Missional is an intriguing book on many fronts. The premise is counter-intuitive to say the least. It is a book about the missional thrust of the church except that the author, Alan Roxburgh, would make the case that the conversation of the book isn't necessarily about the church. That's akin to writing a cook book but not deciminating recipes or even swapping cooking ideas. That's the point and that is the brunt of Roxburgh's argument. As paradoxical as it sounds he's right on.
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)