There is a new book scheduled for release in May from Craig Van Gelder and Dwight J. Zscheile titled The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation. There are several portions of the book that will add much to the missional conversation. One such section is a brief discussion at the very end of the book on “Renewing Congregations for Mission” where the authors speak with great insight on the possibilities of missional transformation in existing churches.
Missional theology – informed by key insights from organizational theory about how change actually takes place in human communities – suggest a different approach to renewing congregations than is often employed. The fundamental emphasis in renewal efforts, in many instances, is strategic or programmatic. That is, congregations that are not engaging their surrounding community well are encouraged to do a better job of marketing or offering more relevant and enticing programs to attract more people. The assumption is often that the world is a target for the church’s mission. Widely used church renewal programs such as Natural Church Development assess the deficiencies of congregations, with the premise that correcting those deficiencies will bring health and vitality.
Missional theology begins from a different starting point: the Triune God’s mission in the world. Beginning with a focus on the church’s identity and purpose as found in participation in God’s mission leads in different, deeper directions. . . . There is a decidedly theological focus to missional church renewal that is often lacking in other approaches.
Thus discernment of the Spirit is central. Most modern attempts at church renewal are based more in planning than in discernment . . . . Planing is not unimportant, and it has a place. But the central challenges is one of listening to the Spirit in order to comprehend a church’s particular missional vocation and the missional vocations of all its members.
Here is a short promo blurb that I wrote for the forth coming book:
“The Missional Church in Perspective is the most comprehensive and clear analysis of the missional conversation to date. Van Gelder and Zscheile provide a helpful historical perspective of the movement, as well as needed clarity to the current use of missional language as they interact with an extensive collection of missional literature. All of which is carried out with great wisdom and grace. Moreover, the authors offer several important theological categories to help strengthen and extend the missional conversation into the future. Anyone who is serious about better understanding and engaging the missional conversation will find this latest contribution to be invaluable.”