For some time I’ve appreciated the work of author and speaker Reggie McNeal. He offers clean perspectives on some of the more important themes of congregational health in America. For some time, McNeal has worked for Leadership Network as a consultant. Lead Net has developed a reliable brand, and so its no surprise that I was pleased with McNeal’s book Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church.
It appears that the church growth movement has now given way to the Missional Church. Ever since Darrell Guder’s seminal work, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, hit the shelves in 1998, the Missional Church movement has taken the lion’s share of pastor’s attention. McNeal goes so far to call the Missional Church movement the most significant transition in the history of the church since the Reformation.
McNeal’s book does not spend much time defining or explaining the Missional Church. The value of this book is that it answers a very important question. If Missional Church is about the transition of attractional models (i.e. “come to my church,”) to sending models (i.e., “you have been sent out of the church”), what metrics are available to help the church know if it is being faithful? Attractional models have utilized some basic measurements to quantify and verify success. These measurements include membership, average attendance, budgets, and square footage/acreage of the ministry campus. Missional church, though, is wired to send its people into the community. It’s not wired to gather people from the community. How do you keep score on that?!
I found McNeal’s approach toward measuring success refreshing albeit not without some threats to my comfort zone. Part of his challenge is to abandon the former metrics, partly because the former metrics do nothing more than foster the attractional model. McNeal caused me to wonder what would happen if we no longer took attendance. I thought along with him as I read about what it would mean to allocate a minimum of 51% of our weekly receipts to needs that are off property. What if we had to do everything without maintaining a facility? He even dared to suggest that future models of vocational ministry would become “bi-vocational!”
McNeal’s book is important, if for no other reason, because he takes the time to depart from the theory and philosophy about what could be and focuses the reader’s attention on what must be if the church is going to truly be missional. I think there are a lot of people, perhaps myself included, who are interested in the Missional Church but haven’t really put down on paper what that kind of ministry would look like or be. There are radical shifts in ministry style that going Missional will call upon the Church to make. And until we’re willing to make some key departures, we’ll be doing nothing more than putting new labels on the same old stuff. And the Missional Church movement will become nothing more than another fad that will fade into the past.
If you haven’t read it, read it! McNeal does what others haven’t. He rearranges the price tags on the church’s value system.