by Lois Y. Barrett, et al.
A follow-up to the authors’ Missional Church (1998), a general study of missional congregations, the present work focuses on nine groups that are divided into eight patterns of missional faithfulness in church life.
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 255 Jefferson Ave., S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 2004, 186 pages, $18.00
—Reviewed by Larry Poston, professor of religion, Nyack College, Nyack, New York.
A follow-up to the authors’ Missional Church (1998), a general study of missional congregations, the present work focuses on nine groups that are divided into eight patterns of missional faithfulness in church life. Congregations include Mennonite, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Reformed, Roman Catholic and Independent assemblies. The patterns identified are: Missional Vocation; Biblical Formation and Discipleship; Taking Risks as a Contrast Community; God’s Intent for the World; Worship as Public Witness; Dependence on the Holy Spirit; Pointing Toward the Reign of God; and Missional Authority.
This volume will be appreciated by those who value a case study approach to issues, though the reader may wish the interface between the churches and the patterns was clearer and that the detailed activity reports of the churches were better analyzed.
As to the author’s definition of mission, the reader is left with the idea that mission is mainly a social gospel activity devoted to one’s “Jerusalem” instead of to the larger harvest to the “uttermost parts of the earth.” While much emphasis is placed on the community in these congregations, it seems that any missional orientation actually comes from a few persons willing to sacrifice personal time and resources to accomplish “missional” tasks.
Two chapters are quite intriguing, however. “Pattern 2: Biblical Formation and Discipleship” correctly notes that “[today’s] discipling is rarely focused on mission” but instead on “personal spiritual growth” (61). This observation needs to be proclaimed from every pulpit. Members of the church are in danger of concentrating so much on “saving their own lives” that they consequently lose them. They forget that losing their lives for Jesus’ sake—and spreading his gospel message to others—will result in finding their own lives.
Equally valuable is “Pattern 5: The Public Witness of Worship,” which discusses three ways worship and mission relate: (1) “inside and out,” where worship is inside the church and mission is outside the church; (2) “outside in,” where the outside activities of mission are brought into worship; and (3) “inside out,” where liturgy enacts and signifies mission. These distinctions are useful, but a fourth option can be added: “outside out,” where mission is worship, mirroring Martin Luther’s idea that work is worship.
This book should be read in conjunction with the authors’ first work in order to acquire the background needed for analysis and conclusions.
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