Some months ago, Dave McClung of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention wanted to know if I would like to participate in one of a few small groups working through Missional Essentials by Brad Brisco and Lance Ford. Now, Dave is a cool, eclectic, smart, well-read guy with a deep love for the church and a keen eye on how the church engages culture. Furthermore, I have for some time now regretted the fact that I have never seriously wrestled with the whole missional concept , so I said yes.
Missional Essentials is a workbook, though it has some strong sections of insightful prose on the missional church as well. It is an insightful primer to missional thinking as well as a practical challenge to many of the assumptions undergirding the institutional church today. The reading sections are helpful and make very good use of other sources and the workbook interaction sections do a good job of (a) leading the reader to interact with scripture and (b) challenging the reader to think through the practice of missional living.
In essence, the missional movement is calling the church to see itself as a missionary in its culture. What this means is that the local church should stop seeing itself as an entity that engages in mission projects and trips and instead should see itself as the mission project. What this means is that church doesn’t send out missionaries, the church is God’s missionary. Therefore, all believers are to embrace missional living, in and through their church, to be sure, but in their neighborhoods as the church preeminently. If you have grown up in the conservative, institutional, North American church, you will readily get what is so revolutionary about this thought and against what fallacious ecclesiological concepts it is pushing.
I would caution you in one way about reading Missional Essentials: if you do not want to be seriously unsettled in your complacency concerning loving and reaching your neighbors, do not read this work. This workbook, especially the last third of it, really engages the reader with pretty direct questions about whether or not we love our neighbors, are actively forming relationships with them, and are being good stewards of our homes. It has certainly caused me to have a number of conversations with my wife about developing a strategy to reach the streets on which we live.
I have every intention of leading Central Baptist Church through this study. I believe this is fantastic, biblical, soul-stirring stuff that I, for one, desperately needed to hear.