LOVING THE CHURCH – BLESSING THE NATIONS
Pursuing the Role of Local Churches in Global Mission
Gabriel Publishing, 2003, 220 pp.
Miley, long time missionary with OM, is the founder of Antioch Network, an expanding fellowship of local churches focusing strategically on extending God’s kingdom among unreached peoples (www.antiochnetwork.org). This book is Antioch Network’s manifesto. (21-22) Miley proposes a model of local church missions in which churches send their own teams to plant churches among unreached peoples. He calls for “an international movement, focused on the completion of world evangelization, rooted in and coming forth from local churches.” (220)
The book develops a strong biblical rationale for this fresh model, including the qualities and development of apostolic leaders and structures. One chapter outlines how a church would go about it. Of course, for most middle-class, mono-cultural congregations it is a daunting proposition and ongoing coaching and guidance are needed.
The author’s humility, high esteem for the church, and positive attitude toward mission organizations come through clearly. The biggest dilemma, as with any missions book, is how it may come to penetrate the heads and hearts of pastors and key influencers in churches. But wouldn’t it be exciting to see a movement of local churches taking seriously the mandate to reach the nations!
The central questions become ‘What does it mean to complete God’s purpose among all nations?’ ‘What strategic opportunities remain?’ and ‘In which one(s) is God calling our church to be his channel of blessing?’ (27)
“The human heart cries out for personal significance. We were created that way.” (28)
God’s mission on earth is stated in Genesis 12:3: “All peoples [nations] on earth shall be blessed.” (29) Pages 31-33 list Scriptures from throughout the Bible that confirm this purpose.
“Our most straightforward and comprehensive goal in blessing a people is to establish a grassroots movement of spiritually vibrant, culturally relevant churches spreading throughout the people.” “Therefore, to focus our energies on starting churches among [the unreached peoples] is our most urgent priority.” (39-41)
“Mission offers a God-sized challenge in which our lives can be meaningfully and joyously invested.” “God has fashioned every individual for a role in his kingdom that nobody else can fulfill and has places us in an environment to count in ways no one else can.” (44-45)
Rather than call individual missionaries, let us call every believer to embrace God’s mission and fulfill the role God designed for him or her. (46)
Churches can be “centers of mission vision and implementation. Indeed, there is a sense in which each local community of faith is to mature into a mission fellowship.” (51)
“What if rather than focusing on individuals, we were to seek to mobilize entire churches?” (64)
“We mobilize the church for mission by honoring her and affirming her beauty, wooing her gently, and giving her time to process our advances and arrive at her own conclusions.” “She is to give herself to him, not to our self-designed program.” (68)
“Churches are beautiful, the fullest manifestation of Jesus on earth until he returns. Churches are gifted, richly equipped with a diversity of spiritual gifts. Churches are families endowed with resources to nurture and heal. Churches are agents of mission designed to herald the message of God’s dear Son in their own locality and among all peoples.” (69)
“The key to mobilization is ownership. Who owns the mission?” (71)
“We see two foundational groups in the New Testament. One is the local church. The local church’s primary function is one of nurture, although it also has a missional component. The end result of nurture without mission…is ingrownness.” “The second New Testament group is the team. The team’s primarily [sic] function is one of mission (or purpose or task), although it has a nurture component. The end result of mission without nurture is burnout.” (74) [The two functions and structures are basic to the book’s thesis. Dlm]
The church at Antioch is the primary New Testament model for local churches and missions. Miley does a good exegesis in Chapter 8.
One of the keys to world evangelization is a particular kind of leaders called, gifted, and empowered by God to initiate kingdom breakthroughs (like the Apostle Paul). They “are visionaries, but the vision they carry is God given and not from man. They are big-picture thinkers. They carry God’s message and are gifted by him to initiate new works, to lay foundations for these works, and to identify, develop, and release new leaders for these works.” (83-4) [Miley devotes much of the book to identifying, developing, and releasing these apostolic-type leaders and the structures that serve them.]
Differences between local church leaders and apostolic-type leaders: (88)
“Apostolic ministry is released through apostolic structures.” (89)
“…God has designed apostolic leaders to go first in sequence. They are to blaze the trail, to pioneer,…” (I Cor 12:28) (94)
“Six Qualities Necessary for Apostolic Release:
1. Paul’s calling and gifting had been expressed and seasoned over years of ministry.
2. Paul’s calling was confirmed by other godly leaders.
3. The timing of Paul’s release was confirmed by other godly leaders.
4. Paul’s release came in the context of a local church.
5. Paul’s release came in the context of a team.
6. The organizational structure that was the vehicle for Paul’s release was different than the organizational structure of the local church.” (136-39)
“Without mission organizations, apostolic impulses in churches will be inadequately cultivated and ultimately wither. Without local churches, needs within mission organizations for rootedness, resources, and personal care will remain only partially and inadequately addressed.” (140)
“In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit provided for the global advance of God’s kingdom by forming two structures: local churches and apostolic teams.” (141) “The body of Christ in the New Testament was one community with two structures.” (146) “A local church can be a garden in which the Holy Spirit plants apostolic calling. This is a core message of this book!” (147)
Regarding missionaries connecting with local churches: “We must be free of all ulterior motives. We cannot use the church to advance our ministry or our organization. Self-serving motivation will show through. We go in the spirit of the kingdom of God.” (152)
Excellent chapter on prayer. “The more we work, and sense the futility of what we do from our own resources, the more convinced we become that prayer is the most rational activity we can engage in. Only God can penetrate the enemy’s strongholds.” (166)
Good review of the Moravians, the premier model of the Antioch Network proposal. “Their worship fueled their conviction that Christ could only be appropriately honored by receiving praise from every nation.” (178)
“Six Theses of Ownership in Mission
1. Starting churches among unreached peoples is the highest priority for completing Christ’s Great Commission. (approximately 6,600)
2. Most Christians assume that the responsibility to start churches among unreached peoples lies with missionaries.
3. Missionaries lack the resources this task requires.
4. We Christians are investing a tiny percentage of our resources in completing this task; we don’t sense ownership. (2 cents of every $100 income)
5. Perceptions must be reversed, and the ownership of global mission must be understood to belong to the whole Church.
6. We should not hear the call of God’s mission as another ‘ought’ or ‘should’ but as a grace-filled opportunity that offers natural, meaningful, fulfilling participation to every believer.” (183-190)
Some suggestions for the local church: Become proactive and ask what mission task God is leading us to take. Study the world and define the remaining task. Put missionary pictures on a wall large enough to include the whole congregation. Write the missionary’s role under the name of each missionary. Put up pictures of every congregation member who has committed to a role and put their role under their name! “The end goal is for every person in the fellowship to have their picture on the wall of God’s global mission. Now mission has ceased to be a spectator sport among you. Every person has moved from the stands onto the bench and into the game.” (192)
A Strategic Approach to Missions:
§ Make a proactive choice
§ Understand the overall remaining task in world mission
§ Identify the portion of this task which has been completed
§ Invest oneself in the portion of the task remaining (201-2)
“We want to invest responsibly with the end goal in mind. We want to be intentional. We want to know what we are doing and why we are doing it.” (203)
Stages to engage a people group:
Further reading: Magnify Your Vision for the Small Church, John Rowell