John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Missional Conversation (Part 3)

One last video of the conversation between Dave Fitch and Ed Stetzer. Their topic this time is about how churches need to tell better stories. Missional Conversation (Part 3)

As I mentioned in the last post, I really appreciate Ed's work and the way he approaches this whole conversation. He refuses to make it into an either/or argument and insists on making it both/and. God can, has and will continue to be at work in megachurch settings and in house church settings, in huge gatherings and in small groups, in places where there are rocking worship bands and fog machines and in places where they sit in the round and sing a cappella.

Ed talks about how it's easy to think of those who advocate more missional churches -- particularly those who self-identify as "emergent" -- as "the angry, white children of evangelical megachurches". In my experience, many of the "emergent" guys I know fit that profile pretty well. They grew up in the suburbs, going to their local "Mall of Jesus" on Sunday mornings, never seeing beyond their own zip code except to take that summertime mission trip with the youth group. At some point in time, they developed a conscience that calls them to do something to help alleviate the mass of suffering in our world and apply the gospel to something more than just getting into heaven when you die. Now they have equated suburban apathy and excess with that megachurch upbringing. In fact, some I know have made the latter the cause of the former.

The problem is that being missional or emergent or whatever you want to call it has just been reactive in many places and has not developed into a proactive movement. There are a few examples we could point to, but, by and large, that's how it appears. They know what they aren't; they don't know what they are. At least they don't know how to articulate it yet.

This is, I think, what Ed is talking about when he says we need better stories. People do not gravitate towards whoever is right. Nor do they gravitate to whoever is loudest. They gravitate towards whoever presents the clearest picture. People are drawn to clarity. This is why traditionalists so often "win" in these arguments -- at least on a corporate level. The traditionalist can point to the way we used to do it, and people can see it clearly in their heads. Upstarts who say, "Well, I don't know what it's going to look like because we're just going to let the Spirit lead us" often find people respond by saying, "I appreciate that sentiment, but I'm not going to give you any money."

Michelangelo once said, "Criticize by creating." In other words, let's stop bashing the church, announcing what's wrong with this model or that model, and let's start creating a biblically-driven, missionally-engaged alternative that thrives, that flourishes. Then, as people and communities are truly transformed by the power of the gospel at work in, among and through that new model, let's celebrate and tell that story of how God has created something different, while still acknowledging that God continues to work in ways that are familiar to all.

Okay, some questions now:

Why do you think this conversation so often becomes an either/or instead of a both/and?

What's the difference between a reactive church and a proactive church?

Do you know of any places where they're actually doing something different and it's working?