I recently read Shaped By God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches by Milfred Minatrea. I should have included this book in my doctoral dissertation (how leaders shape missional culture), but I missed it!
Minatrea’s definition of a missional church is …
a reproducing community of authentic disciples, being equipped as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim His Kingdom in their world. (xvi)
The author argues that over the centuries churches developed a “maintenance mentality,” in which “they retreated to the sanctuary, their place of comfort, growing ever more inward in their orientation.” As a result, “They maintained the status quo” (7). Too many churches are now “focused on survival” (7).
The author distinguishes between “mission-minded” and “missional.” Whereas mission-minded churches support missions, for people in missional churches, “missions is more centered in ‘being and doing’ than ‘sending and supporting'” (10-11). Minatrea asserts, “every member is a missionary” (11). “Missions is not perceived as an expression of the missional church, but as the essence of the church.” (11)
Minatrea describes “four dimensions of missional churches” …
- Love God
- Live his mission
- Love people
- Lead them to follow
The book centers around “nine essential practices of missional churches.”
1. Have a high threshold for membership.
Missional churches are high-threshold churches, and they clearly communicate the responsibilities of church membership. (30)
2. Be real, not real religious.
Minatrea notes, “The hunger for authenticity is epidemic today” (43). He contends, “The litmus test of the missional church is how members live when scattered during the week” (48).
3. Teach to obey rather than to know.
Minatrea states, “The goal of biblical instruction in the missional church is obedience, not simply knowledge” (56). “Their goal is members’ obedience to spiritual revelation” (54).
4. Rewrite worship every week.
Rather than simply going through the motions, and doing things the same way week after week, missional churches incorporate these ingredients …
- God is the focus of worship.
- Worship is experiential.
- Worship is about content, not form.
- Worship is highly participatory.
- Worship values creativity.
- Worship is more than words. (66)
5. Live apostolically.
Today, members of missional churches must be bilingual in that they must be able to communicate in terms that can be understood by those without as well as those within the church. (79)
6. Expect to change the world.
I love this. “The point of the kingdom is transformation” (89).
7. Order actions according to purpose.
It’s so easy for churches to fall into ruts, doing things the way they do because that’s how they’ve always been done. “Missional churches do what they do for specific reasons” (101). In fact, everything in missional churches is done on purpose …
- They know their purpose.
- They check that actions are based upon purpose.
- They let go of what does not serve their purpose.
- They do only what serves their purpose. (102)
Toward the end of the book, the author argues for simple structures. He says missional churches …
seek to create low-investment structures and keep their mission and purpose as their priority. Their structures must be flexible, capable to adapting quickly to the changing opportunities their context brings to the missional purpose. (145)
8. Measure growth by capacity to release, not retain.
For missional churches, the goal of church growth is not to get bigger. The goal is to equip more people to live as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. The measure has to do with function, not size. Enlargement is a by-product rather than the focus of growth in missional churches. (112)
9. Place kingdom concerns first.
Minatrea notes, “no significant Kingdom accomplishment will occur until churches value Kingdom more than their own sectarian accomplishments” (127).
Wouldn’t it be awesome if all of our churches were growing in these passions and practices?