Reading McNeal’s Missional Communities for dissertation research and ministry development. Here are some of my take-aways from the book:
Problem/Opportunity- The North American world craves a church experience that transcends the typical congregation model. McNeal provides a short history of how he thinks the church went from an organic movement to an institution, “Rather than a lifestyle of counter-cultural sacrificial love of neighbor, adherence to ‘the faith’ became centered on assenting to a set of doctrinal beliefs. Christianity became defined as a set of theological propositions rather than a way of life.” (3)
The radical decline of church attendance and the continual craving of spirituality has provided space for re-imagining how one is associated with a church. There is rich discussion, here, about how we begin to quantify a member of a local church. My current church is beginning this discussion. On the one hand, there are people in our local churches who are totally committed, but who are not officially members. On the other hand, many mainline churches have members on their roster who have not been present in years, although they demand to remain on the register.
McNeal engages in what we would call practices of members in churches. The typical practices of a congregation are attendance, giving, and engaging in ministries initiated by the church. McNeal imagines a need to expand congregational practices if we want to engage a 21st century context that is busy enough to attend regularly, yet assertive enough to engage their world without the church’s initiative.