  Consequently, they will move into the marketplace for employment in pursuit of their call to be missional leaders."


Additional Observations, Thoughts and Issues

•     I believe the missional concept is biblical and churches should pursue it.  I believe Christians have largely failed to be salt and light in their spheres of influence. 

•     The book is highly application oriented with many very specific suggestions and examples.

•     I would have appreciated more emphasis on the spiritual dimension, how we get the "heart of God," how spiritual development takes place in the missional church.  In the book of Acts, while acts of service are mentioned, the overwhelming emphasis is on the disciples teaching and preaching the Word.   

•     I would like to have seen more attention and suggestions for what we could be doing in the rest of the world beyond our community.  While the world is not excluded, the suggestions for the community predominate by an overwhelming margin.

•     It might also have been helpful to make a larger issue out of living a life of love, obedience, integrity, and other centeredness in our regular job roles where we can have influence for Christ within the context of our regular daily activities among people like us.

•     The idea that Christians should be ministers in the community and that church leaders should equip them for that role is, of course, both historical and biblical.  Does this book make service too central?  Is the church more than service?  Is worship more than service? Is blessing more than service?

•     Church leaders will applaud the thrust to spend more time in the world and less time in church - in principle - but the suggestions that people meet for growth and serve elsewhere on Sundays instead of attending church will feel very threatening.  It will be very difficult for leaders to feel good about falling numbers that previously indicated their success and significance.  

•     This model requires many more leaders to equip, mobilize, and debrief the people in our churches.  However, we are in a hole of having few leaders and many "consumers" because that is what the program model has produced.  We lack leaders because we lack disciples. 

•     Programs are the "levers" that allow a few leaders to "lift" many people rather than a few.  The downside is becoming apparent: programs don't lift them very far.  Doing away with the lever reduces the capacity of leaders to relate to the many.  If leaders get rid of programs and focus on the relational, labor-intensive discipling of a few, many current church attenders will be left out.  Church leaders will find it extremely difficult to consider leaving people out.

•     Leaders are being asked to take on the additional job of serving outside the church.  Will overloaded pastors be able to give up what appear to be major important responsibilities to do this?  Does Acts 6, the ministry of the Word and the serving of widows have any input here?

•     Because we have learned to think and act in "programs," it is very difficult to deploy people in large numbers without programs.  How would you adopt a school, for example, without it being a program?  How would you help leaders debrief life experiences without a program to teach them how to do it?  How would you disburse funds and resources to a "missionary" assigned to a housing community without a program or committee to oversee it and make the decisions?  It will be very hard to stay out of the box. 

•     It would seem that the younger the church and the younger its leaders, the more likely the model will be adopted.  It may be quite difficult for large, indebted, "successful" churches to promote this perspective beyond a safe, surface level.

•     To what degree is this happening in younger missional communities that are flying under the radar screen?  What are they doing well and how are they struggling?


What will happen if churches adopt the missional model on a large scale?

•     Will families and small missional communities that meet together in place of church experience real, ongoing spiritual growth or tend to drift away?

•     To what degree will ministry efforts to serve the community continue to include spiritual transformation?  Will the culture's applause for help and condemnation of absolute truth affect Christians ministering in the community?  Will community service come to mirror the non-verbal service of mainline churches?

•     What will happen to local church support of global missions?  If it declines what will take its place?



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