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Ginger Johnston

As pastor of a small declining congregation in a rural area, I was delighted to read this comment. Yes! We must find a way to do it!

Bill Habicht

Thanks for this post. It's a really good questions. Our large congregation is exploring what it means to be a "missional church." But, not every congregation is situated to do this. When talking "missional church," I think we need to be careful not to try and define God or the body of Christ too narrowly. To be "sent ones" can mean many different things and should be embodied in ways that reflect the congregation and community.

Charles Wiley

Thanks for the comments. Our names will appear with the blog posts soon (since it will have multiple authors), but mine didn't for this one.

Charles Wiley

Bill, I wonder about your working definition of "missional." You said that being "sent ones" can be embodied in different ways (we agree), but then you said that not every congregation is situated to explore what it means to be "missional church." I'd like to hear more about what you're thinking.


Linda Lee

Thanks for the Post,

The word "missional" has many meanings in our current church setting as your post and comments
Before the church or the people (person) can be missional they need to sit before God and get their "marching orders". A church like you atended maybe can do this better than a big church with big programs. Big or small,the church needs to teach people how to be before God, to listen, and obey the Holy Spirit in being sent and being "missional" in line with God's direction - day by day, moment by moment. That is a necessary step that the church leaders have forgotten - teaching people to listen to God's instruction so they ACT according to His direction.
Being "missional" is not this big thing, or even a new thing, nor is it just about social justice. It is about changing the hearts and minds of people in the world to help them come to a place where they follow God's lead (as opposed to their own selfish ways).......
to bring about the great commision to grow people in Christ. When we all begin to listen, yield to God and His Holy Spirit, we will be "missional" and effective! Linda Lee

Christian Boyd

Great post, Charles. After spending five years at Luther Seminary and studying the practical theology of being a "missional church", I think Linda hit the nail on the head. In addition, from your description, I would say the small congregation is living into their missionality or apostolic nature. One of the big shifts we as a denomination are struggling with is how to provide order without squelching the ardor God is breathing into congregations, great and small. In many ways we will need to examine deeply why and how we organize for mission, as well as the role and function of judicatories, or other expressions of the church, have in identifying, equipping and resourcing church leaders and missional communities. Re-reading the 1992 "Proposal for Considering the Theology and Practice of Ordination in the PC(USA)" has lead me to think we are not empowering canonical presbyters and deacons to truly live out their ordination, which could provide a powerful witness to the interior and exterior life of any congregation. As I look at the missional monastic orders (protestant, catholic, and orthodox expressions), I am thinking smaller ecclesial communities rooted in the missio dei are the future of the church. But are we willing and able to rethink our organizational structures and let go of some non-essential ideologies and concept of 'successful church?'

Charles Wiley

BTW, it is "Myers-Briggs."

I am pleased by the good conversation here.

Christian, at a time when Presbyterians, in particular, have been moving toward larger congregations, what makes you think that smaller ecclesial communities are the future of the church (not that I disagree).

Thanks for your vigorous discussion of missional. In your work, how would you say church members respond to this vision of the church?


Christian Boyd

Charles, I think there is place for all sizes of congregations... but even in large churches it is but a series of different forms of "belonging" or community organized for various purposes.

Ecclesial communities under 100 people have more potential to be missionally flexible, adapt organizationally, and respond to the context in which God has planted them to serve. From an organizational development perspective, as well as a social systems approach, smaller ecclesial communities are better apt to creating a place where people naturally connect and provide an environment where all forms of community may be experienced (public, social, personal, as well as intimate).

However, a congregation under 100 may also be very limited, which is why, as Presbyterians, we say we are one church with multiple expressions and "mission sites" (see Chp 4, BoO). If we truly lived into the concept expressed in Chapter 4 of our Form of Government, I am not sure we would be talking much about "dying churches". It is possible for a number of under 100 congregations to join together and be one church with multiple campuses, and is a very viable model for emerging NCDs... or even for a presbytery (God forbid).

For many of the current and emerging generations, the more ancient forms of communitas (like the small groups and neo-monastic groups) speak more to the simplicity and presence of Christ, which then inflames a response.

If we look at M.Rex Miller's "The Millennium Matrix", we are going to have to give more intentionality to what it means to be community and in communion with other Christian communities, as well as re-think what it means to be a "member" of a particular denomination.

In many ways, we may need to look at our sisters and brothers of the Moravian community and see how their tradition began to model, pre-Reformation mind you, a form of church that was missional and communal, and was the first of all the protestant churches to send out missionaries to the new world.

I could go on, but since I know you are always looking for a new book to read/buy, here is my biblio for why small ecclesial communities are the future of the church:
"The Sky if Falling" by Alan Roxburgh; "Colonies of Heaven" by Ian Bradley; "The Search to Belong" by Joseph R. Myers; "Organic Community" by Joseph R. Myers; "Exiles" by Michael Frost; "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch; and everything by Craig van Gelder.

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