This is my third and final post for the Missional Syncroblog conversation on Missional Church as it relates to the Churches of Christ. I am thankful to be a part of this. I offer this post as a reflection based on my own understanding, experience, and participation in ministry.
In this final post the question being asked is what are the strengths of our heritage and theology that enable us to enter and contribute to the larger missional conversation. I would like to proceed answering this question in sort of a list-like fashion, offering some brief comments about our strengths. My list will certainly not be comprehensive, as I am sure you could think of more to add to the list. Also, you may disagree with the strengths that I see…and that is ok too.
So here are three strengths that I find among the heritage and theology of Churches of Christ that we bring to the missional church paradigm:
- Believers. Historically the Churches of Christ have always maintained a strong belief in Jesus Christ as the crucified and resurrected Son of God, Lord and Savior. You might think that should be a given but in my experience, I have learned that this is not a given among professing Christians. I am not saying our understanding of the gospel has been perfect (we’re only humans too) but we do believe and let’s face it, if we don’t believe in Jesus then trying to be a mission-minded church in his name will be impossible.
- Kingdom Builders. Because Churches of Christ do not have the hierarchal structure that is common in many denomination it is with some wonder and surprise that so many wonderful ministries, para-church initiatives, etc… have been accomplished among us. I used the passive-voice for a reason, for the accomplishments are God’s work among us rather than our own. But that work, seen in everything from the numerous Christian University to the non-profit ministries that serving orphans throughout the world to the sending of missionaries into every continent (and the organizations that help this initiative), has also required people of great faith willing to do the hard-work they saw God calling them into. While God is always the active agent and main player in his mission, it will always require people of great faith willing to do hard work and make great sacrifices. Churches of Christ have been these people and that is a great strength as we learn how to be missionaries in our own back yards.
- Congregational Autonomy. While there are certainly some critical questions to be raised about our understanding of congregational autonomy, there is certain freedoms that our autonomy allows for. First, since every congregation exists in it’s own unique micro-culture our autonomy allows each congregation to discern itself how it needs to contextualize the gospel in a localized manner (remember, missional church eschews a one-size-fits-all approach). Second, being autonomous means that each church is free to be led by God without needing some hierarchal permission or the agreement of a neighboring Church of Christ.
As I think about these three strengths, weaved through all three of them is also a high view of church/ecclesiology. That is important because as I understand it, the idea of missional church involves a high view of the ecclesia as the vessel in which God is continuing his mission to the world.
My prayer for all local church communities, whether they have a sign out front that reads “Church of Christ” or something else, is that they would have a passionate faith in Jesus Christ that is fueled by the Holy Spirit so that they can live as followers of Jesus among the world in all of its local cultures and sub-culture leading the unbeliever into a mature faith as God finishes his work of redemption among creation. By the grace, wisdom, and power of God, this is can be done!