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Roxburgh & Boren on Church Transformation

Posted by Mark Lau Branson on January 5, 2012

In their book Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, Why it matters, How to become one, Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren  provide what Ryan Bolger calls “the very best on the missional church.”  For over 10 years, and most notably since Darrel Guder edited The Missional Church (Eerdmans, 1998), churches, seminaries, and denominational execs have been discussing the reasons for and approaches to engaging North America as a mission field. Some voices continue to offer the usual array of magic programs, strategic plans, and romantic ideals — but pastors quickly see that these lack theological depth,  significant cultural analysis, or an understanding of how cultural change occurs within an organization. Roxburgh and Boren instead walk us through the profound cultural changes that shape our new landscape — then they lead us to rethink how churches can participate with God’s initiatives in our contexts. With this book as background, I’d then recommend The Ministry of the Missional Church by Craig Van Gelder,  The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, and Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood by Roxburgh.


28 Responses to “Roxburgh & Boren on Church Transformation”

  1. Jake Mulder said

    The part of Roxburgh and Boren’s book that I found the most enlightening was their assessment (in the introduction) that “so many churches had lost touch with the way the biblical texts spoke of God’s mission in and for the world and why the central biblical theme of the kingdom of God had just about disappeared from the preaching and teaching of the churches” (10). This connected with Roxburgh’s lecture at Fuller, “Leading When God is Out Ahead of Us.” The church has profoundly forgotten that God is in control and that he is out ahead, and have instead made the kingdom about itself. I think this is can be well understood by considering Bill Hybel’s (Senior Pastor of Willow Creek) mantra, “The local church is the hope of the world.” In a sense this statement is true, but in another sense it is deeply flawed. Jesus is, in fact, the hope of the world. As he uses and works through the local church, the local church is used as a tool to participate in this hope. However, it has been evident in many Willow Creek Association churches that their practices line up with their belief that a group of people is the hope of the world. Perhaps I’m stating this a little strong, but the point remains.

    Given how much the book employs the message of the kingdom of God, and how it draws a distinction between “attractional” models of church and “missional” models of church, I am still surprised that Roxburgh judges the view that “we need to model what Jesus did” as naive romanticism. It seems to me that an intelligent, thoughtful, and contextual treatment that models what Jesus did would lead to exactly the type of church that is portrayed in the book. Jesus did not rely on a “come to me” approach,” but was out among people.

    The three main conversations happening within the missional church movement were very helpful as well. They are:

    1. Reconsidering Our Context – The West is Now a Mission Field. Based on my personal experience, I find this to be true. The point raised in the book that churches need to embrace that they will not conform to the culture around them is important.

    2. Rethinking the Gospel – The Missio Dei. This section brought to mind authors such as N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, and George Eldon Ladd, who all call for a very different understanding of the Gospel. Central to their writing, as well as this chapter is that the Gospel is about God, and not centrally about the church. Again, I find that modeling Christ in his central teaching (The kingdom of God has come near) would lead to this understanding.

    3. Reimagining Church – Sign, Witness, and Foretaste of God’s Dream for the World. Roxburgh and Boren point out how important practices that contrast the culture of society are. They also point out how dangerous it is when this is treated as an individual exercise, rather than being communal.

    Section three of the book, on practical implementation of the missional model, did not seem all that different than any business strategy on organizational change. The major difference would be that Roxburgh and Boren stress the importance of listening to and following the Holy Spirit, as well as a focus on change from the bottom up. Aside from that, the steps of awareness, understanding, evaluation, experimentation, and commitment are quite standard.

    Given Roxburgh’s lecture at Fuller, I was actually surprised by how programmatic and methodical section three is, as he stated cleary that we need to give up management, control, or the thought that we know where we are going or how to get there. Especially curious was the timeline he offers on page 155.

    Overall, I found the book to be incredibly valuable, specifically the fact that we need to engage the 3 main conversations outlined above.

  2. Forrest Buckner said

    In Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, Why it matters, How to become one, Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren live up to the subtitle of the book by illuminating the missional imagination, why the missional church is important, and how to become a missional church. Two elements of the book were especially instructive to me: the call for theological reflection in a new way and the ways a shift to being a missional church changes individual church members’ view of themselves and God.
    Roxbourgh and Boren call for new theological reflection in a few ways. The invitation into the “Missional River” as ones who engage with mystery, memory and mission requires theological openness and precision. For example, the mystery of engaging with God means that theology must be open to not having clear answers to all its questions about God, and it means that theologians (of which we all are, as the authors point out) must be open to new conclusions like seeing election not as a choice to save some and condemn others but to elect some to represent God to the world! Engaging with the memory of the story of Jesus requires similar theological openness as we see the story of Jesus and his life in light of our neighborhood contexts in what Roxbourgh and Boren call contextual theology, and Metavista called the “Refiguring of the Scriptures.” Roxbourgh and Boren suggest a key question to ask is, “What is God up to in our neighborhood?” However, to ask that question well, we must also have the theological precision, knowing God and the Spirit well enough to discern what we are seeing that is from God and what is not.
    In the missional church that Roxbourgh and Boren describe, the members of the church must have a radically reformed view of themselves as participants in God’s mission and God as one inviting them somewhere as a community. Roxbourgh and Boren are very clear that the work of developing into a missional church comes not from a top-down leadership approach but from the ordinary people discerning what God is doing in their neighborhood and following the Spirit to join God in that work. Roxbourgh and Boren observe that during the “commitment” stage of the Missional Change Model, church members will see that “realize that they have discovered for themselves a way of being church that isn’t dependent on outside programs, gurus, or even ordained clergy… This is the point at which a local church tips over to a place from which it can’t go back to the old ways of being passive recipients of religious goods and services” (p. 174). The church members can no longer be consumers of religious goods! This is an answer to the oft-repeated question, “how can we get away from a consumerist church culture?” Instead of a pastor repeatedly telling church members that church is not about them and their needs while the church structure contradicts that claim, maybe what needs to happen is those church members need to realize that they are being called by God to be a part of his mission in their neighborhoods. Along the way, they will realize that God is calling them as individuals as part of a larger community into God’s mission.
    One theological challenge that keeps recurring for me is the shift away from an individualistic understanding of our relationship with God into a communal understanding. I am on board with a communal understanding of God’s call, and I see Roxbourgh and Boren’s argument that the startk individualism of the current Evangelical gospel flows from modern individualistic thought. However, I still see in the Bible many passages that address individuals like the moral paraenesis in Paul’s letters and Jesus and the disciples’ interactions with individuals in the gospels and Acts. How can we correct to a more communal understanding of the Bible and the gospel without overcorrecting and losing the amazing truth of God’s care for and engagement with individuals?

    • Adam Jones said

      I’m right on board here with the community’s transformation of themselves and their view of God as well as the need to actively engage theologically in new ways, though i might re-highlight what Roxbourgh and Boren emphasize in that the theological reflection must be enabled and encouraged by the theologically trained while the real work and product stems from the base community doing the searching.
      The problem of actually doing this in a community is that the American culture itself is so bent in on itself with warped ideas concerning authority, commodification and education. We are shaped by a belief that we need a leader who is untarnished and fully capable of taking care of our present temporal salvation from the problems we all face day by day. However to supplement this leader we choose the next thing presented to us which tells us it can help, and then condemn the leader when, not if, they do not fulfill our wildly inappropriate expectations. (This is be very obvious in the next year as we go through the election process and witness the ways in which we talk about our leader/s to be) Furthermore we all learned early in school, through John Dewey’s education method, that there is to be one master and informed speakers with many attentive listeners to best convey shards of knowledge.
      Yet these types of problems are fought by Roxbourgh and Boren with the idea of cultivating a church body or local community from the base members up. Instead of a leader entering and informing the community of the vision ahead, the community is the body discerning and implementing there own guided vision for the future, despite the case that it may not be crystal clear with every small detail covered as God remains ahead. As God remains in a constant state of being ahead we as leaders are called then to usher our communities ahead of us, seemingly into the mysterious spaces of God, thus forcing them to interact in the unknown and discover God’s will and ways. Entering into the community seems so basic, and yet we do not do it. Accumulating power is something we are all very good at while we called to empower those around us, and though we as highly educated people are in positions to teach and steer the leaders are the ones who have the best opportunity to learn from the community we are listening to.
      However one way in which i might disagree is the individual to community transition. I fully agree with the fact that our culture is overly individualized, and thus we should steer ourselves and our contexts into more community oriented situations. However the idea that social and/or cultural upheaval and transformation should begin and end with the community is a false preconception. Communal virtues are not developed communally, rather they are reflections as a whole from the individual transforming power of God in our personal lives. The congregations ethic will mirror the individuals ethic and not vise versa. Instead i think the individual is personally transformed with and in an encounter with our Personal Lord Jesus Christ. Then and only then will He shine through us into the community in which we are placed. Then and only then can a Christian society spill forth the overflowing life from the well that is the active body of Christ in them. The society is Christian because Christians live in it. Christians are not made Christian by living in a “Christian” society, otherwise our nation according to its founding might be in a far different place.

    • Jake Mulder said


      I really connect with what you wrote about how we need to move from an individualistic understanding to a more communal understanding. I also recognize how difficult it is to make this transition. A recent example from my life has to do with the health insurance for Pasadena residents at Fuller. Moving here, I had already lined up a great health insurance plan at an affordable rate, as I was never told that I was required to purchase health insurance through Fuller’s plan. Shortly before the semester began, I was informed about this procedure. I applied for a waiver, but was denied. It was VERY frustrating for me to realize that I had to spent significantly more money to acquire insurance, that provided coverage that I did not feel like I needed. However, reading through the policy and seeing that they make this mandatory because there are many students who would not be able to attain adequate coverage anywhere else was a real gut check for me.

      I think this is one very basic example of the individual “rights” that must be given up to benefit the community, and I know it happens in a million more complex ways as a community of individuals seeks to become a church.

      • Forrest Buckner said

        Wow. Thanks for that real-life example Jake. I often feel like I am floating around in “idea-land” on a lot of these things, so it is really helpful for me to hear a very practical example of the individual cost of operating for the good of a community.
        Back in “idea-land,” I am wondering how much of the New Testament is meant to be understood as communities of people and how much is to be read as individuals and how much can be read as both. In Roxbourgh and Boren, they mention very briefly that a passage in the Bible is talking to a community because it uses the plural form of “you” (97). However, I don’t think that is a very good argument. First of all, almost every pronoun in the Epistles is going to be plural because they are letters written to churches. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the instructions are only communal in nature. For example, I could tell a group, “Y’all need to love your neighbors” and it could mean that they need to love their neighbors as individuals or as a group or both. That is an easy example, but the example they use concerning the armor of God in Ephesians 6 is tougher. How are we to understand that passage? How about Ephesians 5 when it talks about being imitators of God (5:1) with a plural “you” or Eph 5:18 that says not to get drunk on wine using a plural “you”? In other words, it seems to be oversimplified to say about the New Testament that because the author uses a plural “you” that the author is implying communal activity. I understand that we may need a corrective in our individualistic world, but I am wary of over-correction.
        I still have many questions:
        If we were to over-correct and think that the gospel and the New Testament were only or primarily addressed to communities of people, what would the ramifications be? Is that the more Jewish understanding of the Scriptures? What would that say about God? What would that say about individual human worth?

  3. Ryan Whieldon said

    Introducing the Missional Church proposes that the church in today’s world is in a new clearing that calls for the Church to develop a new missional imagination. Roxburgh and Boren propose that the imagination the Church must develop will be distinct and depend on the context a church finds itself in; which then forces us to realize that there is no specific blueprint for a missional way of life because it will be different for each church (23). However, each church must realize that it can step into the “missional river” that is made up of “three powerful currents called mystery, memory, and mission” (39). In this new clearing churches must embrace the mystery of being a people chosen by God, be continually formed by the memory of God’s alternative story and embody it’s essence as a missional people that demonstrates all God has created it to be.

    A key component of the proposal Roxburgh and Boren are making is that entering the missional river is not something that is done just by the pastor and the other key leaders, but is something that the local body in a specific location must tread into as a group. For this to happen, pastors and leaders must be inviting people into the conversation by examining three areas: our context, the gospel and the church. While engaging in these conversations, missional church communities will be asking two critical questions: 1) What God is up to in our context? 2) What does God want to do in our world? To really get the pulse and begin to hear the Spirit’s promptings, the Church must develop a new way of life that understands it must reenter neighborhoods, dwell among the people and listen to the narratives and stories of the people in a specific context (85). Roxburgh and Boren seem to propose that this will only happen when a local church understands that the gospel – which they contend is not centered on God meeting our personal needs but centered on the understanding of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection that is centered on God (70) – must transform a people so that it moves out to meet the needs of others. Then a local church must determine how it will be a sign, witness and foretaste of God’s dream (102). Once the local church has engaged in these conversations, it then must learn a new way of being God’s people by listening to the Spirit, pushing for awareness and understanding while trying experiments and evaluating the experiments that would draw a commitment from the people.

    This book, and our previous class discussions, has continued to push me to evaluate what it means to be a leader in this new “metavista” clearing. In the recent weeks, I have seen that much of my view of leadership was very influenced by the CEO/Business model and now I am rethinking what spiritual and missional leadership within a local church context could – or even more accurately should – look like. Roxburgh and Boren, and our class discussions, have helped me realize that a missional church must have a leader that strives to form a church that can carefully discern what the Spirit is doing in the church and the neighborhood. This leadership perspective excites me because I want to believe and work out of the conviction that the Spirit is working in the lives of people, but I am very much a leader like what Roxburgh and Boren described in that I feel like the people of my church are very closed off to any sense of what God is doing (124). I say this and have leaned towards a CEO model because in the relationships I have developed with many of the people and our past experience as a congregation going through “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby – which promotes a plan for missional engagement that urges the body to look for where God is already working and join Him there – I have learned that their excessive busyness and “naïve romanticism” about their relationship with Jesus has drowned out the Spirit’s voice in their lives and blinded our churches sight to what God could be up to in our neighborhood. What do you do as a leader when you cannot really see what God is doing in our context? Or when God is so far ahead of us that we have lost sight of the path He has called us to? I think in my local church I must try to start conversations about the gospel and its implications for our lives.

    In light of this I need to remember that as a leader, I must not manipulate or try to push a vision or plan that would not really need the body to completely engage in this process. I realize that this could be a very tough tension to walk in – calling the body to be and do more missionally while not pushing a vision or plan that calls for corporate approval. And this is where the major “rubber hits the road” question arises for me: is my local church ready to NOT look to the “professional” and understand that God’s mission for us is found among them? I guess I need to start the conversations with the people while being aware of where the people are on this journey, not where I wish or expect them to be (142). This reflection has helped me see how critical the leadership triad from Branson and Martinez is for local church leadership.

  4. mattjamd said

    After reading Roxburgh & Boren’s book Introducing the Missional Church, I found myself at once inspired, challenged and confused. There is much to commend in this work and I would certainly recommend any church leadership team to read this and reflect together on the first step of the Missional Change process, that of Awareness. This step in the process is bound to throw light on something, even if it doesn’t lead to the aniticipated missional change.
    Roxburgh & Boren give a good explanation of the problem of the change in the western culture which has left large parts (if not the majority) of the church in a place where it is increasingly irrelevant to most people in society. Despite not giving a definition of missional church, they helpfully identify what missional church is not! Perhaps more importantly, they give some thought as to why the missional church is needed and what is lacking in a purely attractional model of doing church. It is clear that the church needs to undertake as large a paradigm shift as the rest of culture has done (is doing).
    The picture of the Missional River, with its currents of mystery, memory and mission is a powerful metaphor, although a little later in the book, I am confused that the wind of the Spirit and the currents of the River, though empowering the church with movement, cannot be controlled, and yet, the authors suggest that somehow we have a destination in view, even if we cannot control the winds or the currents. Quite what this destination is, I seem to have missed in their writing.
    There are two themes that repeatedly caught my eye throughout the book. They are the ideas that we must discern what God is doing outside of the church and that leadership should be listening to those within their church to see how the missional imagination is being ignited. The former thread sounds like a familiar mantra in my evangelical charismatic stream, i.e. “instead of asking God to bless what you’re doing, found out what God is doing and join in”. I don’t think the two ideas are a million miles apart from each other. With regards the latter thread, it appears that Roxburgh & Boren are clear that the leadership role is purely facilitatory and not ‘visionary’. In this model vision appears bottom up.
    I don’t suggest that this is unreasonable, but I wonder how much this is a reaction against the poor leadership experiences of the authors.
    The “three way conversation” modeled in the triangle of gospel, culture and church is similar to Alan Hirsch’s Christology, Missiology, Ecclesiology model. The missional church always puts church/ ecclesiology after contextualization of the gospel (missiology). The attractional model of church reverses this process. I agree with Roxburgh & Boren’s model, though they understand that this is a massive paradigm shift that takes time and courage to embrace. Reading their list of examples in chapter four, I couldn’t help feel like the examples all emphasized a form of social gospel, usually culminating in conversations with unchurched people. There seemed to be only a few limited examples of redemptive or transformative mission changing lives.
    The three conversations (the west is now a mission field; rethinking the Missio Dei; reimagining the church) were helpful and constructive insights. Most helpful was the short discussion on missional practices in chapter seven. The trio of presence, love, engagement reflects Mike Breen’s version of Up/ In/ Out (the triangle in Lifeshape speak). To that extent, I think these missional practices and other tools, are a more concrete way of providing resources for churches who want to become missional in lieu of the definitions and methods that we all secretly crave!
    (Mike Breen’s story is worth reading here ).
    The final section on the Missional Change process, (the one section that provided a methodology for change), was useful, but the least engaging part of the book. After two sections based on capturing the imagination, to read the process of change now seems a little mundane. However, it is exactly this mundanity that needs to be embraced to make the missional mindset work. Missional church is not about sexy progammes, and attractive services. It is about engagement, with one another and our neighbourhoods.

    • Jake Mulder said


      I agree with your point that much of the authors push to take leadership away from being “visionary” to purely faciliatory seems as though it may come as a reaction against poor leadership in the past.

      To your point about the two themes of how leadership should be discerning what God is doing outside of the church and how leadership should be listening to those within the church, I suppose that those two things do not necessarily have to be disconnected. When Roxburgh spoke at Fuller last week, he seemed to be pushing for pastors to get involved with the “daily, mundane” lives of the people within their congregations. The truth is that by engaging in the lives of and listening to those real people with non-church vocations, you will automatically be led to what God is doing outside of the church. Having been on staff at a church, I recognize how easy it is to forget that nearly everyone who attends church lives 98% of their life outside of the church. I’m guilty of the tunnel vision of thinking that the “most important” part of the people’s week was the time that they were inside the church walls. When I made visits to the schools of my students during the lunch hour and on the playground, I very quickly realized that was not true.

  5. Curtis White said

    In Roxburgh/Boren’s book “Introducing the Missional Church” they outline a model for how a church can convert itself from an attractional church to a missional church. The first step of this process of change has to begin with what they call ‘awareness’. What they mean by this is that a congregation needs to be given a safe place in which they can openly lament about the changing world and the decline of the church as a central part of culture. Having been given this safe place to ‘vent’ in the people of the church will gain a new awareness of their own feelings of disorientation and loss, and through this, will be able to move forward in the process of changing into a missional church. The issue I had with this initial step is that I currently am working in a church context that is experiencing a revival of church attendance. Many new young people are starting to attend our church that was on the brink of death. Three years ago when the church was about to die a leader might have had a chance of inviting people to be transformed into a missional church because the need to do something different would have been presently felt. However, now that the church is starting to grow again and gain new life I would find it very hard to convince anyone that a programmatic (attractional) model of church does not work. It makes me wonder if in my particular church context I would need to wait until this new growth has ended before trying to invite my church to embrace the missional journey.

    A response to my own question is this. Perhaps it is possible to invite people into a conversation about what God is doing in our neighborhood and not stress the need to change the church. If the people really begin to listen to God, hopefully they will be lead into the places God is leading them without needing to experience and process a crisis. Although if a crisis is necessary to shake people then perhaps one need only wait until the inevitable happens and the church is returned to a state of crisis, when this happens then it would be the time to try and initiate the change from attractional to missional.

    So far in this course Lofink’s book has had the greatest impact on my thinking about what the church is supposed to be. This being said I find Roxbugh/Boren’s understanding of chruch mission to be very good because it matches up so well with the understanding of the church outlined by Lofink. The three missional practices are all centered directly in what Lofink suggests it looks like for the church to be redeemed Israel. The practice of presence, Love, and engaging neighbor seem to fit perfectly into what Lofink understands of the early Jesus community who sought to practice these practices in community with one another. This was the main drawing force of the early church for outsiders; the church was a radical community of love and devotion to God, so too must our churches become if we are ever to become relevant in the world again (Metavista).

    • Eric Ferguson said


      Your plan to re-package Roxbourgh/Boren’s missional model was very clever. This way they can learn and experience the experimentation of the missional model without questioning the entire ideology of the church. I think the missional model was meant to be used in a subtle form as the way that you suggested.

      I think you provide an interesting perspective for the ideas presented in Roxbourgh/Boren. It is difficult to go against the grain when, at the moment, everyone is on board with the attractional model. I’m reminded of how the Early Church was when Constantine released them from their oppression. They finally were able to live life outside of persecution and hardship and jumped at the opportunity. In a similar fashion, any church that finally receives an influx of those precious and prized young adult members, most likely is not going to shoot for any experimentation. They’ll stick with the pragmatic attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a little sad that it often takes a crisis to provoke people to change, but people don’t want to be pushed beyond their comfort zones. In a way, it’s our pragmatism that provides for our comfort culture.

      Can you think of other ways that pragmatism squelches experimentation?

    • Max Wedel said

      Hi Curtis,

      I found your point about attractional/missional really intriguing. Specifically, I found it very interesting how you ask the question of where the line is between attractional and missional? i.e. Does the mere fact that a church is experiencing growth and people are being attracted to it make it an “attractional” church as opposed to a missional church? Can a missional model for church function on a large scale? Or is it dependent on small communities? Thanks for you thoughts!

  6. bryant benitez said

    The book Introducing the Missional Church, by Roxburgh & Boren we are exposed to what the missional church is about. I would like to highlight some key elements from the three main sections and how it connects with other books and concepts.

    Missional is mysterious. In many ways the missional understanding is foreign because it is saying, if you want to know what God is really up to, get mysterious. People for the most part in the West, like concrete, factual, realistic ways of doing life, and that usually applies to the church. In this book we are encouraged to realize more then ever, we need to get mysterious because then we will realize it is apart of what it means to be church. By realizing it is okay to be a wandering people, it makes it much easier to enter the missional river of mystery, memory and mission. Allowing the mysteriousness of our wandering to envelope us, allows the memory of what God is about to, to shape us, and that flows into our mission, which is about being a people who are seeking to be for others. In some ways the missional river idea is similar to Lofhink’s argument in, “Jesus and Community.” In Lohfink we see that what Jesus was doing was re-gathering the disciples in line with Old Testament eschatological idea of re-gathering of the people of God for the sake of other nations. The missional church understanding also realizes that the mission of being church is about being church for the sake of others.

    Missional is bottom up. In section two the discussion revolves around realizing the world has changed and the church attendee is affected, and attractional/traditional models are not providing a place for the attendee to process these changes. So in order to deal with these changes, beginning with the bottom, everyday attendee needs to ask questions from the Gospel first and your specific context and then from, move to how your church should operate. This allows the people who are feeling the impact of these shifts and disorientation a chance for themselves to participate in what God may be doing through this time. Missional is seeking to allow the everyday church person to become the ‘theologians’ in order to discover what God is doing. Being missional is a bottom up movement grounded in the understanding of how the people are the guiding force and the leaders create space for that. In the book Metavista, a similar idea is proposed for what it means to be a church which is transforming culture with broad-based social movements that challenge majority views developing from the bottom up (62). Missional is bottom up because that is needed more then ever now, and also to allow the people feeling shifts a chance to process through what God is doing amidst them and what God wants to do from this.

    Missional is about listening. In the third section, we discover a crucial element to embarking on the missional journey is the importance of listening. Listening is best done through question gathering. Although you want to answer questions, missional is about gathering and seeing what themes are popping up. From questions, being missional embarks on experimentation. The beauty of experimenting is that structurally, there are no changes. Experimenting is about creating safe places where people gather and test out what they have heard. This is so important because people are safe to ‘fail’ without a whole structure collapsing. Interestingly, missional experimentation seems to work around what Heifetz and Linsky describe as adaptive and technical changes. Technical changes are when an organization makes changes on something they have a solution for. Adaptive changes is when there is no direct solution, therefore it is much harder to change to begin or get through. So missional experimentation allows anxiety in a community to be minimal, precisely because the point is not to change structure or even cast a vision for a new program, it is to discover who God is and what God is up to in the neighborhood.

    All this to be said, Roxburgh and Boren are challenging the Western mindset of factual and statistics by seeking to embrace the mysteriousness which leads to discovering the church’s mission. Second, people, when allowed a space to process what they are going through and what God is doing amidst them, are then free to move in a direction which they want to and are not forced into. Third, since it is about listening leading to experiments and not structural changes, missional alleviates the anxieties which church attendees fear will reflect poorly on them.

    • mattjamd said

      Good post Bryant…. but let me push back a little on “Missional is bottom up”. At first glance I agreed with your statement, but then I started to question it. Because of they way our thinking about leadership is embedded with a CEO style leadership model, to talk about missional being bottom up is to communicate that it does not require leadership, or at best, that it happens in spite of leadership.

      I think that perhaps a better way to frame what you are saying, is to say that “Missional church requires a different kind of leadership”. From all the examples we have read so far, I don’t think that there is one that did not require good “missional” leadership, or that would have happened without good leadership. The key, though, in each case, seems to be a change in the way leadership happened, and a re-focus on leaders as facilitators, equippers and releasers, rather than as CEO’s and experts. Hence, the significance of your third point, “Missional is about listening”. Missional leaders listen – to God, to the church, to the community.

      It’s interesting, I led part of a workshop at church yesterday (on praying for physical healing), and I invited a time of testimony. But, adapting from the techniques we use in Lectio Divina, I got people to share their testimonies in pairs and small groups and then invited people to share what they had heard. People were only allowed to speak their own testimony once, in the pair or small group. After that, they had to share what they had listened to that had encouraged them or someone else. The effect was fascinating! By concentrating on listening to each other, a couple of groups noticed that everyone in the group had a constant thread in their stories/ testimonies, which made them take notice in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise; it forced them to ask the question, “what might God be saying in this?”. Also, by listening to each other, (and having to actually ask each other’s names), relational connections started to be formed and there was an increasing sense of being invited to share IN one another’s stories. Now I understand that this didn’t suddenly make us “Missional”, but it helped me to visualise what some of the skills and process required might look like and to have faith that God is work if we will only pay attention.

      My last question on your post is this. You write “The missional church understanding also realizes that the mission of being church is about being church for the sake of others.” I wonder if you think that we ARE church FOR others, or whether perhaps, by living FOR others, we BECOME the church. What do you think?

  7. Eric Ferguson said

    Roxbourgh and Boren’s Introducing the Missional Church is a roadmap for helping the Western church adapt to its current circumstances. Its arguments are built on the premise that the church’s current understanding of mission hinders its ability to be a sign, witness, and foretaste to the world. Attention is given to the modernist and postmodern worldviews, the church’s maladaptation to these worldviews, and steps toward establishing a missional imagination in the church.
    Currently, the embeddedness of the church’s surrounding worldviews have affected the church’s understanding of mission, making it ill-suited for engaging its surrounding context. Rather than mission being a transformative collaboration between the church and its surroundings, mission has been reduced to a set of answers based on analyses and methods, which results in a mission in which “leave the context changed, but the Christian unchanged” (87). From a postcolonial or liberation perspective, this brand of missional understanding is dangerous when it comes to sensitivity towards matters of culture, gender, or race (ST501: Theology and Anthropology). If the posture of the church’s mission created adverse effects in the past, how much more so when engaging local contexts in the contemporary setting.
    The book examines barriers, particularly the influence of worldview changes that have occurred in the Western world. These worldview changes provide certain opportunities. For example, Modernism’s pursuit of the elimination of “obscurantism” (57-58) is valuable in that it motivates people to find answers to difficult problems. Furthermore, Postmodernism’s take on reason, that it cannot be relegated to a list of facts (53), provide opportunities for a more holistic mission, rather than mission marked by individual intellectual ascent.
    On the other hand, there are risks. Modernism contributes to a desire for accepting only the “explainable and controllable,” a bias towards the past as a hindrance to the future, and a fixation upon self-actualization as a priority for individuals in the church (58-59). Postmodernism contributes to individualism as well by an emphasis on “personal taste and ego” (60). Furthermore, Postmodern individualism is present in its prizing of nostalgia, which leads to a desire to live in a recreated the past, rather than use its wisdom to construct a way forward (61).
    As a corrective, Roxbourgh and Boren forward the missional paradigm of mystery, memories, and mission (39) to embrace the church’s current reality, using its unique story to inform its actions, and continually engage the world as God’s people (42-45). Roxbourgh and Boren’s model, while contributing to formation of mission, contributes to formation of community. The mystery, memories, and mission model has inroads with Churches, Cultures, and Leadership’s use of memory, cooperation, and hope.
    The church’s current mission is neither marked by contrast, nor is it reminiscent of the public and political nature of ecclesia (71). It also does not resemble Christ’s investment in his local context (96). The church is no longer invested in its place (78 – as opposed to space) and its spiritual disciplines are not lived out in the surrounding community. Guder’s Missional Church, part of Chap Clark’s Youth Outreach and Evangelism class, emphasized the importance of the church being a recognizable presence instead of anonymity. Similar to Roxbourgh and Boren’s take on spiritual disciplines, Guder advocated a blur in the boundaries of church and context assisted by a blur in boundaries in evangelism and discipleship.
    Roxbourgh and Boren’s chart of congregational self-understanding is provided as a starting point before journeying towards missional imagination. The Reactive and Developmental self-understandings were characterized by internal life and systems (125). This is characteristic of my home church as well as my denomination as a whole, which inevitably has shaped my hermeneutic in this class. Through DP512 – United Methodist Polity, I learned that my denomination has invested in a report called the “Call to Action” which recommends comprehensive institutional overhaul. Though changes in the UM system are needed for a variety of reasons, the UMC’s reliance on changing institutions and methods predisposes our churches to do the opposite of what Roxbourgh and Boren recommends – not relying on the newest program, using our own methods to work in the community, experiment without fear of failure, and pursuing a democratized empowerment within the church (130).
    The process of awareness, understanding, evaluation, experimentation, and commitment in the Missional Change Model calls for cooperation with the surrounding community, lay persons outside of the church, lay persons in the church, and members of the board. This carries a lot of potential to give the church a wider perspective of what the Spirit is doing in their context. Too often we compartmentalize the Spirit’s efforts in the boardrooms for programs, in the Bible Study groups for spiritual disciplines, and rarely acknowledge the Spirit’s work in the surrounding community until a “new member” (who has been a part of the church for about a year) gives a testimony about life before going to church. The accessibility of Roxbourgh and Boren’s Missional Change Model lays the foundation for empowerment of the entire church and its context, rather than just the individual sitting in the pew.

    • Marlene Watson said

      Hi Eric – Alan Roxburgh discussed in his talk, “Leading when God is out ahead of us” covered the process of awareness, understanding, evaluation, experimentation, and commitment as you mentioned. I agree that this takes the cooperation of many entities to work and make the Missional Change Model a success. Many church programs are embedded into the church’s culture. A few people feel is the church programs are their life’s work. Instead of the congregation and leadership taking ownership of ministry activities, only a few are involved. Many of the church programs emphasize on “personal taste and ego” as you mention. I agree with you that Roxbourgh and Boren’s Missional Change Model lays the foundation for empowerment of the entire church and its context. However, I do believe that when people start seeing a change within individuals and within themselves they are on board to sail unchartered paths with the church.

  8. Max Wedel said

    Roxburgh and Boren’s book is at the same time incredibly helpful and incredibly challenging. In essence, the authors advocate for a model of church that seems to be utterly foreign to the vast majority of today’s American churches. However, at the same time, one cannot help but to recognize the accuracy and insight in this approach to missional church.

    The authors’ focus on mystery and ambiguity can be regarded as “mumbo jumbo” in today’s modernized, answer and definition-driven culture. “What is the definition of the missional church?” –there isn’t one. “What are the universal tangible steps to creating a missional church?” –there aren’t any. In this way, I see the book’s main challenge as overcoming the initial questions of the consumerist answer-focused society that it is seeking to change. And this culture is by no means foreign to the Church. As a ministry intern who is not in a place of policy-making within my congregation, the book presents a challenge of efficacy: “I agree with the model set forth, now how do I get others in my church to do the same?”

    I see one of the main obstacles to be the threat to power and control that pastors and churches have exerted throughout the course of Christendom. In a post-Christendom world, especially when advocating a bottom-up leadership method–one that is focused on fostering space for transformation as opposed to actually implementing change–many churches and pastors can see a missional model of church as the limiting or even end of their livelihoods. In a professionalized church, shifting the vision-casting and policy-making from clergy to laity can unfortunately be seen as a power grab. Especially as seminarians paying thousands of dollars in order to be certified/degreed professional ministry leaders, the idea of bottom-up leadership seems nerve-wracking or even antithetical to what we are taught in most of our classes.

    Overall, I feel that this book definitely clarified a lot points that Roxburgh made in his limited presentation on Monday night. Especially after reading the “First-Century Wanderers” section, Roxburgh’s call to enter into a place of ambiguity in God’s leading connected for me better. It was helpful to see Roxburgh’s hermeneutical basis for such an understanding of ministry and ecclesiology.

    • Ryan Whieldon said


      Your question of efficacy in your situation is a great question and I think that question extends to many of us no matter what our context – whether we are interns or on staff. I am a full time staff member at a church and your articulation has resonated with me because I feel as if the discussions we have had in class and the points Roxburgh and Boren bring up stir excitement within me, but I wonder if the majority of people in the Church are willing to participate in this type of communal leadership? My experience tells me NO – because they expect the “professionals” to take care of the direction of the church. However, I do not want to take that as an acceptable answer, which has led me to think about how I can bring about or at least engage the church in coversations about what it means to examine and see what God is up to as a community. Thus, I am looking for conversations that can me intepret what God is up to and this will be my starting place.

      • Lee Mullins said


        You bring up an interesting point. In my particular situation, I find that although the people in my particular context may want to engage in communal leadership, there are problems in two areas for my context… coming to any sort of communal agreement and having present leadership allow for communal decisions. Therefore, I am stuck wondering how to overcome such obstacles.

        On a different level, and in a partial response to my present church situation, I have begun moving outside of my “church” community into the local community and have started doing prayer walks. In this process, I am beginning to realize that perhaps the way our current culture understands church is not where the church is heading, and instead, perhaps it is more about being present in the community around us.

        I am personally hoping that by taking an independent initiative to walk around the community and engage in conversations with local neighbors, that people within the church begin to see what I am doing and follow suit. Perhaps it really boils down to being change rather than relying on others to make change happen. However, I suppose it is too early to tell whether such an initiative will actually generate interest within my particular church community. As such, I have also been considering utilizing testimonies as a way to share the relationships that are formed out of the initiative to develop relationships within the community.

  9. Eric Lindsey said

    Roxburgh and Boren give us a ground level interpretation of what it means for a people to be a church “among whom God lives as sign, symbol, and foretaste of his redeeming love in neighborhoods and the whole of society” (p.7). What has caught my attention the most is the idea that this is how we has a church are to be, without any addition of programs, events and other attractional ways of doing church. Not what we should do, as much as what we should be.

    What I think most people, myself included, want is to be told how to change what is not working in terms of manageable outcomes and results. What Roxburgh and Boren propose is that while there are certainly things that can be done and done differently, the change is more about letting God do His work and following, and less about us taking the church where we feel it should go. By itself, I don’t think this is a new concept. What makes it unique, and more faithful to the biblical narrative is the call to “pitch our tent” in the community by living and walking along side those in our neighborhoods (p.77), and being attentive to the Spirit and where it is leading us especially while we are already at work (meaning, on the job we are still learning, experimenting and discerning).

    During Roxburgh’s short lecture last Monday night in Travis, he pointed out that all this is done in “disruptive spaces” where there are no road maps to point us in the right direction. These places are “exactly the places where God’s future breaks forth” (p. 26). Our church buildings are usually places of comfort, this book calls us out of those spaces of comfortability and into the spaces we can’t control. This allows us to rely more on God and finding where He want us to go. This does require us to “develop skills of reading the winds of the spirit” (p.25). These skills should come from us being rooted in prayer, biblical study, and awareness and conversation with the people in neighborhoods we live in. Prayer and biblical study keep us continually asking for guidance and clarity, and provide for us examples of how those before us did it and failed to do it. Being in conversation with those in the community help us to see and understand the context causing most of us to shift our focus and intentions, and realize that who we are in the church is probably different than who we are called to bring the love of God to. All of this creates a church that is not pretentious about it’s faith, but is continually listening and learning from those around it.

    Finally, the Missional Change Model is less a model and more of a checklist of the ways in which we are living out our faith missionally in God. It is impossible for there to be one way to do this. This checklist can keep us focused and attentive to the Spirit and less likely to pursue our own ends. As we get to know our neighborhoods, we get to know its needs. Each neighborhood/community is different. Once we start to know them, by living among them (which won’t be overnight), we may start to hear what the Spirit is wanting us to do, and through experimenting we might figure out what works. The important part is to expect uncertainty and trust that God knows what He is doing. If we are to embody “allelon” we must understand that the church isn’t here to serve the individual, nor is God interested in isolating us in a comfortable sanctuary while listening to hymns and sermons that make His people feel good about themselves. We are God’s people, and as His people we are to follow Him out into the wilderness not to manipulate it, but to be His peculiar people and serve those whom He calls us to serve.

    • Bryant Benitez said

      Nice thoughts Eric,

      I appreciated how you discussed the aspect of developing our skills of reading the winds of the Spirit are reliant on our time spent in spiritual disciplines and conversations with those inside and outside the church.

      I really liked how you pointed out the check list aspect of the model and its contingency on context.

  10. mjwise said

    In their book, “Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, why it matters, how to become one,” Alan Roxburgh and Scott Boren introduce what they have imagined as “the Missional Church.” Throughout, they attempt to 1) describe what makes the Missional Church (MC) distinct from the way that church has been done in recent years, 2) explain why anyone should do this, and 3) provide a model for how to become a missional church. In “mission” they attempt to articulate that which has been happening throughout the life of the church as it has existed in the world. By using the language of mystery (election), memory (Eucharistic memory), and mission (the outgrowth of mystery and memory), and in gathering stories from various traditions, they attempt to flesh out an image of how this “missional river” (39) might really look like. What first struck me in this idea of missional river, was its striking resemblance to Timothy Ware’s, three presuppositions encountered along the spiritual way: membership in the church (the journey is not one of isolation), worship centered in sacraments (Eucharist, etc…), and evangelism (rooted in scripture). (The Orthodox Way, Revised Edition. St. Vladimir’s 1979, 107-112). Similarly to Roxburgh, Ware calls the church to repentance through watchfulness – “being present to where we are at this specific point in space, at this particular moment in time” (114).
    Moving on, as Roxburgh and Boren attempt to reconfigure the readers understanding of their current praxis, they ask the reader to begin asking new a whole new set of questions and developing new frameworks based in narrative story telling, listening, and experimenting. Reminiscent of Metavista, and Van Gelder’s, Ministry of the Missional Church, (who, coincidentally may have taken this from Roxburgh, 107) is the strong Newbiginian language directing a new understanding of doing theological work located in context, community, and action (the ministry of the missional church. Baker Books, 2007, 105.) These attempt to provide the church a new way of existing, to depart from a pragmatic, structured, and individualized imagination of church and into what seems to be a more holistic vision of the ordinary people of God entering together into an alternative imagination with alternative practices. An emphasis on the theology of the ordinary person in the context of the larger community seems to me a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God living and breathing in the world. The propagated framework of journeying together into awareness, understanding, evaluation, experimentation, and commitment within a specific context are also incredibly valuable for a group of people seeking to engage the world, as the church, in new ways. Along with this, appropriately placed, is a particular emphasis on the movement of the Holy Spirit in this process provides some foundation from within the Christian tradition.
    In what might be hoped for as a grand dissemination of the church into the world, a missional church that reconsiders its context, rethinks the gospel, and re-imagines church is an idealistic, hopeful, and noteworthy endeavor. At the same time if a lack of self-criticism and self-doubt are not present, this new understanding runs the risk of becoming imperialistic and falling into the same heroism criticized in Christendom. While we ask, “What is God up to in our neighborhood,” we must not forget to continue asking, “What does it mean to be the church?” As the focus moves from a domesticated evangelical perspective to a more seemingly holistic communal practice, the ways in which presence, love, and engaging community are done, must be weighed heavily against the life, death, and resurrection of the crucified Christ. If our ecclesiology is not continually intertwined with our Christology, how do we continue to be the church?

    • Bryant Benitez said

      Great stuff Misty,

      I really liked how your last paragraph challenges the idealism of the missional approach proposed but also highlights the virtue missional has in being reflective and critical.

      I think you are right to ask how our ecclesiology and Christology work together. I am not sure myself how they work, but it is a good question because it really makes sure to also have a balance between our ‘ologies’ which we can get so immersed in one and forsake the other.

  11. Hawley Smith said

    The book takes a very positive look at challenging the patterns that have developed within the Western Church and attempt to guide us into deconstructing those habits and discovering what God is doing/planning out ahead of this transitional time in the church. They do a great job of explaining their understanding of a missional church and the outlook for practice, however to the traditional church person, or the person who is engrained with the western “attraction model” of church may have trouble hearing the message. There is not an answer to “what is a missional church?”. There is not an answer to “how does a missional church function?”. Although Roxburgh and Boren provide a guide, a model or answer is not what they are after. For us, living in a time influenced heavily by reason, science, research and discovery all taking strength in modernity, we struggle with the ambiguity.

    Their guide of memory, mystery, and mission as flowing on a river aided in understanding what characterizes a missional church and how to remain in that context while moving forward. Memory keeps the church grounded in God’s narrative, a major emphasis to which Greene and Robinson refer to in Metavista. This allows the church to continue the story in the present day that was begun with his people since creation. Mystery is what God is up to prior to the church’s discovery. Therefore, we have eyes and ears to see and hear what the Spirit is leading within the community. Roxburgh and Boren’s discussion brings this into the local neighborhood and discusses ways to come in tune with where the community is heading. The mission then brings these two into conversation and practice together. So we have the story of God within which the church is continuing, where the Spirit is at work and how that is developing in the neighborhood, and bringing those together in order to serve and grow together as a people of God. This was helpful to visualize Roxburgh and Boren’s goal, though it did not define nor attempt to define how this would take place, knowing that it would be unique to each context.
    A few questions arose out of my reading of the book, and to clarify, I value the message of the book and the action to which Roxburgh and Boren are calling us to. I simply had points for which I needed more clarification and discussion.

    First, there is a majority of local language and engagement as the place where God is at work. If we are to discover it, we must engage our neighborhood and this is where the missional church will find its stride. I completely agree. However, I am wondering if work internationally, work beyond our church’s neighborhood or community is less of a priority? Is it that we must first engage on a local level as a priority, while understanding God is at work and desires our participation elsewhere in our state, country, world?

    Second, is it possible for the next big thing God is up to, to come out of a leader from the church? I understand this is the dangerous area out of which Roxburgh and Boren call us, but will the next place the Spirit is a work always be a surprise or from an unexpected place? Is it a both/and expectation within a missional church, from church leadership AND from the people of the congregation and community?

    In discussion with Alan Roxburgh during a discussion titled “Leading when God is out ahead of us” Alan made clear the necessity of meeting a church’s expectations as a leader in that context prior to beginning small experiments of missional church. That in meeting those expectations, a leader will then gain license to begin missional church practices in the community. Would this be the case for this book? IS the idea to first meet the expectations of the Attractional church model (which they do not dismiss but simply speak beyond)? Then secondly, to the look for opportunities to listen to the neighborhood surrounding the church? Thus then sparking gradual acceptable change for a church community?

    Finally, A major example for Roxburgh and Boren is Moses and the way he leads the people of God. This is titled “Don’t Go without the Presence” and discusses Moses’ pleading with God to help and not abandon. It serves as a great example, but putting the situation into the present day, how do we deal with a congregation who wants to return to Egypt? If Moses had simply listened to the voice of the congregation and their spirit, he would not have remained in tune with what God wanted (and maybe that is the answer). The key is staying in step with where God is leading. How do we wisely discern the voice and spirit of the people of our congregations when practicing the missional church model?

    • Eric Ferguson said


      I liked your incorporation of some of the responses Roxbourgh gave during his lecture. Roxbourgh seemed to advocate that pastors “drink the kool-aid” and go along with the exact job description that a congregation hires you for.

      My church places heavy expectations upon its staff. Youth pastors have a quick turnaround because they simply cannot keep up. I don’t think Roxbourgh spoke into some of the unfairness that ministers often experience while at the mercy of impossible expectations.

      It’s also very hard to administer change when you are in a role that is assumed to have little authority, or at least, not as much as the head pastor (e.g. associate or college pastor). I wonder how Roxbourgh would explain what a pastor’s praxis should be if she was given many responsibilities, but little power?

      My pastor talked to me about authority

      • Eric Ferguson said

        Scratch the “My pastor talked to me about authority part” 😛 I was going to lead into what I was saying my last paragraph, but neglected to delete or include it.

  12. Lee Mullins said

    “Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, why it matters, how to become one,” by Alan Roxburgh and Scott Boren, offers an amazing perspective on what it means to be missional. Unlike many church planting books and “how to” models that are out there, Roxburgh and Boren take an entirely different approach. The underlying theme of the missional church seems to approach missions from a whole new perspective which emphasizes the need to recognize our presence within community as the primary mode of being missional in doing God’s work in the community (p.20).

    The first book itself is divided into three parts, with part one being about the idea of missions and how it extends past the four walls of a church building and extends into the community around us. The authors make clear that being missional is not really about revamping or resurrecting a church, although these things may happen, but rather the goal is to accomplish God’s mission in the world (p.20). They continue on in addressing the difficulty in giving a definition of a missional church because it is dealing with the kingdom of God, which in of itself is nearly impossible to define (p.36-39). Essentially, the sum of part one offers three components which is a river of mystery. memory, and mission which initiate the process of being missionally minded (p.45).

    In this part, what I found particularly refreshing and extremely illuminating is the recognition of the importance of the eucharist as a central component to Christian worship as a telling of Christian history (p.44). This part of the missional journey is particular appealing as it integrates practice, tradition, and history all in one, while at the same time proclaiming the gospel in fellowship. Not only that, but in celebrating the eucharist, we are entering into a moment where there is in-breaking of the kingdom of God into the world in a very real and tangible way, that in practice, unites the people of God under the one true king, Jesus Christ.

    The second part of the book goes into various concepts of being missional and what that looks like. Most of this section goes into narratives that describe various missional activities, how they came about, and where they ended up. In the midst of these various narratives is a common theme of interacting with community in more natural and interactive ways, such as mowing lawns, walking dogs, etc., which lead to conversations with the community around a person.

    In this part, I enjoyed the idea of simply being present in the community as a way of being missional. This to be is something that I am starting to embrace more and more. I am still not entirely sure what it will look like at the end of the day, nor do I know how to describe the process as it very from context to context, but in the very being of ambiguity comes a sense of excitement and anticipation of the infinite workings of God in very tangible and real ways. The interactions that have come forth in just the short time that I have been in living out church in the presence of community, have impacted me greatly, and have changed the way I view church to be something that is not defined by bricks and mortar, but rather by relationships where I exist in community.

    The third part of the book discusses ways to start initiating a “missional journey” within a church context referred to as a missional change model (p.134). The model consists of several components which include a stage of awareness, understanding, evaluating, experimenting, and commitment which is facilitated by leadership assisting in creating an environment where change can occur (p.136). The stages are not necessarily linear and may have to go through various stages and fluctuations in the process (p.146). Ultimately, part three is intended to begin the “journey” into a missional practice and mindset (p.195).

    Although, I see definite value in the model for beginning a more missional system with a church, I almost wonder if it is necessary to even offer a model. I know this may sounds strange, but I am starting to believe that narratives are the best way to implement a missional mindsets. By simply sharing with my church the interactions I have had, I have seen a radical shift in just a couple weeks in the way the leaders are thinking about church. However, I cannot take credit for this shift as it seems apparent now that God has been moving on us for quite some time, and is quite clear that the model presented in Missional Church is something that the church I am a part of has been naturally moving towards naturally. However, this book has given a language and an ideology to understand what God’s movement actually means.

    All in all, this book (in combination with the other books that I have read by Branson and others) has strongly influenced the way I think of church. I am extremely excited to see what God has in store. Although are final destination as a church may be is extremely uncertain, it is perfectly clear that God is moving in ways I never anticipated, and it is an absolute joy to be participating in the gospel as it plays out.

  13. Marlene Watson said

    In the book Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, Why it matters, How to become one, authors Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren share their journey in seeking the basis and meaning of a Missional church. The author’s aim is to move beyond the popular church strategies of today and ask different questions that lead to a missional imagination. At the same time Roxburgh and Boren stresses that God’s missional people learn to listen to the imagination the Spirit of God gives to ordinary people in local churches. Roxburgh and Boren particularly describe the missional people of God as wanders, and they develop skills of reading the winds of the Spirit, they test the waters of the culture, and running with the currents of God’s call. (Roxburgh and Boren, 73). Ultimately, which I most agree with the authors is that a missional person needs to let go of their desire to be in control of either the church or the place in which they find themselves.
    Roxburgh and Boren best describe the process in which a missional person assesses their situation is shown in Figure 8. The authors describe, “Missional understanding begins with questions about the gospel and the context and then moving to the church so that the shape and life of the latter comes out of the interactions of the first two” (Roxburgh and Boren, 73). As an illustration of this Roxburgh and Boren share a story of Mary and Jim who led a small group in a large church that was losing church members. Through prayer, God gave Mary a new imagination, Mary and her husband began to pick up trash in a shopping district and this sparked the church congregation to tune into serving the community. The lesson learned by the church was learning to listen to one another with trust. The result of Mary and Jim’s engagement with the community became, “A story of Christian living in and with the people of their neighborhood so that the gospel changed everything” (Roxburgh and Boren, 73).
    Similar to the experiences of Mary and Jim, authors Branson and Martinez in the book Churches, Cultures and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities describe missional people discerning God’s will, “You also work in the power of God’s spirit and the power of biblical narratives, so a primary work of the group is to discern and participate in what God is initiating (Branson and Martinez, 208). In class we discussed how some churches especially in this post modern era, have ineffective strategic plans and have romantic ideas which at times lack theological depth, or significant cultural analysis. Roxburgh and Boren offers in their book a journey through how profound cultural changes that shape our communities and they challenges us to participate with God’s initiatives in the contexts in which we live.
    The story of Mary and Jim are ordinary people, they exemplify Jesus love for others. Mark 10:45 states, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” I wonder how many leaders of churches and faith based organizations see themselves giving up their right to be served and serve others. There seems a freedom in Christ within this couple and others of their church to serve their community while not expecting anything back. In my church the rehabilitation home residences volunteer in community activities, I believe there is more room for congregation members to get involved too.

    • Eric Lindsey said


      You bring up an interesting point about leaders giving up their right to be served and serve others. I feel God certainly commands us to “keep the Sabbath” and that should apply to everyone. But can a leader truly take the sabbath and not have their minds on other things, especially the people they’ve been called to lead and love? Taking time to rest has been a specific point of interest and advice from many pastors I’ve spoken to, I think the trick is being able to do it in order to be physically/emotionally ready to tackle the things God puts in front of us afterwards. Of course, prayer, study and reflection must become a common practice, especially asking God to give us the wisdom to know who’s driving the ship…

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