The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit
Craig Van Gelder has given the world a great book about what it means to be a Spirit-led church. The Spirit-led church, in essence, is one that is faithful and discerning to the leading of the Spirit. Moreover it takes of the qualities of being contextual and missional. While the book is titled "The Ministry of the Missional Church" this is not where Van Gelder begins but where he ends. He begins with the idea of a church being Spirit-led. While he argues that the church should participate in the mission die, he rightly recognizes that you cannot start there. Before this, a church must more fully understand the role of the Spirit in creationthe creation of Israel, the law, the church, etc. The Spirit is also active in the work of redemptionredemption of peoples and communities, and the work of confronting principalities and powers. From this vantage point, one gets a better glimpse of what missional really means.After setting up the foundation of his book, Van Gelder quickly moves on to the more practical chapters. Van Gelder believes the church should be contextual and open, not disconnected and closed. I, myself, have witnessed many churches which struggle with this. Van Gelder offers clarity and direction that many a church could use. In addition, the Spirit-led church is one that will be confronted with conflict and the unexpected but it will also form strategy and direction. And for this consideration of strategy, Van Gelder gives multiple examples of organizational structure and leadership. What I appreciate about Van Gelder is that he recognizes that models of organizations need to be informed by scripture but also by recent theory and practice in these fieldsit must be contextual as well.Van Gelder has written a great book about what the church is and should be. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about how the church should see itself and its purpose in the world.
June 3, 2009
Craig Van Gelder in "The Ministry of the Missional Church" uses his expertise and observations as a professor and church consultant to provide theory and analysis for ministers seeking to understand how and why the mission of the Christian church has been changing over the past decade. Van Gelder's explanation for the impetus behind these changes is the Holy Spirit, and he not only discusses how the Spirit is moving and has moved in the past, he offers inspiration and advice for how churches can get on board with the Spirit's current agenda. Van Gelder describes how churches have struggled to discern the Spirit's movement, beginning with the early church as described in the Bible. Van Gelder then moves into a discussion of the material changes churches have undergone in the 20th Century as a result of globalization, moving from mostly homogenous congregations to diverse ones. Van Gelder explains how understanding and engaging the contexts of various congregations within their cultures is a way to watch the Spirit's movement. He then explains how these rhythms of contextualization and discernment can be utilized for leadership and organizational skills within congregations, ultimately leading to church growth. Van Gelder's book offers a well-laid out, concise road map both for ministers and congregations seeking to make sense of the changes that are affecting them as well as for new churches just starting out who are struggling to match their discernment of the Spirit's movement with the culture around them. As the church hopes to continue to engage her rapidly changing culture in the decades to come, books such as this provide a framework for beginning to understand what God is doing now and wants to do next.
June 2, 2009