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Mark Devine on Missional Churches in The Messenger Podcast

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I’m really excited about Doug Baker coming to Oklahoma and manning the helm of our state’s Baptist Paper.  Once disregarded by me as a “newsletter” full of the latest “get on the bus” propaganda, Baker brings credibility and an unflinching resolve to The Baptist Messenger, allowing him to take on the real issues facing churches.

Exemplifying that, The Messenger has launched a podcast and from Union University’s conference on the future of denominationalism from earlier this month, Baker takes on understanding the Emergent/Emerging church in his second podcast – Emerging Southern Baptists: The ECM comes to Nashville.

Excellent voices in an exceptional forum.

In speaking of Missional churches, Dr. Mark Devine cuts through to the heart of much that we are working through at Skelly:

Increasingly we live in a nation that is made up of multiple subcultures, and that matters because culture affects meaning.  Now if you pick me up and you drop me into Bangkok, Thailand, you don’t have to tell me that culture matters in the conveyance of meaning, but lesser cultural discontinuities can be traversed here in our own world: crossing the street, crossing town.

And they matter because it changes – it undercuts our ability to anticipate the meaning that will be conveyed when we speak and when we act in certain ways.  And so given that, any who want to see the Gospel advanced must take that into consideration and begin thinking like missionaries here at home (emphasis mine) in ways that, for example, Southern Baptists have been thinking for decades overseas.

Yes, churches are not – they may not behave in a Missional way if they do not realize that this changing cultural context is part of the explanation for why they’re having difficulty growing why they’re having difficulty retaining their own children when they turn 17, 18 years of age.

Because these subcultures we’re dealing with are not just geographical.  There are subcultures that involve communities and networks that people can inhabit.  It causes the generational friction and difficulties to come upon us quicker and with more tangible results in terms of just communicating what we mean to people.

In a followup question asking Dr. Devine to differentiate between Missional and Attractional churches, he had this to say:

Attractional churches focus disproportionate amount of their energies on what goes on inside their church buildings or on their campus – the programs, the worship services, the various groups that meet, recreation, sports, whatever it might be – and then they advertise using various means to woo people, both unchurched believers and unbelievers, into that realm.

And so once they cross the threshold of that ministry setting, that church, much of the work of church growth is done because those that they want to attract will find themselves being helped by these ministries and so forth, and they will stay and they will stick.

Part of what the Emerging Church is saying is that, increasingly, those that we want to reach cannot be reached that way.  They need to be reached where they work, where they play, where they study and where they live.  And they have to be reached by actual people in context where they can gain trust and communicate with each other.

Missional Churches will do a variety of things to shift much of their energies outside the worship service.  It’s not as though that’s not important or that does not mater to them, but it’s that to reach this new population that’s out there we have to start putting energy in those places.  So they may have house churches, they may have small groups within their neighborhoods – not just to penetrate those neighborhoods with the Gospel but to allow for community to develop there.

So, as you can imagine, this kind of understanding – it expects and requires that all believers know themselves to be Missionaries appointed by Jesus Christ and that involves a burden of a new kind of equipping for them to go out.  It also requires a greater or at least a different kind of investment in the evangelistic task.  Because now we know that in order to convey meanings, it often requires more time. … They don’t understand what we mean when we just whip out a tract and hit them with language that they really have no cultural linguistic worldview handles to use to make sense of what we’re saying.

Really good stuff here folks.  Go check it out.

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