Leading Edge Missiology and Ecclesiology?

step3aWhen it comes to God’s Mission and its Church, words like recapture, regain, reclaim, and even resuscitate are used to reinforce the idea that the only way forward for the Mission and its Church is to go retro.  In order to advance as a church, we must certainly understand our history, but I’m not so sure we need to emulate, copy, or worse, mimic it.  Popular are thoughts like; “We must learn to change our way of thinking to a more Hebraic form,” or “We must embrace those components and catalysts of revivals gone by.”  

Living in a developing country and watching its church grow, I’ve noticed a trend.  The church here wants to be what the church was in the U.S.A 20 years ago.  It’s only natural that the trends of long ago were first based in real experience, then written about in journals, then made their way to books, then to handbooks about books, and then eventually and hopefully put back into practice into the lives of others. With various language barriers and cultural obstacles, implementation becomes something old and borrowed and superimposed on what God is doing or saying currently.  By the time most trends are recognized, analyzed, interpreted, and codified, God has moved ahead. 

The “Leading Edge” is obliterated with antiquated ideology and practices.  The Church is supposed to be a people who are constantly being renewed in the transformation of their minds, not the stagnation of them.  What God is saying now with respects to the mission and its church may be different then what He said at any previous stage in history.  More simply put, what “worked” back then may have expired, gone out of date, or simply become irrelevant for today.

Now, I’m not saying that those prescriptive, commanded, and eternal concepts of the mission and its church have changed, but I am saying that there are probably a lot less of them then we think.  On the whole, I think there are a lot less prescriptive tenets of the faith and a lot more descriptive ones.  The church tends to get hung on the descriptions of the previous and prescribe compliance for everyone.

There is a leading edge.  There are those who are on the leading edge.  There are those who listen and look to God and sense where that leading edge is.  These are those who go where the Father says to go, do what He says to do, and say what He says to say.  Call them whatever you wish, prophets, apostles, forward thinkers, etc.  The church is not only being transformed by the renewal of their collective minds, but also maturing.  The entire reason for the giftings in Ephesians 4:11,12,13 is ecclesial (church)maturity.  

“Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Until we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

The church may need to understand the message of its history, but it doesn’t have to drink its milk.  A few questions:

1. How does one determine what is prescriptive and what was descriptive regarding the mission and its church?

2.  How are those on the leading edge of mission and church verified?  How can we know what they saying, what they’re doing, and where they’re going is in line with God’s will?

3. Does the church really have to go back to the past in order to progress? 


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    1. Preach, teach, but mostly live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Simply put, Love God, love your neighbor, by serving in whatever capacity you have been gifted. Move forward by the leading of the Spirit. Yes, we are limited by the flesh, but we live in the paradise He created for us. He is here, He is in us, He is faithful to all His promises, His light shines in all things created. Christ is all. Think about it? Usher in the kingdom of heaven? It’s already here, just share it, live it. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Let all things be reconciled to the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ. Trust in Him to complete that which He started. Keep it simple. Easier said than done. I’m a sinner, not always obedient, so I certainly can’t judge. That is why I constantly need to be immersed in His Word for renewal and transformation. Have the same mercy and grace that has been extended to us. Share the love, and the Truth.

    2. I don’t think it’s quite so simple.

      Following past missional church movements in detail is always going to be unhelpful, the details were for then, this is now. But there may be underlying principles that don’t change and these may be detectable in past events.

      If so, we really need to tease them out and understand them. Alan Hirsch has done a pretty good job with this, if you read ‘The Forgotten Ways’ it quickly becomes clear he’s not being prescriptive.

      By all means let’s chuck out the used bathwater, but let’s make very sure we’re not also tipping out the baby!

    3. Hi Carlos,

      Prescriptive is literally ‘written ahead’ and means we decide in advance which way we want to go and write it down as an instruction. Descriptive means ‘written out from’ and means that we wait to see what happens and then write it down as a story.

      If we are being prescriptive we probably don’t wait for the Lord to show us what he wants us to do. We follow rules or we do again what was right last time.

      Hope that helps, Miguel will soon tell me if I have misunderstood him :-)

    4. Thanks for the explanation Chris.

      Sounds like we should be neither descriptive or prescriptive but rather just right by sticking to what is written in the Word and letting the Lord prompt us by His Spirit to do what needs to be done in the here and now.


    5. while god may indeed move on from what was once a ‘move of god’… we can still make the mistake of assuming whatever god is saying to me or my group or stream of christianity is what he must surely be trying to say to everyone else.
      That puts a limit on god which actually makes it hard to discern the varied ways he works.
      Some groups may look very different from year to year, others are more static in certain respects… though the life of the spirit may well still be present.
      None of us can speak authoritatively on behalf of the entire church, (try as we do).

      so for # 2 I would say that in some regards that is not our business. The internet has helped further the idea we should have an opinion of more than is necessary. Personally I would love is the primary measure if there is one and its going to be hard to evaluate that from a distance.
      Love takes all sorts of missional and doctrinal forms.

    6. Eli,

      No one can speak authoritatively to the entire church as to what it ought to do or as to what church should look like?

      If that is what you meant to say…well…I respectfully must disagree.

      The epistles of Paul are filled with such authoritative statements.

      I don’t think authoritative statements based on what the Word says about the mission and the practice of church are out of place at all.

      Maybe I am misunderstanding what you said.


      • Obviously there is a context to what I said. Some general principles should apply to all. But specifics or trying to discern who is on the leading edge vs who is not is a different matter.
        The mission of the church is as broad as all the relevant scriptures in the bible, although each local expression has a focus on this or that aspect of the churches mission.
        Paul was speaking to the churches he sent the letters to primarily… we have to be careful what we draw from that… ie we need to apply it to our unique situation.
        My point is we only need to know what god wants us to know, which isn’t the entirety of who is in line with gods will.
        So my point stands. The body of christ is dynamic… though we should demonstrate love and character, that can look very different, often in ways we don’t recognize or acknowledge.

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