Written by Joe Waters
I have been doing some reading today on the "Missional Church" movement and have discovered some things I like about the movement that could easily stimulate our (Catholics) thinking on parish life. While there are problems with this movement, it can be helpful to see how other Christians are responding to contemporary culture, so that we can learn new, innovative ways- and appropriately adapt them- to more faithfully fulfill the Lord's mandate to "make disciples" in every time and culture.
1. The Missional Church is a pan-Protestant movement that locates the church's reason for existing in the "mission of God." Thus the heart of the local congregation's activity is rooted in incarnating God's life in the world. The local congregation is a "colony of heaven" on earth and that we are "resident aliens," with an equal emphasis on "resident" and "alien."
2. The Missional Church takes "covenant" and "context" very seriously as a way of understanding the life of the local congregation. I am inextricably caught up in the mission of the Church by virtue of my baptismal covenant. The context or place in which I participate in the mission of the Church is to be valued and relied upon as a clue to the means and the method I employ to participate more fully in the mission of Christ in the Spirit (i.e. my work, my home, my social location, etc. are all contexts for mission).
3. The local parish must be aware of its own context and value that context as the location in which they are called to incarnate Christ's life through the witness of their own regeneration and forgiveness through "water and the Spirit." While the world must not set the agenda for the Church, the Church must recognize that the world exists to be brought back in communion with God through the Church. Therefore, the world is not simply theological "other" as far as the Church is concerned, but the very object of mission and "arena of God's action in history." (George Weigel, see below)
4. The Missional Church is rooted in the mission of the Trinity. The Trinity seeks to bring all things into communion with Them. Therefore, mission and communion are intrinsically related.
As Catholics we have the fullest understanding of both mission and communion, but our grounded-ness in the Trinity and the relationship of Trinitarian life to mission are undervalued as a source for the life and work of our local parishes. We must relearn (in practical ways, because we well know it theologically) that to make disciples is to begin the process of incorporation into the life of the Church, which is "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Lumen Gentium 4, St Cyprian).
Sources: Missional, Emerging, Monastic: A Traveler's Guide by Len Hjalmarson, On Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ,
William Abraham in Marks of the Body of Christ,
ed. by Carl Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Eerdmans, 1999), Robert W. Jenson, The Church's Responsibility for the World,
in The Two Cities of God,
ed. by Carl Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Eerdmans, 1997), and George Weigel, The Church's Political Hopes for the World
in The Two Cities of God.