Missional Paperback – Jul 1 2010
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From the Back Cover
You can transform your community
The missional church movement is a sign that we increasingly feel the call to impact our communities, which is a good thing. But, says Alan J. Roxburgh, these conversations still prioritize church success over mission--i.e., how can being missional grow my church? But to focus on such questions misses the point.
Missional calls you to reenter your neighborhood and community to discover what the Spirit is doing there--to start with God's mission--and join in, shaping your local church around that mission. With inspiring true stories and a solid biblical base, this is a book that will change lives and communities as its message is lived out.
"This is the best book yet from one of the leading voices in the missional conversation."--John R. Franke, Theologian in Residence, First Presbyterian Church of Allentown; general coordinator, the Gospel and Our Culture Network
"Many books are worth reading but few worth absorbing. This falls into the latter category, and if you allow it to, this book will take you into a new world and give you eyes to see what God is doing all around you."--M. Scott Boren, pastor; author, Missional Small Groups
"This book takes us to new places for the future of Christ's church in North America. It is sure to be a tour de force for the missional conversation. I am not being excessive when I say this book is brilliant."--David Fitch, B. R. Lindner Professor of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary; author, The End of Evangelicalism?
"Missional may well be the best yet from author Alan Roxburgh as he prophetically reclaims the Newbigin engagement of gospel and culture as the key to rediscovering what it really means to be church."--Craig Van Gelder, PhD, Professor of Congregational Mission, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, MN
Alan J. Roxburgh is president of the Missional Network (formally Roxburgh Missional Network), an international group of practitioners and academics committed to partnering with and calling forth missional churches and mission-shaped leaders. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Introducing the Missional Church. Roxburgh and his wife, Jane, live in Canada. He can be reached at his website, www.roxburghmissionalnet.com.
About the Author
Alan J. Roxburgh is a teacher, trainer, and consultant who works with Allelon and framing resources for the missional church internationally. He coordinates an international project involving leaders from twelve nations who are examining leadership formation in a globalized world. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Missional Church; The Missional Leader; Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality; Reaching a New Generation; and Introducing the Missional Church. He and his wife, Jane, live in Canada. He can be reached at his website, www.roxburghmissionalnet.com.
Top Customer Reviews
I think it might have been Thomas Aquinas who made this statement - after a life time of work and suddenly having his eyes open to the glory of God.
I read Alan Roxburgh's latest this Saturday morning, and the feeling he reflects is similar. All these years in the missional conversation, and only now beginning to see! The book is worth a read. There is nothing especially new here, if you are familiar with Alan and his work. But there is a new urgency as he pulls together threads from other books, from recent conversations, and even - yes - Charles Taylor (59).
In fact this is the second book in the missional conversation that I have seen that references "social imaginary." I may have missed other references, but the only other one I know - is my own ("An Emerging Dictionary for the Gospel and Culture." If you know of others, chime in. "Desiring the Kingdom" doesn't count).
Alan's thesis is that we continually ask church questions of the gospel, when we should be having a dialogue. More, he argues that in the trialogue between church, gospel and culture, we are really still in a monologue. There is no real listening to the gospel or to the culture, but rather we import our questions and ways of seeing and so are not able to truly listen. Finally, he makes the point that more STUDY and new STRATEGIES are not the answer.
How to really enter a free and open space? How to listen anew to the Scripture?
Alan walks through Luke-Acts briefly, arguing that we see the same struggle in the early church. The Gospel was ethno-centric and very Jewish. Up until the tenth chapter of Acts, the "language house" (or social imaginary) remained virtually static.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In the interplay between Scripture, church, and culture, our predisposition is to think first and foremost in terms of church questions - Scripture and culture have become secondary to and a function of the church effectiveness questions. Like a frustrating computer program, we keep returning to the preset position, assuming it's the correct place to be. (45)
In the book Roxburgh walks the reader through the narrative of Luke 10. However, more than a mere commentary, he does a remarkable job of pealing back the layers of our assumed etymology and instead brings forth what he calls a "new language house." Meaning, we've come to the text with a preset lens, filter, and language house that informs and shapes what we see taking place in the story. "A language house predetermines how one sees the world or reads a text." (65) We're stuck in an outmoded language house that no longer fits the cultural milieu of the day as well as subjugates Scripture and culture to the domineering questions and conversation regarding "making church work." Instead, the beauty is to find God already at work in culture outside the bounds and confines of the church. He is wooing humanity and working in our neighbourhoods and cities and yet most often we miss it. This is where Missional does a great job in challenging our thinking.
The strength in the book lies exactly in this counter-intuitive approach. Far from techniques and how-to's it opens the readers' eyes and ears to seek and discover where God is already at work in our midst. It is a call back into the neighborhood and elevates the local and the simple. "The primary way to know what God is up to in our world when the boundary markers seem to have been erased is by entering into the ordinary, everyday life of the neighborhoods and communities where we live." (133) We need to leave our language house baggage behind, enter the neighborhood, sit at the table of others, and hear and learn what God is doing. (135)
On many fronts this book is a challenge to me personally as well as encouraging. First, to recognize indeed that our language house is off and we're in need of a new one. I believe that we're still giving answers to questions that are not being asked ... except by ourselves "in house." We're still dominated by, as Roxburgh calls, church questions. Instead of asking what is the vision of our church we ought to be asking instead what God is doing in our neighbourhoods and in our culture. Then church questions can form around that. Second, Roxburgh elevates the simple, the common, and of course, the neighbourhood. So often we've enlarged our scale or scope to be city-wide, regional, national, or continent-wide, but what about the local? The neighbourhood? The simple, common, and mundane? Are we missing out on the locality of God at work in the smaller scale? Lastly, which builds off the second, the work of God in our neighbourhoods is not confined to the elite, the superstars, or anything like that. God works through the everyday lives or everyday ordinary people ... like the unnamed 72 who were sent out in Luke 10.
I'd highly recommend this book. It's a fast and fun read. Very stimulating, challenging, and at the same time encouraging.
"The Spirit is out there ahead of us, inviting us to listen to the creation groaning in our neighborhoods. Only in the willingness to risk this entering, dwelling, eating, and listening will we stand a chance as the church to bring the embodied Jesus to the world." (151)
At that point, I was working with Alan to get this book published. As I pitched the idea of this book to the editor, he said that it sounds like it is "putting mission into missional." This is exactly what it does. It challenges our church-centric focus and invites us to join God in his mission to redeem all of creation. Of course the church has a role in what God is doing in the world, but God's dream is much bigger than just having missional churches. He wants to empower his church for the sake of engaging the world on mission.
To do this, Roxburgh invites us to think about more than the church. He challenges us to enter our neighborhoods and listen to what is going on there. Instead of assuming that the goal is to get more and more people into our church activities, let's engage people where they are and then offer them the Gospel in that setting.
Alan Roxburgh, from Vancouver, Canada, is well-known to Australians as a writer, international consultant to churches and denominations, and speaker on mission, church and culture. He leads The Missional Network and has authored or contributed to a number of significant books including the seminal Missional Church (edited by Darrell Guder). His expertise is missional transformation and leadership development that engages with the cultural shifts in the Western world. He often uses Luke 10:1-12 and invites congregations and conferences to read it, reread it and let it "read them" and discuss its implications.
The book is arranged in three parts. Part 1 urges moving on from a preoccupation with church questions. Roxburgh outlines the contribution of Newbigin and the Gospel and Our Culture Movement to the missional conversation, explaining their appeal was to give attention to gospel, culture and church, not just church albeit adjectively described as "missional". This is perhaps the most startling reminder of the book - that we need to grapple with gospel and culture issues, and let that inform mission and shape church. Otherwise church can become like the member of a circle of three friends each of whom only wants to talk about themselves and not listen to the others (the subject of an intriguing parable that Roxburgh narrates).
Part 2, the longest section with a little over half the book, delves into Luke-Acts and especially Luke 10 as a narrative language lens for missional formation. Luke addressed the crises of Gentile communities working out how to respond to their context: What's gone wrong? What is God up to? And what does this mean for church? These are similar questions we face today in Australia and Luke is still helpful. Roxburgh critiques what the church has inherited from the Euro-tribal religious reformations of the 16th century and appeals for Christians to experiment with new forms of mission. He says the disconnect between church and society and the dissatisfaction - even among many Christians - with Church as it is suggests God is breaking us out of our boxes and pushing us out in mission beyond ecclesio-centricity. We will understand the Kingdom message best, he says, not through imported programs or teaching from the latest gurus or asking questions in our churches, but by getting out of our churches and into our neighbourhoods.
Part 3 is a concise set of practical steps and "rules for radicals" to guide churches in implementing a Luke 10 approach to neighbourhood mission. The book is worth buying alone for the practical steps for knowing and mapping your neighbourhood.
Missional: Joining God in the Neighbourhood is ideal reading for leaders or church members who want to move beyond conversation about church structures and programs. It offers an accessible and highly readable biblical theology of local neighbourhood mission with a countercultural reading of Luke and especially Luke 10. Its challenge to readers is to discern and join with what God is up to by submerging in local neighbourhood rhythms and relationships.
This review was originally published in Australian Journal of Mission Studies, June 2013.