MinShap 06-6-83  


The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches


Milfred Minatrea

Jossey-Bass, 2004, 202 pp.  ISBN 0-7879-7111-1


Minatrea is a former pastor, consultant, and director of the Missional Church Center for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  This is my first book on the missional church.  It is dense with information and is supported by interviews with missional church leaders.  It is also supplemented with discussion questions and an assessment tool at the end of each chapter.  It is strong on global ministry, more than I have seen on almost any other book on doing church.  Minatrea has obviously read broadly on missions.   


The main point of the missional church, according to Minatrea, is that every member is a “missionary” in the sense that every member is “sent” into the world to be and do Christ’s mission.  Contrast the “traditional church” wherein a few special missionaries are sent and the rest pray and give but are otherwise absolved from responsibilities beyond their own personal growth. 


The key practice of the missional church is to bring every resource to bear on the purpose and ruthlessly eliminate any form or function that does not contribute.


Mission of the church: “the purpose of inviting and equipping individuals to be authentic disciples of Christ.” (Preface)  [The mission seems much broader and less clear in some if the examples dlm].


“Such churches are connecting members intimately with God and involving them in His mission around the world”  “They are not content simply to provide financial resources so that a few select individuals can be involved in global missions.  They are on mission as individuals and as communities of faith.” (Preface)


Definition of missional church: a reproducing community of authentic disciples, being equipped as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim His Kingdom in their world.” (Introduction)  [Note: There can be a world of difference between their world and the world. dlm] 


The first century vision of mission, per David Bosch, “Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God…sending the church into the world…a movement from God to the world…. There is a church because there is a mission, not vice versa.” (Introduction)


“Knowing His purpose informs strategies, which are the pathway to accomplishing purpose.”  “So the formula must be spirituality, then strategy, then structure.”  “If structures do not accommodate strategies, they destroy effectiveness.”  (Introduction)


“First ask a spiritual question: ‘What does God desire for our church?  What is on His heart?’  That should prompt a strategic question: ‘What would He have us to do…?” (Introduction)


Individuals are created to reflect the image of God, “to live as He lives, love what He loves, and pursue that which is on His heart.”  “Those who bear His image are sent to serve His mission….”   “Ultimately, His church exists for the glory of God…”  “God desires His church to relish in His glory, share His glory among the nations, and reflect His glory in word and deed.” (8-9)


“Much of the mission enterprise of Western churches has been enabled by mission-minded churches.  Such churches view their role as sending and supporting those who have been ‘called’ to mission service.  ‘Missions’ is therefore representative; church members pray and give so that others may go and serve.  Just as churches have other programs, …they also have a missions program.  The word missions is but one expression of the church. 

People in the missional church do pray and give so that others may go and serve; yet for them missions is more centered in ‘being and doing’ than ‘sending and supporting.’  The missional church understands that although some may be supported as those sent to other locations, every member of the church is ‘sent.’” (10-11) [These two paradigms are what I describe as ‘program’ and ‘purpose.’ dlm]


Four dimensions of missional churches: 1. Love God.  2. Live His mission.  3. Love people.  4. Lead them to follow.  (17)


“The Great Commission is a controlling and central command.”  “The church is a result of and a participant in the mission of God.”  “J. Andrew Kirk calls the church’s participation in mission essential, a self-defining reality.”  (18)


The eight passion actions:  1) Love God: worship and obey.  2) Live His mission: serve and share.  3) Love people; embrace and invite.  4) Lead them to follow: equip and empower. (20)


“Missional churches equip God’s people to be on mission.” (25)


“Although practices can be imitated, passion cannot.  Unless practices emerge out of a deep passion, they are little more than sound and fury—motion without effect.” (25)


Part Two: The Nine Essential Practices of Missional Churches

1. A High Threshold for Membership.  Authentic discipleship is costly.  (29)

Missional churches have clear expectations for membership and communicate them.  [Although late in the book churches are cited for bringing people into community and involving them in ministry before they are declared followers.]  Nominal Christianity weakens the body. (31)  At Mosaic when you become a member you come on bi-vocational staff.  You are a tent-maker.  Mosaic has more than 600 staff persons as missionaries to the Los Angeles area. (39)


2. Be real, not real religious.  “The hunger for authenticity is epidemic today.” (43)  “Churches…have lost status as places of significant impact.” (44)  “The litmus test of the missional church is how members live when scattered during the week.  They must prove the validity of their transforming faith in schools, sports teams, at the office, and on the gold course.” (48)


3. Teach to obey rather than to know.  “Faith possessed must become faith expressed….” “In the Bible, faith is not something you possess but rather something you practice.” (53)


Missional churches: equip believers; practice ‘applied Christianity;’ have a high commitment to God’s Word; learn obedience through disciplines; and use a variety of methods. (54)  Discipleship training has to be in doing, not just knowing.  Discipleship includes information that changes attitudes and alters conduct. (56)


“The discipline of simplicity is of paramount importance in a consumer-driven society.” (59)


4. Rewrite worship every week.  “The form is consistent, but the experience is always new.” (66)


For missional churches God is the focus of worship; worship is experiential; worship is about content, not form; worship is highly participatory; worship values creativity; worship is more than words.” 


“Worship is designed to exalt God, not to entertain people.” (66)  “Although it includes those who are not yet disciples, worship is not intended to reach the unreached, but to allow those who know God to bring Him praise.”  “Worship is not learning about God; it is encountering God.  It is not hearing about Him, but hearing Him.” (67)


“When innovation takes the focus off God and forces participants to focus instead on the acts of worship, it reduces worship to something less.” (69)  “The form must serve the focus, and the focus of worship is God.” (70)


5. Live apostolically.  “Our attempts to bridge the span from the church to the world prove difficult and are likely to be replete with accusations of compromise.” (78)


“All are missionaries.  Therefore missional churches seek to prepare members to live apostolically.” (78) “Today, members of missional churches must be bilingual in that they must be able to communicate in terms that can be understood by those without as well as those within the church.” (79)


“A person who does not believe every disciple of Jesus Christ is sent by Him into the world rejects the essence of the missional church.  The person must then believe that only select ones are sent by Christ on mission.  This ideology has been reinforced, probably unwittingly, by denominational entities and mission-sending agencies.” (79) [How would you respond? dlm]


“In the Old Testament, God blessed those who followed Him in order that they might be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:3). He longed that His place of worship would be called a house of prayer for all the nations (Isaiah 56:7).”  “The New Testament echoes the heart of God reflected in the Old Testament.  The incarnation is the central image showing the heart of God and His desire to draw men unto Himself.  Jesus was sent into the world to seek and to save the lost.  Before He returned to heaven, He commission His church in the continuation of His missional purpose (John 20:21; Matthew 38:18-20; Acts 1:8).  The apostolic sending of disciples is woven through the entire scriptural account.” (80)


“Injustice is done to the term missionary when it is reserved only for professional or vocational ministry personnel who cross oceans or other geographical boundaries in their assignment.  Missionaries are ones who are sent, and for the New Testament church that includes every believer.” (80-81) [Certainly every Christian should be an ambassador for Christ.  However, I suggest that applying the term missionary to every believer who walks out a church door strips the term of any particular meaning and, in effect, minimizes the substantial training and experience required to become an effective Kingdom worker in another culture. dlm]


“Mission is not geographical but philosophical.  It is not defined by the location to which the disciple goes, nor the number of oceans crossed in the process, but rather by the disciple’s message demonstrated and declared through an incarnational lifestyle.” (81)


“Missional disciples share Christ naturally, inviting people to embark on a lifelong journey toward intimacy with God.” (83)


“Those individuals within a member’s own sphere of influence make up their primary mission field.”  “To live apostolically, one must spend time getting to know lost people.” (86)


6. Expect to change the world.  “The point of the Kingdom is transformation.” “Beginning with their own city, they extend their focus to their state, their nation, and the ends of the earth.” (89) 


“Churches are rediscovering God’s purpose: that all the nations have opportunity to know Him and gather in praise of His glory.” (90)


“Missions conform to spheres of influence.  This means that missional responsibility begins among those with whom one has the closest relationships.  It continues with intentional establishment of new relationships among those who do not know Christ.  Ultimately, it extends to all the nations of the world.” (91-2)


Principles for missional churches to change the world: 1) Mission begins with relationships.  2) Mission is expressed in a ‘glocal’ community.  3) Missional churches identify primary mission fields.  4) Missional churches touch the world.” (92)


“If it is to be authentic, mission ministry must begin at home.” (92) 


Because of the intermixing of nationalities and ethnicities, global is local, hence glocal. (94) 


About 150 of the Mosaic congregation have left for the 10/40 Window during the last ten years. (97-8)


7. Order actions according to purpose.  Missional communities 1) know their purpose; 2) check that actions are based upon purpose; 3) let go of what does not serve their purpose; 4) do only what serves their purpose. (102)


A purpose statement identifies that part of the mission which is sensed to be the responsibility of a particular church.  “The purpose is the strategic goal of an organization.”  Missional churches have a “clearly stated purpose that can inform strategic goals.”  “Strategy is allocation of current resources to tomorrow’s purpose.”  (102-03) 


“More than what is stated, what is done reveals purpose.”  “For every activity, it is appropriate to ask: ‘How does this activity or event lead to the accomplishment of our purpose or mission?” (104)  “It is actual performance, what the members really participate in, that evidences real value.”  “No matter what the purpose statement may say, practical distribution of resources is an authentic statement of the real purpose of a congregation.” (105)


“Fractured focus results in mediocrity.” (107)  “Churches must determine the appropriate response to a constant barrage of opportunities.” (108)


8. Measure growth by capacity to release, not retain.  “They think first of extension, not enlargement.  “It seems as though we are giving too much and getting nothing—and that is the secret of pleasing God.” (111, quoting Watchman Nee)


“From the moment new members come in, we are preparing them to go back out.”  “The ultimate objective is every member released to serve in God’s mission.  They empower and release members to community ministries, begin new cells, or start new churches.” (112)


“The measure of success is ultimately not about size, but about service.” (112)


Practices: 1) They grow naturally. 3) They connect with a source of unlimited supply.  3) They see themselves as the mission-sending agency of God’s design. 4) They take a role in equipping missional leaders.  5) They see multiplication as God’s design for reaching new generations.  (113)


“Every believer has the privilege of being His missionary to their world.”  “Rather than being a discipler of the nations, the Western church has often abdicated responsibility to its representative missionary agencies.” (115)


“Leadership development is perhaps the greatest challenge missional churches face.” (118)


“Just as the church must reclaim its role as the primary sending agency, it must also own the task of Christian education.” “Churches are the primary equipping center for apostolic missional leaders.” (118-19) “Multiplying leadership can only be accomplished in the context of ministry, not in isolation from it.  This training is best accomplished as the local church equips its members through ministry to be released to ministry.” (121)


9. Place Kingdom concerns first.  Cooperate rather than compete among denominations.  “No significant Kingdom accomplishment will occur until churches value Kingdom more than their own sectarian accomplishments.” (127)


“Missional churches are involved in making lives better, enhancing the quality of life for those in the communities where those churches are located and to the ends of the earth.  They do this as they pursue all the interests of the Redeemer’s Kingdom through the Body of Christ.” (133)


The church simplifies its message to those who are not part of the church.  It removes potential barriers such as nonessential cultural practices. (135)


They do not focus their passion on what separates them, but on that which unites them: the Kingdom of God.  Missional churches are not building their kingdoms.  Their primary allegiance is to His Kingdom.” (138)


Part Three.  Structures and Strategies.  Structures must be flexible and resilient.


Instead of committees, more churches have task-related teams that dissolve when their assignment is complete. (145)


“Few missional churches relegate oversight of their participation in missions to a special ‘missions committee’ operating on a budget and in a realm separate from other areas of the church.  Instead, missional communities seek an integrated structure that allows the missional purpose of the church to inform every area of church life.  Some churches have adopted a new structure—the missional leadership team—to accomplish this purpose.” (146) 


The missional leadership team has a long list of tasks (p. 146).  “The missional leadership team is made up of church members and leadership already involved in the church’s missional task.  The team should include: leaders from existing ongoing ministries, mission education leaders, those planning mission trips, discipleship training and equipping personnel, the worship planner, someone from finance and budget, etc.  (147) 


Authentic disciples receive preparation in four areas: mission education (including both the missionary passion of God and His activity in the world), mission enlistment (opportunities for involvement), mission equipping (for mission in the places where they live, work, and play), and mission empowerment (release to their own ministry role). (147-49)


Leadership.  Leadership is a composite of character and proficiency, including a deep intimacy with God, personal humility, the experience of deep pain, the ability to take risks (for the course of action they perceive to be on the heart of God), being uncomfortable with comfort, creative and nonconforming, having many interests and areas of expertise, being cultural engineers (able to adapt systems and structures for the greatest missional effectiveness), challenging the status quo (divinely dissatisfied), perceived as radical in pursuit of their vision, capable with organizational systems (ability to move organizations through change), effective with leadership teams, and able to develop missional communities. (155-167)


“The future is a compelling vision for the missional leader.” “The primary task…is to maintain creative tension between the current reality and the preferred future.”  “Churches make a grave error when they fail to assess their current state accurately.  Distortion of current reality prevents us from making appropriate decisions concerning the future.”  “Compromise is the death of a vision.” (169)  


Change.  Adapting the behavior of a group of people is one of the most difficult types of change.  A change in knowledge is quickest, attitudes more difficult and action based on new knowledge and attitudes most difficult.  (174)  The most effective way is to start a new church. (178) 


Appendix: A set of assessments covering each of the nine practices.


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