In this chapter, McNeal sets out to describe what missional means. Specifically, that the church is a ‘who,’ not a ‘what.’ Wherever the church has been central in the society, it has come to be defined by what it does – sometimes it is what happens in a certain place, or as a ‘vendor of religious goods and services’ or a body of people on a mission (whether it happens to be God’s mission or not).
McNeal (and other theologians like Guder, Bosch, and Newbigin) argue that God is on a mission and we are to join Him in that mission. We are not intended to “do” church; we’re to “be” the church. The church is to be the local expression of the people of God for the good of those around them and be on mission to reach ever farther. It is a community-based ‘body’ that incarnates God’s presence wherever it happens to exist.
I love this concept. I love what we do at church, but I fear we consider what we do at church the most important, most spiritual things and minimize the importance what happens the rest of the week. If we’re to glorify God in all that we do, isn’t there something inherently ‘spiritual’ about how we work? How we use our free time? Might that be not just how we glorify God, but the means by which we fulfill the mission God has given us? Instead of focusing exclusively on people coming to church, what about the idea that, where God’s people are, there the church is? That’s a thought McNeal communicates and it is both exciting and challenging … and puzzling.
The next Missional Renaissance (should be two days from now) post will survey the Bible through missional eyes.