Saturday 7 January 2012

Is the 'missional movement' just another wind of doctrine?

One of the seeming buzz words at the moment in evangelicalism is the word 'missional'. A new word that has crept into the vocabulary of conference speakers and such like, under the radar. It is quite common for the advocates of these new ideas to assert calmly 'we need to be more missional' or 'a missional approach is needed' and such like. But, what do people mean when they say such things? There lies the problem. Such movements are often fluid and this can be attractive because under the guise of being acceptable, ministers and often younger ministers, can try to reinvent the wheel, often in the quest for success.

Why did I ask if this movement is just another wind of doctrine? Well, firstly because it is biblical to ask such a question. Paul the apostle writes to the church at Ephesus expressing his desire that the church would mature to a 'unity of the faith', to mature manhood, while warning of 'winds of doctrine' (Ephesians 4: 13-14). I have walked with the Lord for over two decades and I have got used to these new ideas regularly coming along. Over the years, I have been misled by some of them myself. We need to 'test everything' 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

Often missionalism proposes new approaches to the church in the pursuit of church growth, or new approaches to connect or engage with a post-Christian society. One initial point we need to make is, that if want to know how to approach a post-Chirstian society, then we need to look at the pre-Christian society, the world of the New Testament. What were the priorities and methods of the New Testament church?

The early church's apostles and elders clearly recognized that the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus Christ was governing his church, growing his church and spreading his church (Psalm 110). This was a crucial undergirding principle. The methods for the spread of the gospel were the establishing of an apostolic blue-print for local churches wherever they went. The apostles were not randomly establishing different practices in different cities. What did this apostolic pattern look like?

1. The church was governed by elders, who were men which met the biblical qualifications (Titus 1:5-9).
2. One of the men had to be clearly equipped to teach and preach sound doctrine publicly (1 Timothy 5:17).
3. The priority of the church was to listen to sound preaching which was declaratory, public instruction through a qualified man. Those church devoted themselves to being diligent hearers and doers of the word of God.
4. There were not many people who were allowed to teach (James 3:1).
5. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper were taken very seriously and they were central to the life of the church.
6. The apostles' doctrine was the basis for fellowship and not the other way around (Acts 2:42).
7. There is no mention of music bands being used to draw people to the gospel!

In our own day, new methods often take root unchecked and they then become a new tradition, sadly sometimes without a fight. Let us not give ground to allow the church to be moved away from a biblical foundation, let us test all things and indeed test our own opinions constantly as well.

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