One my passions and dreams in ministry is to lead a congregation to missionally engage their neighborhood and their world. I’d love to see the whole church–the whole people of God–motivated and mobilized to advance the kingdom in caring for neighbors, sharing good news and partnering with their communities. When a book comes out touting holistic missional engagement which focuses on transforming community, I get excited. Missional Moves is a book which carries such a promise. Authors Rob Wegner and Jack Macgruder both serve in ministry at Granger Community Church (in Granger, Indiana) and have put a lot of thought and energy into getting an attractional mega-church to become more missional. This book describes some of the ‘moves’ that they’ve made in rethinking and retooling how to do ministry. They are not advocating a program but they do bring a sensibility and outlook on mission which in translatable to a number of contexts.
The book divides into three sections. In part one Wegner and Magruder discuss the ‘paradigm shifts’ necessary for full missional engagement. They urge a ‘shift’ towards ministry which is more holistic, comprehensive, inclusive, accommodating to both attractional and missional models and intentional about reaching those on the margins. Wegner and Magruder want people to catch a big vision of what God is doing, his overarching story of redemption and the global scope of the Kingdom of God.
In part two, ‘Central Shifts,’ they turn their attention to activating the local church for Mission. They discuss the priority of relationships over organizational structures, the need for focus, the need to establish transformational partnerships, the movement from relief to a development model of ministry, and the movement from professional ministry (clergy) to full participation in ministry (every member). I think this is the most important and helpful section of the book. Macgruder and Wegner talk about how Granger Community Church has changed the way they do ministry as they have sought partnerships on the margins (and among indigenous churches). By choosing a development model and forming a ‘transformational partnership,’ Granger has been able to empower those on the margins while offering appropriate assistance and resources (often in the form of training). This has helped guard against an unhealthy paternalism and dependence. If you seek to do ministry among the marginalized in your city or community, you have to wrestle with the dynamics . Granger has faced and Wegner and MacGruder are good guides here.
In the final section, they address ‘decenterized shifts’–motivating and activating all God’s people for Mission in all their various spheres of influence. They advocate providing a less formal leadership (they propose a ‘fractal model’ of leadership which allows creativity and initiative at all levels). They also emphasize Christianity’s potential as a movement (rather than institution) and explore how thinking ‘micro’ can help you become more missional (not small groups, but micro mission groups). Wegner and Macgruder believe that the local church can support its membership as they engage their work, their neighborhood and world. In order for a church to be ‘missional,’ members and not just leaders need to catch the vision. What Wegner and Macgruder advocate here is what happens when the church catches a vision for mission to their community.
This book doesn’t say much that is ‘new’ but it does a good job of synthesizing much of the missional conversation (Alan Hirsch, who wrote the forward, is the most often quoted or footnoted author in the text). I appreciated hearing from Wegner and Macgruder how this works out at Granger Community Church. I think that ministers, ministry teams and church planters would find a lot of useful stuff here. However this is really a book by practitioners for practitioners. If you are interested in a theological framework for mission than this book will be disappointing. Ross Hastings’s Missional God, Missional Church (IVP 2012) or Chris Wright’s The Mission of God (IVP, 2006) do a better job of surveying the theological conversation and Biblical material (respectively). Still this is a valuable contribution, especially for showcasing how missional concepts work out in a particular context. This book gets my recommendation.
Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Zondervan for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.
5 thoughts on “Your Moves Are So . . .Missional, I Got to Let You Know (a book review)”
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Thanks so much, James, for your time in both reading and reviewing Missional Moves! I’m particularly grateful for the fact that you noted that our passion is truly to be “by practitioners for practitioners”, and agree with you that there is much more extensive theological content on the concept of our Missional God than we were able to include in our first section. Thanks for directing others to Hastings and Write too. Good stuff! I think that when Rob and I sat down to write Missional Moves, we noted that the vacuum in our current world is not on the concept and theology of our God as a God On-Mission, but on the nuts-and-bolts “how” of what that means if we, whether as staff, leaders, volunteers or individuals, seek to strike out and follow Him. That’s mostly why 2/3rds of the book is hopefully an illustration of our mistakes, failures, processes and thinking in the sweat and mud of South India and the inner city poverty of South Bend as much as it is any successes, and why we like to refer to such as our “bloody knuckles” in having to consistently slug it out in real world environments as we join with God to advance His Kingdom. At the end of the day, if we can shorten anyone’s learning curve(s) through our own real-world scars as they build partnerships, develop communities, plant churches, mobilize their people and shift paradigms, we’re happy. Thanks again, my brother! -jack magruder
Thanks for your comment Jack! I am well aware that authors can’t say everything about a given topic and I think that you and Rob do remarkably well at identifying practical issues and give some great advice. I am thankful I read it and I think you guys give legs to a lot of the missions conversation. Like you guys I appreciate Hirsch but I get more excited by people who take what he says in theory and put it into practice. I really liked how you open ed up about your experience and Granger’s (and s. India). Thank you for the life you and Rob put into this!
Thanks for being a part of the Missional Moves blog tour. You are most right in your assessment of the intended audience. It’s definitely a book as you say “by practitioners for practitioners.”
Cross Focused Reviews