I found Hugh Halter and Matt Smay’s “The Tangible Kingdom” extremely inspiring and practical and it finally gave me the courage to move ahead with this idea of missional community. So I was excited to see this new offering. Here are some thoughts – once again, more my personal take-aways than a proper review:
The book aims to bridge the gap between ‘attractional’ forms of church (they seem to be thinking about mega-churches in particular) and ‘incarnational/organic/simple’ church structures. Rather than it being an either/or choice, the authors argue that both aspects of gathered church and scattered church are essential to our mission and mandate.
Here are 5 particular areas I found helpful, followed by the one big awesome call the book makes…
Steps into mission
After a chapter which was familiar ground to me (the church being ‘beautifully sent’, following the sent-ness throughout the entire Biblical narrative), the authors expanded how a missionary flow should look:
- Engaging culture (making friends!)
- Forming community (friends get interested in ‘spiritual stuff’)
- Structuring congregation (holding people together as things grow beyond the living room)
They also helpfully suggest that if you are stuck with a non-missional congregation, you need to work the flow backwards with a prototype/pilot structure/community.
They also note that the traditional model was evangelise (engage culture) –> teach (at a church service) –> wait for conversion –> discipleship (in small groups); whereas the discipleship process should really start before conversion, as believers model discipleship in front of non-believers and some of this starts to rub off.
Stopping feeding the consumer
A section on ‘consumer church’ made the now-familiar point that consumerism has severely infected church culture. But a disciple is not a consumer, and a consumer is not a disciple. How to wean people off consumerism? Remove what they are consuming and replace it with a non-consumerist option. So stop the ‘feeding trough’ but help people learn to feed themselves.
A process for spiritual formation
The chapter on spiritual formation was incredibly helpful. The point is: we need a process (that includes upwards, outwards and inwards aspects to discipleship) and we need gateways to signify/mark/celebrate progression from one phase to another.
Their framework included 4 phases, with a transition point between each:
- Observation (“dating” – mutual learning and understanding)
- Calling out (“come and die with us”)
- Preparation (mentoring – active spiritual formation – having a go!)
- Public sending/prayer of blessing (“be sent out in mission in the name of Jesus”)
- Participation (coaching – real life practice(
- Partnership (empowerment – leadership)
I find this a practical and inspiring progression that helps maintain a passionate centre and direction to the community which remaining open and welcoming. For me the book was worth buying for this, and the ‘steps into mission’ framework above.
Modalic and sodalic
The whole discussion around the AND hinged on the concept of modalic (local church based fellowships, broad-based demographics) and sodalic (often limited in demographic scope, requiring a ‘second decision, involving with a clear mandate/focus: think mission or development agency, monastic order, etc.) It’s a nice way of saying you need pioneers and settlers, and the church has been trying to do its job for years with only one half of the equation.
There is quite a lot in the book about how/when/why to gather. Plenty of good stuff here, but I particularly appreciated the following points:
- Gatherings should be different experiences from what people experience when they are scattered
- The gathering should not pander to consumeristic tendencies but call people into a bigger story (of sacrifice)
- The gathering should be provisional, pliable, flexible
- Gather in a way that makes people want to be scattered/sent again
The big message: death
Throughout the book, the one clear clarion call is simple and profound. Mission means dying to ourselves and giving ourselves away so that others can find Jesus. It means giving up our time, comforts, money, energy. Opening up our homes when we would rather just crash out. Making time for others when we’re rushed off our feet. That call to denying ourselves is deeply Christian and awesomely challenging, and is perhaps the biggest driver to prayer and legacy that this reading this book leaves.