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The Missional Church in Canadian Context

An interesting discussion paper (PDF) by David Horrox is an elder at Grace Presbyterian Church in West Hill, Ontario.

Where we are

Although Canadian churches believe that it has the answer or humanity’s problems in the message of Jesus Christ, its message is largely ignored. Faith is now a totally private matter. Allowing for Stockwell Day’s shortcomings as a national leader, the ridicule to which he was subjected in the last federal election for his offence of holding Christian beliefs and, perish the thought, actually being influenced by them, clearly demonstrated the hostility towards religion, particularly the Christian religion, in our public square.

Faced with an increasingly secular outlook, Canadian churches have struggled to cope with changes that they do not fully understand. To some, Canadian churches have aped the surrounding culture, with ministers becoming marketing professionals shaping religious doctrines to the needs or perceived needs of Canadians. Church language, once distinct, has become laden with secular slogans. Programs proliferate to meet the perceived needs of church members, with Bible studies in some churches concentrating on such subjects as "How God can make you a winner." The prosperity gospel, in its crassest form, reflects our materialistic, consumer-driven society. The church seems more marginalized and irrelevant to more and more Canadians, and in sharp decline in its capacity to influence the trends in our society.

To where we need to be

The answer proposed by Darrel L. Guder of Princeton Theological Seminary, among others, is that the Christian church in Canada should return to its roots and become a "missional "church. That is, the church should strike out in a different direction; it should reject the cultural forms that carry questionable assumptions about what the church is, what its public role should be and what its voice should sound like and become a "sent" community. The church should stop mimicking the surrounding culture and become an alternative community, with a different set of beliefs, values and behaviours. Ministers would no longer engage in marketing; churches would no longer place primary emphasis on programs to serve members. The traditional ways of evaluating "successful churches"—bigger buildings, more people, bigger budgets, larger ministerial staff, new and more programs to serve members—would be rejected.

3 Comments

  1. AMG says:

    Good paper. I agree with his missional prescription to get the Canadian mainline church out into the community. I’m not so sure anymore about inviting people to join us on “a journey” though. This strikes me as more of a boomer orientated metaphor. I have been thinking of something more like welcoming folks to join us as part of an interconnected web of relationship, made possible by Jesus Christ. Maybe the difference is subtle, but at times I think it’s a better fit than “journey” for me.

    By the way, I don’t think “Friends” is as defining a TV show as the writer thinks it is.

  2. Wayne Brighton says:

    Yes, an interesting article but one that shows how deeply engrained the current paradigm can be.

    Although it uses missional words, it misses the central concept. The writer is concerned with the church as an institution and sees mission as a way to restore that which has been lost.

    Sadly, invitation or even the welcome to the web metaphor used above perpetuate the ecclesiocentric view of the world – that ‘they’ should join ‘us’.

    Being mission is a journey outward into the world, letting the church grow up in a new environment. It’s not about power but about loving our neighbours and being church as if outsiders really mattered.

  3. Good points Wayne. Though I still think there is value in introducing people, perhaps for the first time, to a relationship with Christ, even if it takes inviting “them” to join “us”.