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April 21, 2005



Please do your own research, or allow all of us to share your ThM.


For the record, my thesis topic will deal with the use of Scripture in the missional church movement. I was hoping for a slightly different discussion here. And, yes, Mike, I'll gladly shary my degree with you.


What up. Good thoughts and a really good question. I read your post a few days ago and decided to ponder a bit before commenting – it seems to me that this question is worth some processing. And, as a sidenote, I’m glad that you are giving critical consideration to missional church thought; it’s good for guys like me who hold to a broadly conceived missional ecclesiology but who have much work to do when it comes to evaluating such an ecclesiology along the way. A disclaimer: I’m not sure if I’m getting at what you are wanting to get at – just an attempt here. I think you may have something when you ask the question of whether or not Guder is arguing for too much from the outset when he argues that mission must be seen as “the fundamental, the essential, and the centering understanding of the church’s purpose and action” – I hear you from the angle which sees a difference between stating that the church is missional by its very nature and stating that mission is the centering/fundamental/essential understanding of the church’s purpose and action. As Guder notes in the excerpt you posted from Community of the Word, he and the GOCN wanted to stimulate a theological conversation which took seriously the premise that (using Vatican II language) “the church is missional by its very nature.” He also notes that they were attempting to find a way to talk about the “fundamentally missional nature” of the church in a new way. Then, in the second excerpt you posted from Community of the Word, Guder writes that “to describe the church as ‘missional’ is to make a theological claim, to articulate a widely held but also widely ignored consensus regarding the fundamental purpose the Christian church… [mission] must be seen as the fundamental, the essential, the centering understanding of the church’s purpose and action. The church that Jesus intended, to use Gerhard Lohfink’s provocative book title, is missional by its very nature.” Is it possible that Guder may be correct when he refers to the nature of the church but that his idea of the missional church becomes problematic when he confuses ‘nature’ with ‘purpose’? Or am I misreading what he means by “understanding”? It seems to me that if we are talking about the ‘nature’ of the church – its intrinsic or essential character – then ‘missional’ could very well be the most theologically faithful way to describe it (of course, though, this would have much to do with how one defines ‘missional’ to begin with!). Here I would read Guder and resonate. But I think you do well to point out that perhaps when he writes of ‘mission’ as the fundamental/essential/centering understanding of the church’s purpose and action that he may be arguing too much – because ‘nature’ is not synonymous with ‘purpose’ or ‘action.’ ‘Purpose’ can have a wide range of meanings, but I would think that given the context of this discussion the most likely intended meanings would be (1) the reason for which something exists or for which it has been made or (2) the goal or intended outcome of something. ‘Action’ has an even wider range of meanings, but again given the context of this discussion I think the most likely intended meanings could be (1) the process of doing something in order to achieve a purpose, (2) something that somebody or something does, (3) the way somebody or something works or the movement itself, (4) the way in which something functions, or the effect it produces. I think that maybe further clarification is needed when it comes to how the terms ‘purpose’ and ‘action’ are being used in relation to ‘nature.’ I’m not sure how Guder would break them down or if he loosely intended them to mean about the same thing as ‘nature’ (I know that I myself all too often write and use words I think are generally synonymous with another word only to find out later that they aren’t!). I think that ‘action’ can be quite close to ‘nature’ when considering some of its meanings among a range of meanings. But I would think that there has to be a distinction made between ‘nature’ and ‘purpose’ regardless of what meaning among the range of meanings you attach to ‘purpose.’ While it seems to me that the ‘nature’ of the church is indeed missional (again given a particular definition of ‘missional’), my reading of the biblical story tells me that the ‘purpose’ of the church is worship. The intrinsic character of the people of God could be called missional in that they are, at their very core, participants in the redemptive mission of God – but the ultimate end of the existence of the people of God, and of their missional being, is worship. I can’t help but wonder if what I’ve typed sounds like a lot of bla bla bla semantics – and I’m usually the first to despise endless semantic arguments – but it seems that semantics are unavoidable in this discussion. Hopefully I’ve made a little sense.



Great thoughts man. I want to work through your thoughts on 'nature' and 'purpose' a bit more-- though I suspect you might be on to something. I wouldn't consider any of it to be blah blah (that's Daling).

The issue I was trying to touch here is the difference between saying something is "A" fundamental aspect of... and "THE" fundamental aspect.


The more I read Adam's thoughts, the more I think he is absolutely on to something-- and I think that this is where the Missional Church movement has over-bet their hand. Much of their critique about the neglect of mission in contemporary ecclesiology is valid. However, I keep coming back to the opening chapter or Piper's Let The Nations Be Glad: "Mission exists because worship doesn't".

I think one of the things I'm trying to come to terms with personally is this: In our attempt to reform historical missiology and ecclesiology, have we made mission the end-- to the neglect of the glory of God (which is the purpose of mission)? And, if so, How?

Or, have we missed it someplace else?

Thanks Beyer!


stumble across your blog. appears no posts for a couple years. Yet I will add: Seems to me the mission of the church is to aid members to individually and corporately learn to, and practice, loving God (the greatest commandment). Secondly to learn and practice how to love others. I think all other missions/purposed fall under these primary categories. -Mark

Kevin Cawley


Welcome. Plenty of posts in the last couple of years-- just no comments on this post. Thanks for your thoughts and feel free to browse around.

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