Friday, December 12, 2008

Refreshing insights on Missional church from Dan Kimball

Found this link on Alan Hirsch's blog an article written by a guy called Dan Kimball, he's a bit of a missional church guru and I must admit I agree with a lot of this article......

"I hope I am wrong. For the past few years, I have been observing, listening, and asking questions about the missional movement. I have a suspicion that the missional model has not yet proven itself beyond the level of theory. Again, I hope I am wrong.
We all agree with the theory of being a community of God that defines and organizes itself around the purpose of being an agent of God's mission in the world. But the missional conversation often goes a step further by dismissing the "attractional" model of church as ineffective. Some say that creating better programs, preaching, and worship services so people "come to us" isn't going to cut it anymore. But here's my dilemma—I see no evidence to verify this claim.
Not long ago I was on a panel with other church leaders in a large city. One missional advocate in the group stated that younger people in the city will not be drawn to larger, attractional churches dominated by preaching and music. What this leader failed to recognize, however, was that young people were coming to an architecturally cool megachurch in the city—in droves. Its worship services drew thousands with pop/rock music and solid preaching. The church estimates half the young people were not Christians before attending.
Conversely, some from our staff recently visited a self-described missional church. It was 35 people. That alone is not a problem. But the church had been missional for ten years, and it hadn't grown, multiplied, or planted any other churches in a city of several million people. That was a problem.
Another outspoken advocate of the house church model sees it as more missional and congruent with the early church. But his church has the same problem. After fifteen years it hasn't multiplied. It's a wonderful community that serves the homeless, but there's no evidence of non-Christians beginning to follow Jesus. In the same city several megachurches are seeing conversions and disciples matured.
I realize missional evangelism takes a long time, and these churches are often working in difficult soil. We can't expect growth overnight.
But given their unproven track records, these missional churches should be slow to criticize the attractional churches that are making a measurable impact. No, I am not a numbers person. I am not enamored by how many come forward at an altar call. In fact, I am a bit skeptical. But I am passionate about Jesus-centered disciples being made. And surprisingly, I find in many large, attractional churches, they are.
Yes, people are attracted by the music, preaching, or children's programs, but there may be more to these large churches than simply the programming. There are also people being the body of Christ in their communities. When these disciples build relationships with non-Christians, the evidence of the Spirit in their lives is attractive. The existence of programs and buildings does not mean mature disciples are not a significant reason why these churches grow.
There are so many who don't understand the joy of Kingdom living here on earth and the future joy of eternal life. This joy motivates me missionally, but I also cannot forget the horrors of hell. This creates a sense of urgency in me that pushes me past missional theory to see what God is actually doing in churches—large and small, attractional and missional. Where are disciples actually being grown? What is actually working?
I hope there are examples of fruitful missional churches that I haven't encountered yet. I hope my perception based on my interaction with the missional movement is wrong. But for now, I would rather be part of a Christ-centered megachurch full of programs where people are coming to know Jesus as Savior, than part of a church of any size where they are not."


dave wiggins said...

what do you think about this Brian?

Brian said...

What do I think? Firstly I don't think it's an either or, there are to many voices who seem to be forcing us to make a choice. Secondly i think the balance needs redressing a lot of emerging missional stuff is a little negative about the larger churches we see. I personally really struggle with Hill Songs and churches like that, but if people are saved who am I to complain. Thirdly china is full of small missional communities, the early church was full of small missional communities. Fourth I think he highlights specific examples of communities that have turned in on them selves. I have heard some small communities being quite positive about the fact that they are small and don't want to get any bigger, that worries me. Fifth I like his questions about what is working? where are disciples being made and where is growth?

Mark G said...

I am a bit concerned by us coming up with definitions of what is "working"? I just think we evangelicals "play God" too much, as if we can see into the hearts of those around us and know what their relationship with God is really like. As if we can decide who is "saved"? "Conversion" still sounds too much like "us" making "them" like "us", as if we really have our lives all together. It still gets to me that we can have problems accepting an alcoholic or a gay as a stumbling disciple of Jesus, but see no problem with accepting people who are struggling with the god of mammon (that's me included).

I am writing this after a 3 day Prison Alpha mission in our local prison. Some of the visiting team were a bit disappointed because none of the inmates would stand up and say that they had become Christians. And yet we who spend our time with them week in week out have seen some significant changes in their lives. We love our friends - in fact my wife was asked to say something in front of them and all she could do is cry and say how much she cares for them.

We are member of the "biggest church" in Guernsey, and yet that church spends all its time arguing about not having chairs in on a Sunday evening woorship services. We have taken some of our friends along, but many just aren't ready for our church culture (ready for Jesus but not for the "trappings" required by our middle class "conversion" process?). Surely discipleship means following Jesus, not just being a good church member?

On our evangelical measurements, wasn't Jesus a failure, as he didn't build a mega church, and he didn't he go down from 500 to 12 disciples? Making disciples and growth may not always go together? Yes we must not be anti-growth, but if it replaces love as our motivation I think we are being idolatrous.

Sorry, I have gone on....but I just think we need both models - small and big - and I think essentially they need to co-exist together, as one size does not fit all.

Anonymous said...


The article was not meant to be an "either/or" thing or small vs. big. The whole attractional vs. missional dichotomy was developed by some voices in the missional world. NOt sure if it was helpful as it automatically pits one against the other, when I do think it is a "both" and the attraction should be the fruit of the Spirit in Christians who are in the world.

Having said that, my concern is that in a lot of missional churches we aren't hearing about new disciples being made or evangelism too much - so as some criticize larger churches who are seeing growth, my questions are about whether the growth is healthy and if missional churches do see new believers - not just already Christians coming together.

Those are some further thoughts!

Brian said...

hey Dan thanks for chipping in to my humble little blog, I love the word "both".

For me it is a case "is the growth healthy" or do the larger organisations just pander to consumeristic mindsets and events culture?

As a leader of a small missional community I am looking for authentic transformation, where we work that is, by my reckoning, going to take years.

I wonder if it's to early on for some missional situations to truly reflect if they are in fact working, time will tell!

Personally one of my worries is that I don't waste that time....

We have deliberately stayed away from a Sunday night gathering because we didn't want to attract transfer growth, but as we have made more friends they have asked for a service they could attend. I have had to get over myself and go for it.

I found your article helpful and positive, we need more voices like your own.

Tanya Heasley said...

After reading Dan's insight into missional churches, my first thought was, which way is best then?, then I quickly realised both ways are. I agree with what Mark G's one size does not fit all, because we are all different.

I think some churches like to put things into boxes, (they see people as having limited use where only certain people can do certain things within the church). Some people like to do things ritually (these people can't cope with being a messy church), some of us want to break free from the restraints of church and just chase after God and feel liberated in him and following where he's going.

God made us all unique so every missional church is unique. God uses us for his purpose, to show Christ's love to the world, if all churches show love to the world, then all missional churches are doing things the right way.

Rob Hall said...

Great blog to blog. Dan makes an awesome point. having been part of both I really prefer people that smell like Jesus and really don't give a rip about the form.
I think it is hard to admit in a missionally driven church culture, where different is in,that people who love Jesus do sometimes go to big churches and do great things there.

Neil D said...

Wondering if this comes in any way from the same thought as Anne Jackson's question, posted on 9 Dec : "Is it just me, or does anyone else struggle with the tension between pretty church and messy church?"

I was just mentioning to your pal Rupert that I thought your end-of-term video had something positive to say about that balance.

dave wiggins said...

i think it maybe depends on where you are and at what stage of your life. At present i'm not into big church and hate brand name church resources and worship leaders but i used to like all that stuff and maybe in ten years i will again. At the minute i'm into small gathering and quietness. Enjoyed all the responses.