Missional Moves, Yes; Missional-Attractional Moves, I Don’t Think So

Missional Moves cover courtesy Zondervan (publisher)Wegner, Rob, and Jack Magruder. Missional Moves: 15 Tectonic Shifts That Transform Churches, Communities, and the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. ISBN 978-0-310-49505-5. Cover price $18.99.

Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder’s Missional Moves asserts that God’s mission, and so the mission of the church and of every Christian, is to effect a (metaphorical) “reverse tsunami” “of love and service” that, unlike a (literal) forward tsunami, “rather than leaving orphans…leaves every child loved and with a family….that sweeps away hunger….every form of injustice: slavery, sex trafficking, racism, and generational poverty….every disease….all spiritual darkness and oppression, where every person knows the joy of redemption and salvation, where the song ‘Amazing Grace’ is on the lips of every tribe, every tongue, and every nation” (16). Pursuit of this mission means the application of Christ’s lordship to all of life and requires Christians to proclaim in word and deed the “Saved Wholes,” as opposed to the “Saves Souls” (fire insurance), gospel.

While those of us disturbed by the religious left’s efforts to co-opt Scripture in service of a statist “social justice” political agenda might worry when we see “generational poverty” referred to as a “form of injustice,” we needn’t worry in the Missional Moves case. Wegner and Magruder have been careful not to conflate a scripturally valid concern with seeking a just or righteous order with statist politics. They write: “What is the role of the government in all of this? We do not believe it’s the responsibility of government, at any level, to implement transformation. It can’t. It’s not close enough to the people, and government simply cannot facilitate the kinds of relationships necessary to provide that kind of change” (154). Their reflections (chapter 9, 169-86) on relief, fostering dependency, versus development, allowing those helped “to sustain themselves long-term” (171), also comports better with politically conservative or libertarian thought than much of the literature out there (statism seeming rampant in the Evangelical, as in the broader Christian, intellectual establishment).

The burden of Missional Moves is to first persuade readers that the shift to a missional “Saved Wholes”/”reverse tsunami” approach is necessary (missional moves 1-5, pages 25-106), then to set forth various shifts in church and individual practice that they believe will help realize the missional objective (missional moves 6-15, remainder of text). While the latter practical moves are unquestionably more fully developed than the earlier theoretical moves—Wegner and Magruder are very much pragmatic application guys, not abstraction-minded theological types—the reality that Christ’s lordship requires Christians to do much more than simply share “the plan of salvation,” attend church once or twice a week, and otherwise live like everyone else should be so patently obvious to every saved person, and should so strongly comport with the Holy Spirit’s witness to believers’ hearts, that very little convincing should be required. The practical moves provide some solid nuts-and-bolts guidance for missional activation of believers, something certainly welcome and needed in an American environment where church, under the influence of the attractional (church growth) paradigm, has become a place dominated by in-activated, though highly entertained, nominal Christians, plus a good helping of perpetually non-committing seekers, networking salespeople, and multilevel marketers. For that reason, I’ve given it four out of five stars and would, on balance, recommend it to pastors and lay leaders.

Why not five stars? Part of what Wegner and Magruder attempt to do in Missional Moves is to persuade readers that the attractional (church growth) and missional approaches can be combined. They call this “the genius of the And.” Frankly, I don’t think this attractional-missional synthesis can be made to work; I just don’t see any genius in this and. A hallmark of the attractional way of doing church has been to make church services into events attractive to seekers and nominal Christians who like the style and form, if not always the content, of what the broader culture, in particular the media, provides them on a daily basis. Hence detractors’ past reference to Wegner and Magruder’s church (Granger Community Church, Granger, Indiana) as “circus church,” among other things.

If in-church time is to be boot camp for believers on mission (256), then it cannot also be attractive to non-believers and nominal (non-missional) believers. Though a few masochists may consider boot camp “attractive” for its own sake, the norm is to consider it something endured self-sacrificially in service of a larger mission. I see no way around this sharp divide between missional and attractional approaches. If the local church is to effectively enable believers to be missional, it must jettison the attractional impulse, or (better) limit that impulse to special attractional (evangelistic) events, leaving the main services dedicated to the equipping of saints already committed to God’s mission, and to keeping those saints focused upon and passionate about that mission.

Though it was perhaps an inevitable outcome of the conversion to Christianity of professional marketers and other business people, as well as of social scientists and other lovers of demographics and statistics, the attractional approach, though it might provide data and ideas useful to those who would craft effective evangelistic events outside the normal church services, has been a very bad influence upon the local church’s approach to preaching, teaching, and worship (summary: entertain them at all costs and stick to just the basics all the time). I therefore welcome this turn of attractional leaders toward a more missional emphasis, but lament their effort to hold fast to misguided attractional practices.

Could I be wrong? Could this attractional-missional synthesis actually be workable? Could pandering multisite megachurches continue conducting “worship,” preaching, and teaching in ad-agency-slick attractional style while, at the same time, acting as boot camps equipping believers to form missional communities and strike out in transformational (incarnational) activism expressing a “Saved Wholes gospel” that both brings people to the Lord Jesus and tends to the physical and social needs of individuals and whole communities in every culture and locality? Though I freely admit to having been wrong in life many more times than I’ve been right, I don’t see how.

So, if you’re a pastor or lay leader who wants to help effect the missional activation of more individuals in the body of Christ, by all means pick up a copy of Missional Moves. You’ll find much sound practical advice (the chapter on focus, missional move 7, especially merits attention) and inspiring real-world examples of missional action. Be wary, however, of the authors’ remnant allegiance to attractional (church growth) methods.

This review has also been posted to Amazon.com.

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2 Responses to Missional Moves, Yes; Missional-Attractional Moves, I Don’t Think So

  1. David,

    Thanks for being a part of the Missional Moves book review blog tour. I appreciated the clarity in your review, sharing both what you felt was good/helpful and pointing out what gave you concern. Looking forward to working with you on future blog tours.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews

  2. Pingback: Missional Moves Blog Tour | Cross Focused Reviews