The culture of the Western world has undoubtedly experienced, and is continuing to experience several major changes in philosophy, economics, science, and society. It is in the paradigm shifts of postmodernity, spike in secularization, and embrace of religious diversity that the Church in the West now exists. Though many books have been written over the last fifteen to twenty years warning the Church of these cultural transitions, few have offered any real understanding or practical implications in the realm of helping pastors navigate through these seas of change.
Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder have vocalized a new hope for the church that not only bellows a call from the wilderness, but gives strategic and encouraging insights on the true nature of repentance; how to turn away from the world and return to God. In their new book, Missional Moves: 15 Tectonic Shifts that Transform Churches, Communities, and the World, Rob and Jack write from their experience in the trenches of ministry. Giving accounts from their many missionary trips to India where they were a part of a church planting and pastor coaching movement, to the radical transition they have helped chart as staff leaders of Granger Community Church.
As a fellow citizen of Northern Indiana, I have heard much about the missional excitement and ministry happening over at Granger and I am glad to now have available the story of how their Senior Management Team has led a megachurch to be a missional, multiplier of micro “missional communities” and “essential churches”. Through these shifts, Granger is now literally making a positive impact for the Kingdom in their local neighborhood as well as all across the world.
Missional Moves is the latest edition to the Exponential Series, a publishing and resourcing initiative focused on accelerating multiplication through creative and missional efforts. With a forward by Alan Hirsch, Exponential’s resident missional guru, Rob and Jack expand much of their thinking on that of Hirsch’s prominent books, “The Forgotten Ways” and “On the Verge” coauthored with Dave Ferguson, another Exponential leader and author. While I am sure some readers will be overly critical of all the references to India and Granger, I felt the real life stories told help put flesh on the bones of a missional theology, and reveal the Truth of the living Body in a fresh and active way.
Each of the three sections of Missional Moves, open with a brief introductory that lay out the chapters and offer an overview of the shifts to be covered. Using the metaphor of an earthquake and the shaking of tectonic plates to create a tsunami, the authors advocate for a reverse tsunami of love, brought as a reaction from the cultures clash on the church. The 15 shifts are divided by the three sections; Part 1 Paradigm Shift: Missional Imagination, Part 2 Centralized Shift: Local Churches on Mission, and Part 3 Decentralized Shift: The People of God on Mission.
Part 1 does a great job at explaining the current cultural climate and the need for the church to respond with realignment to God’s main purpose for the humanity – to have a relationship with his people. Chapter 3, “From My Tribe to Every Tribe” was by far my favorite in this part. Rob and Jack trace the story of Scripture with the divinely-directional and missionally-oriented counsel of “G3” or God’s global glory. They write that our map should be the Scriptures, our compass-the Spirit, and our destination that of the global glory of God (p. 63).
Rob and Jack show that living in right relationship with God means fulfilling certain responsibilities in His family. Referencing “top-line blessing”, the authors indicate how in the commissioning of Abraham, and Adam and Eve before him, there has always been an intention for God’s chosen people to be a blessing for all. This commandment is likewise given by Jesus to the Church, the new Israel. The authors also explain how living with an “orientation language” clarifies Christ’s primary concern for all people groups in the Great Commission. In a brief word study of the Greek “ethne”, the reader will see how the commonly translated “nations” can be properly understood as “all tribes”, tongues, families or ethnic communities of people.
The theme of people groups is further fleshed out later in chapter 15, “From Great Commission to Great Completion” in the author’s discussion on reaching other cultures through “APG’s” or adjacent people groups and “PPG’s” or proximal people groups. In reading the emphasis placed on understanding and utilizing different cultures to move from Jerusalem to Judea and to Samaria, I was reminded of another missionary to India, Donald McGavran, and his work on movements within people groups as “Bridges of God”.
In Part 2, chapter 6 “From Top Down to Bottom Up” should be studied by every leader looking to begin activating more of a missional approach to ministry. The importance of beginning relationally, embracing experiments, and building on asset-based strengths is highly stressed for the success of movements. The authors write that “a top-down approach expects perfection and looks for guaranteed results. But a bottom-up approach is more flexible, learning through trial and error how to best serve the community. It embraces failure as an opportunity to learn” (p. 12). Also, the chapters’ discussion on “demonstration farming” by cultivation, contextualization, demonstration, replication, and multiplication will be refreshing and revolutionary for many who serve in ministry coaching and training of indigenous leaders and church planters.
While the entire book offered incredible insights for effectively being missional or the “what” and incarnational, the “how”, I found Part 3 “Decentralized Shift: The People of God on Mission” to be of particular importance. Every chapter shines new light on missional application and the exponential process of Christianity as a grassroots movement. Chapter 11, “From Formal to Factual Leadership” presents a “both/and” approach to governance. Building upon the popularity of the hit book, “The Spider and the Starfish” by Rod Beckstrom and Ori Braffman, Rob and Jack suggest a combination model of “spiderfish”. They write, “We went looking for this hybrid model because we are an organized megachurch that wants to unleash autonomous, viral movements. We are committed to being attractional and missional, organizational and autonomous” (p. 206).
The remaining chapters in this section present extraordinary insights into expanding apostolic movements, discipleship and mission through community as well as intimate relationships, reproducing simple and organic systems, and how to leverage Hirsch’s mDNA for a megachurch moving micro. A couple surprising parallels shared include how Granger takes the military’s example of boot-camp training for intensive ministry exposers and what can be learned from Notre Dame University’s thriving alumni relationship built on expectations and identity.
Visual graphics, charts, and pictures from Granger and India scatter the pages of this book, helping to bring the authors teachings to life. In addition, there is a website available (missionalmoves.com) that equips readers with supplemental material including video clips, downloadable ebooks, and links to other relevant pages.
Missional Moves is more than a story of a megachurch turned missional and more than the memoirs of a couple of missionaries. It is a work that places priority on God’s purpose for the Church and illustrates tangible ways to partner with God in fulfilling His mission.