Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stetzer, Breaking the Missional Code

Ed Stetzer and David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006)

This book is communicates well, but what it communicates about the missional church is quite misleading. It speaks well to the current church leadership audience because it works within the imagination of that audience. It operates from a realistic understanding of the pluralistic nature of Western culture. However, what the authors do with this understanding revolves around the question of what it means to be a successful church in this situation. All of the churches cited in the book are large. They mentions repeatedly the need for culturally relevant church services as opposed to doing church services according to the preferences of the membership. and there is a focus on doing contextual ministry to grow churches. Two years ago, I would have thought these things good to promote, but now I see the problem.

There is nothing here about the God of mission or what it means to be missional people. These are assumed under the traditional paradigm of evangelicalism In other words, we already know how to do church, the question is how do we do it in a way that others will want to join us? Therefore, must be contextual. They must find a strategy for growing the church that fits the culture. So if a church is set in a context similar to that of Willow Creek then one should adopt their strategies. 

It seems that this book is primarily shaped by the imagination of using contextualization in order to be an effective growing church. If you operate within a church growth paradigm, this would fit quite well. But this misses the call to participate with God in his mission to enter the context, not just invite those within that context. Ultimately, this book is talking about how to use contextualization to be a relevant attractional church. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, it is not the same thing that shaped the imagination of Lesslie Newbigin and GOCN. This book provides instructions on how to improve what churches already do. This is an option for the future of the church, but if this is the only option then the church in America will be like those of Europe in 25 years. 

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