Reformed Means Missional (Book Review)

reformed-means-missionalAvant garde Christians and emerging-types have never had exclusive rights to the missional idea. Being a “missional” Christian or a “missional” church is not fundamentally about cultural relevance, rethinking church, renaming traditional Christian terminology, or spiky hair with cool glasses. These things might be means to achieve the fundamental goal of thinking and being missional, but they are not the ends. To be fair, the missional movement doesn’t make this means-end mistake, but it is common misunderstanding of what missional is all about. So what is the fundamental goal of all things missional? It’s no surprise. Missional is about the church being captured and driven by God’s mission of bringing heaven to earth. This entails evangelism, worship, redemptive community, fellowship mercy, and social justice for the glory of God. It is simply partnering with God by announcing the rule and reign of God, calling all people to repent and believe the gospel, and living here and now like heaven is a reality (because it is!).

The last 20 years have seen a resurgence of conversation about and practice of missional living. Some know it as the “Emerging Church Conversation.” Samuel Logan, Jr. has edited a volume that contributes to the missional conversation from a globally Reformed perspective. Traditional church movements have been a little late in joining the conversation, so this book, named Reformed Means Missional: Following Jesus into the World, is a welcomed addition to the missional literature. It elevates the missional discussion to a global level by including contributors from many countries in the broadly Reformed global community. Every chapter author is a member of the World Reformed Fellowship and subscribes to the WRF statement of faith. Contributors include pastors, bishops, scholars, educators, community activists, and ministry leaders. Some are well-known in Christian circles, such as Tim Keller, Christopher J. H. Wright, and John H. Armstrong. Others are obscure, at least to American audiences. But all are experts in their field and worth hearing.

The book is divided into two sections: Laying the Foundation, and The Church Reaches the World. The first section is theoretical, describing what the missional church looks like, Jonathan Edwards’ missional perspective on the relationship between orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right behavior), and a biblical exploration from Romans on why mission and theology must go together. The second section is practical, offering solutions to various problems such as poverty, urban healthcare, violence against women, child sexual abuse, migrant peoples, secularity, Islam, C5 “hidden believers,” and homosexual strugglers. An appendix includes the full text of the World Reformed Fellowship’s statement of faith, which is a contemporary and global expression of broadly-Reformed beliefs. It is unique in its explicit confession of the supernatural world of angels and demons, and a peculiar view (compared to historic confessions of faith) of the resurrection body’s nature.

The e-book edition includes another chapter in section two about the Jewish people, and a third section of chapters called Building the Church. This section addresses issues of keeping the church faithful, theological education, denominational structures, church schism and unity, Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, and word and deed ministry.

I first came across Reformed Means Missional at a New Growth Press conference book table and bought it. If you are a pastor or work in Christian ministry, you’ll want to get the e-book edition for section three. Otherwise, the paperback is sufficient to get the main thrust of the book’s message.

Among my favorite chapters were Tim Keller’s answer to the question “What is God’s Global Urban Mission?” Keller is a successful urban church planter whose Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City is leading a new movement of center-city church planting. Keller explains that cities are strategically important for the spread of the gospel and being aligned with God’s mission, since more and more people are urbanites across the globe, and cities have historically been the leaders in shaping the direction of culture. He envisions first a gospel movement tipping point in cities when:

a self-sustaining movement begins. Enough new believers, leaders, congregations, and ministries are being naturally produced for the movement to grow without any single command-and-control center. The body of Christ in the city funds itself, produces its own leaders, and conducts its own training. The number of Christians and churches doubles every seven to ten years. (p. 108)

But Keller’s vision is not just to build a self-sustaining urban church ecosystem. The goal is that the kingdom of God will reign in the city. Thus a gospel movement tipping point ideally will eventually lead to a whole-city tipping point. Cultural transformation ensues.

How likely is it that an urban gospel movement could grow so strong that it reaches a “city-changing tipping point,” at which time the gospel begins having a visible impact on the city life and culture produced there? We know this can happen through God’s grace. The history books give us examples. However, only rare Christian leaders, like John Wesley, will live to see the movements they have begun grow to such a level of effectiveness. So urban ministers should make this their goal, and give their whole lives to it, but not expect to see it in their own lifetimes. That’s the right balance between expectation and patience that we need to strike if we are going to see our cities loved and reached for Christ. (p. 109)

Reformed Means Missional is a wake-up call to the church to stop fooling around with Christianity, church, and your personal-private faith. These are important and vitally necessary, but they ought not be ends in themselves, but means to the end of working with God in his mission to bring the kingdom of God from heaven to earth.

Read the Forward & Introduction here.

Listen to Tim Keller discuss missional church below.

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