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Maybe the absolute best book I've ever read on the subject of being a missional church. If you are looking for a 'how to' book, then look no further. Reggie McNeal provides the answers and lays out a game plan for you.
The book certainly does that. As an example, here's another interesting and practical exercise that any congregation can start doing right now (from Chapter 6).
Reggie states that "To change a culture, you have to change the conversations". So he helped guide conversations that one congregation's leadership team had with several hundred of their church members and participants, including teenagers. They called it "Real Talk" and used these five questions.
1) What do you enjoy doing? Many never make the connection that what they enjoy might be the way God wants to bless others through them. 2) Where do you see God working right now? In your life, your kids' lives, your neighborhood, at work, wherever. 3) What would you like to see God do in your life over the next six to twelve months? How can we help? 4) How would you like to serve other people? How can we help? Rather than trying to plug them in to service opportunities inside the church (although this will happen too), the focus should be about helping people outside the church. 5) How can we pray for you?
Over time the results showed that by just doing this and then following up in a coaching setting for those that want to be more intentional about their lives, they advanced God's kingdom as well as added to the vitality of their congregation.
This book is full of practical ways to be more outward focused and engaged in your community and beyond.
All Christians need to become familiar with what is now being called the missional approach. McNeal's book is a great start. It does not get bogged down in theological justifications, but focuses on the shift from a parish centered approach to a kingdom centered approach. I wish McNeal provided more discussion and research on why Americans in 2011 are typically not attracted to the traditional parish model, resulting in the decline of those parishes. He makes a good case for the missional approach. Reviewers here who argue that the missional approach constradicts some other sort of "biblical" approach do not get what McNeal and other missionalists are saying. It is tough for us to argue that Jesus calls us to form big churches and to bow to our elders. McNeal makes the case for the missional approach in which Jesus calls us to use our gifts to do God's work in the world. But, while McNeal tells us to find new pastors who will lead us to our missions and stop counting Sunday attendance and money, he doesn't really provide a plan for dealing with our building mortgages and retraining (or firing) our clergy. I agree with the need to change, but McNeal does not warn us of how hard that will really be.
Definitely a "chew the meat and spit out the bones" style of book. I agree with another reviewer, that McNeal seems angry at times. I am not a huge fan of writing a book that spends the majority of time criticizing past institutions, repeatedly, to inform the reader of a present need to change. Missional churches? Yes. At the expense of blasting the local church that has loyally served communities so well for generations? No. Change does need to come, but not at the expense of a critical spirit. It is in fact, the very church, the Reggie consistently criticizes, that has brought us to this juncture in time. Let's celebrate where we've been and what has been accomplished and look forward to a more missional shift for the future. But let's not beat up the pastors that have laid down their lives to see the gospel presented to their communities. Overall, I did glean some great points from the book, but found it hard to stay engaged due to the many referrals of how we have continually failed as program churches. I still believe the purpose of the local church is to train and release disciples into our communities, but they need a home base to return to and family to receive them. I'm for a hybrid model of what Reggie proposes, but not quite ready to throw it all out to embrace one mans idea of Renaissance.
This is a must read for all pulpit and marketplace ministry leaders. It's imperative that we understand current cultural transitions and how the church can regain it's relevance in the current mileau.
Reggie McNeal states that our current focus on internal ministry to ourselves must shift to an external focus on others. Churches must become outward focused and involved in the need of the communities. McNeal identifies three "missional shifts" in his book: "These three shifts call for a new scorecard for the missional church
The shift from internal to external focus for churches. The church reaching out to their community. The shift from program development to people development. He suggests a new dimensional scorecard, with an in depth discussion of transitioning to a missional church The shift from church-based to Kingdom-based leadership. Leaders of the church must direct us to what the church can and should be, and not just thinking of the kingdom impact but the growth of the church.
This book is a must read for all leaders committed to expanding God's Kingdom. This book is a definite part of my "Dantotsu (Best of the Best) Collection."
Reggie McNeal answers some BIG questions on the minds of many church leaders who are struggling mightily today, wondering, "What happened? Why aren't we prospering anymore? Where's that vitality, impact, and sense of purpose we used to have?" He offers excellent insight that speaks to Industrial Age and societal norms that have largely influenced what church is and the way we "do church" today. A simple review of what church was meant to be according to sound biblical analysis, combined with a very insightful understanding of how much differently our Post-Modern society thinks and acts today, informs the reader that if the church is to prosper today, three major paradigm shifts are needed. McNeal thoroughly lays out those shifts and offers an easy-to-follow path toward making them for those who are bold enough to step out in faith and make it happen.
There are some helpful things contained within the book, but overall I would say that the author misrepresents what I would call "missional." Knowing the publish date of this book, it seems that he is incorporating aspects of the-now-gone emergent church movement.
Missional is not anti-church, and the deeper I have gone into this book, this seems to be the intent of the author. To be missional is not to have a Christian story time at your work place. That is only part of it. These "organic" moments are to be part of the activity of God's people in the church, but not to be ALL of the activity of God's people. Sharing stories cannot replace the faithful preaching of the Word and worshipful response of God's people together.
Be missional by being intentional in every aspect of your life, yes. But do not do so at the expense of the local church - a display of God's glory in your community.
There are other books that better represent the idea of what it means to be "missional."