McNeal’s purpose in this book is to describe from high altitude the growing phenomenon in North America he calls “missional communities,” an alternative expression of church in our time.
The phrase “missional communities” suggests the distinctive characteristic of these groups: mission is the organizing principle. They are embedded in a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. They focus on discipleship, hospitality and justice work. They develop a close-knit sense of community around the mission. They are led most often by non-paid leaders. They aim to help searchers find their way into the Christian community.
McNeal submits that these ecclesial expressions are a legitimate form of church and should be embraced as such. They are very different from their congregational counterparts, and yet not necessarily a replacement for them.
After introducing key concepts in the first two chapters, he surveys five recent movements that give evidence to the rise of the “post-congregational church”:
Here’s the value I see in McNeal’s book:
- McNeal writes as a Baby Boomer – someone my parents’ age, many of whom have grown up and lead in congregational forms of church.
- The book offers a helpful framework: I like the functional comparison of “congregational” form of church and “post-congregational” or “missional community.” It brings clarity to what’s happening in the North American church.
- The approach is very gracious. The purpose is not to lambast the congregational expression but rather to uphold the missional community as a viable alternative. In fact, many networks of missional communities are nurtured out of the congregational form of church.
- The stories. I have one friend who has said to me repeatedly: I really think the germinal/organic/missional church approach is the wave of the future, I just want to see it work! Read this book, friend, and see 5 movements that are thriving examples of the missional community approach.
- It affirms God’s work in Storyline. To be honest, I feel like a church outsider most of the time and downright crazy just a little less of the time because of my work as a missional communities practitioner. What excites me about the five movements studied from all over North America is that it’s very clear that this is not an isolated incident. It is the movement of the Holy Spirit. The examples listed here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this growing expression of church.
Pick up the book! Share it with others who would benefit from seeing what God is up to in the North American church.