Archives For Missional Church


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1631468510″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”238″]The Out-and-Out Strangeness of an Alternative, Redeemed Society

A Feature Review of

Keep Christianity Weird:
Embracing the Discipline of Being Different
Michael Frost

Paperback: NavPress, 2018
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Reviewed by Joshua Rhone
Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon are two cities at the forefront of what has become a movement of sorts. They are weird cities. Cities that reject the conformity and homogeneity that characterize so many of the cities of the modern era, in favor of all things artisanal, unique, and sustainable. As such, these cities, and others like them, both stand out and stand in stark contrast to what we have come to associate with a normal city, which have led them to attract a different type of resident––the offbeat and eccentric, the creative and out-of-the-box thinker.

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”0801097401″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”230″]A Truly Dialogical Space

A Feature Review of 

The Mission of the Church:
Five Views in Conversation

Craig Ott, Ed.

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2016
Buy Now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”0801097401″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [  [easyazon_link identifier=”B01JSOXP64″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]
Reviewed by Joe Davis.
In The Mission of the Church, Craig Ott facilitates an energizing, informative, and mutually enriching dialogue on how the church participates with God’s work in, for, and with God’s creation. Five contributors participate in this dialogue: Stephen Bevans representing a Roman Catholic tradition, Darrell Guder representing mainline Protestants, Ruth Padilla Deborst representing Latin American evangelicals, Edward Rommen representing an Eastern Orthodox tradition, and Ed Stetzer representing North American evangelicals. Each contributor provides their own perspective and then responds to the other four perspectives. I write this review as a North American evangelical raised in Stetzer’s tradition, but trained academically in Padilla Deborst’s tradition. I was familiar with the work of Bevans and Guder, and am least familiar with Rommen and the Eastern Orthodox tradition. In this review, I briefly summarize each view, discuss the common themes of Trinity and contextualization, and explore how Christological nuances lead to missiological differences.

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Reviving Evangelicalism?

A review of

The End of Evangelicalism?:
Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission
By David Fitch

Review by Chris Smith.

The End of Evangelicalism? - David FitchThe End of Evangelicalism?:
Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission
David Fitch.
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

David Fitch’s first book, The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from… cemented his role as a prominent critic of contemporary evangelicalism.  Although he laid out some pointed critiques in that book, he also demonstrated a deep love for the evangelical tradition, out of which he sought to reform rather than abolish evangelicalism.  In his newest book, The End of Evangelicalism?: Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission, Fitch continues on the same trajectory, hammering home a multi-faceted critique of evangelicalism and yet arguing just as vehemently that the heart of evangelicalism should be retained.

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026620: Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues

A Review of

Encountering Theology of Mission:
Biblical Foundations, Historical
Developments, and Contemporary Issues

By Craig Ott, Stephen Strauss & Timothy C. Tennent
Paperback: Baker Academi, 2010.

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Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee.

I hold the degree title of Master of Arts of Missional Leadership from George Fox Seminary, a relatively young cohort distance program.  Fox isn’t the only school starting up this MA, but many evangelical seminaries are introducing a missional leadership degree.  Explored in these programs are the typical missional works by Alan Hirsch, Leonard Sweet, perhaps Leslie Newbigin, and others.  Having at least one missional theology course is par for the degree.  Craig Ott and Stephen Strauss with the help of Timothy Tennent have written a definitive text on an Evangelical theology of mission.

Ott and Strauss, both Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) PhD’s, teach respectively at TEDS and Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).  Both of these schools are bastions in more conservative Evangelical theological education, and I, while an Evangelical, lean more liberal in my theological studies.  That said, however, I was impressed by the TEDS and DTS professors here and their work in Encountering a Theology of Mission.  Published by Baker Academic, their book is a great text for an Evangelical perspective on the theology of mission.

As with any good text, the authors give a primer for the developments of a theology of mission, beginning with the Biblical foundation of mission.   They take a chronological view, beginning with the Old Testament to find God’s missional character.  Contrary to the popular understanding of missional, they explore that God’s missional character with His people as reflected in the OT as centripetal, where God and Israel attract people from the outside to come to the center.  Outsiders must come and worship at Zion.  They, however, emphasize the shift in God’s missional character as centrifugal in the New Testament where Jesus’s disciples were sent outward to the nations (44-45).

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An Essay by Alan Jacobs on Book Culture
Written for (not surprisingly… ) BOOKS AND CULTURE

It wasn’t until after I read Ted Striphas’ book The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control that I realized that its title and subtitle are somewhat at odds with each other. As I began reading, it was the title that governed my expectations: coined by Jay David Bolter, the phrase “late age of print” is meant to be analogous to the Marxist concept of “late capitalism.” “Late” in this case suggests a highly developed, sophisticated set of structures that are beginning to fall into decadence—structures that have lost their essential motive energy and are living off capital generated long ago. With these thoughts in mind, I was expecting and hoping that Striphas would provide a kind of critical ethnography, and perhaps a diagnosis, of print culture in the past hundred years or so.

But no: the book really isn’t about print culture at all; it is rather, as the subtitle more reliably informs us, about book culture.

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Greg Boyd Reviews Scott Boren’s new book

After 18 years of pastoring a rather large American church, I would have to say that the second hardest challenge our leadership team has faced as we have labored to make disciples of weekend church attenders is getting people to commit to sharing life with others in a small group context. The hardest challenge, however, has been to get small groups to view themselves as distinctly kingdom communities who come together not simply to hang out or engage in an occasional Bible study, but to carry out the mission God has given us.

My friend Scott Boren, who is also the “Connecting Pastor” at Woodland Hills Church, has just published a book on this topic called Missional Small Groups: Becoming a Community That Makes a Difference in the World (Baker). Scott artfully places his assessment of the challenges facing small groups as well as his proposed solutions to these challenges in a narrative framework.

Read the full review:

Missional Small Groups:
Becoming a Community That Makes a Difference in the World
Scott Boren.
Paperback: Baker Books, 2010.
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We are giving away two copies of Viral Hope, a new book edited by J.R. Woodward.

How to enter to win:

  1. Announce the contest on Twitter, Facebook or your blog:
    The Englewood Review (@ERBks ) is giving away 2 copies of JR Woodward’s book VIRAL HOPE.  Enter here:
  2. (IMPORTANT!) Post a comment below with your name and a link to your post for #1.   We will choose our winner from among those who have left comments.
  3. You may enter one time per day for the duration of the contest.
  4. We will pick a winner at random from the eligible contestants and notify them this weekend.

The contest will end at 4PM ET on Friday May 7th.

A Brief Review of Viral Hope: Good News from the Urbs
to the Burbs (and Everything in Between).
J.R. Woodward, ed.
Foreword by Scot McKnight.

Paperback: Ecclesia Press, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

VIRAL HOPE, a new collection of mini-essays edited by J.R. Woodward and the first book published by Ecclesia Press, is a fabulous companion volume to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s The Wisdom of Stability (see our review above).  In the Spring of 2009, Woodward invited 50 friends to write a brief blog post about what the Good News looks like in their respective places, “as if their local newspaper had asked them to write an article about it.”  These posts, which originally spanned the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost have now been published together in this new volume.  There are a few names  here that readers will recognize (e.g., Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove), and more that will be familiar to those who frequent the blogosphere, but mainly the common thread that all the authors here share is that they are members of church communities seeking to embody the good news of Jesus Christ in particular places around the globe (though the overwhleming majority of entries are from North America).   On the whole, VIRAL HOPE is lively collection of stories that remind us that following in the way of Christ is indeed good news for our neighbors as well as ourselves.  It serves as a powerful reminder that the Kingdom of God is taking root and sprouting in communities all over the globe, and in so doing the good news is spread — hence the “viral” descriptor in the book’s title.   Chris Backert’s concluding essay sums it the book beautifully in four brief points:

  1. Something in the world is terribly wrong.
  2. Something better is coming.
  3. We get to participate in this great story of God’s restoration
  4. [All of these points are] mysteriously related to what happened to Jesus between the days we call Good Friday and Easter.  (169-170)

Indeed, this is the heart of the Gospel and this wonderfully good news is taking root and flourishing in all kinds of places around the globe.  This book, I imagine, will be an encouragement to many Christ-followers in the generation to come; I recommend finding and reading it, especially if you find ourself near or beyond the point of giving up on our faith in Christ — a dose of Viral Hope will do you good, and just might ignite even more stories of this sort of locally-emboded faithfulness in your place, in my place and beyond.


A Review of

013430: Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship Untamed:
Reactivating a
Missional Form of Discipleship

By Alan & Debra Hirsch
Baker Books, 2010

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Reviewed by Jeff Romack.

“We’ve become tamed by tradition, captivated by culture, and controlled by our desire to fit in, not make waves and never offend anyone.  We’ve been domesticated instead of discipled” — From the foreword by Rick Warren.

The above quote succinctly summarizes what missiologist Alan Hirsch and co-writer and wife Debra Hirsch view as the current state of discipleship in the Church.  It is this situation that the Hirschs seek to address in their book, Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship.  The authors define discipleship as the “capacity to lovingly embody and transmit the life of Jesus through the life of his followers . . .”  No Jesus, no life.  No life of Jesus in the Church, no life for the world.  This relational thread from Jesus to Church (Christ’s followers) to the world necessitates the reactivation of a missional form of discipleship for the sake of the world.  Contrary to current practice or lack of it, missional discipleship is normative for followers of Jesus. Such discipleship requires a rediscovery of what it means and a re-envisioning of what it actually looks like to follow Jesus in our culture; the outcome being a life “untamed.”

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“Getting us Back to the Basics
in a Generative, Transformational Way”

A Review of

Missional Map-Making:
Skills For Leading In Times Of Transition
Alan J. Roxburgh.

Hardback: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Enstad.

“The times they are a-changin’,”  goes the old song.  Societies experience periods of great displacement and uncertainty all the time.  It is easy to fall into the trap that the current economic distress being felt by nearly everyone in this country is a unique thing but that would not be the case.  When times like these do happen it is always good to have people like Alan Roxburgh on hand to put some kind of frame around it and then help lead the leaders into new territory.

Roxburgh’s new book, Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition, is just such a book.  Using the image of a map, Roxburgh sets the stage for building an apparatus for leadership in the church when it seems that things are happening much too fast and one’s sense of hope can easily be discouraged.

The maps that we were used to in this country are no longer valid and what is required are new map-makers.  Leaders are required who can lead in this “in-between” time to a new way of being the church.  Those who insist that the old maps will work again aren’t going to find a lot for them in this book but those who are thirsty for some traction will read it and share it among their own congregational leadership and other church leaders as well.

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David Fitch Reflects on
Brian Mclaren’s New Book

It feels a bit ominous to read the blog reviews of Brian McLaren’s latest – A New Kind of Christianity. The book is raising quite a stink. No surprise eh? One gets the sense there is something different going on this time versus the last couple book releases of Brian’s: The Secret Message and Everything Must Change. One gets the impression we are at a pivot point, a moment that upsets the whole terrain of theological allegiances having to do with the post evangelical emerging church developments of the last ten-fifteen years. It’s like Brian is shaking up the foundations of post evangelical theology. I read the book on my flight home from the ecclesia network national gathering  last week and here are some initial observations.

Read the full review:

Brian McLaren.

Hardback: HarperOne, 2010.
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The NY TIMES Review of
The Rise of America’s Surveillance State
By Shane Harris

At this very moment analysts at the National Security Agency some 30 miles north of the White House are monitoring countless flashpoints of data — cellphone calls to “hot” numbers, an e-mail message on a suspicious server, an oddly worded tweet — as they carom around the globe like pinballs in cyberspace.

The snippets of information could conceivably lead them to Anwar al-Awlaki, a fugitive cleric in Yemen whose fiery sermons have inspired violent jihadists. Or to the next would-be underwear bomber. Or, much more likely in the needle-in-a-haystack world of cyber detection, it might lead to nothing at all — at least nothing of any consequence in determining Al Qaeda’s next target.

This is the world of modern eavesdropping, or signals intelligence, as its adherents call it, and for many years it operated in the shadows. “The Puzzle Palace,” the 1983 best seller by James Bamford that remains the benchmark study of the N.S.A., first pulled back the curtain to provide a glint of unwanted sunlight on the place. And the years after the Sept. 11 attacks — a period in which the surveillance agencies’ muscular new role would lead to secret wiretapping programs inside the United States, expansive data-mining operations and more — gave rise to public scrutiny that made the place a veritable greenhouse of exposure.

Read the full review:

The Rise of America’s Surveillance State
Shane Harris.

Hardback: The Penguin Press, 2010
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


A Brief Review of

The Forgotten Ways Handbook.
Alan Hirsch with Darren Altclass.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2009.
Buy now: []

By Chris Smith.

The Forgotten Ways Handbook is a praxis-oriented companion to Alan Hirsch’s excellent 2008 book The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.  The purpose of this handbook is “to provide frameworks and offer suggestions as a means to inspire God’s people into mission” (11).  This guide consists of an introduction and six chapters – one on each of the elements of what Hirsch calls mDNA (the ‘m’ is for missional, i.e., mDNA is the defining essence of a missional church).  These elements are:

•    Jesus is Lord
•    Disciple Making
•    Missional-Incarnational Impulse
•    Apostolic Environment
•    Organic Systems
•    Communitas, not Community

Each chapter explores a particular element, offering suggestions to help us more fully embody that element in our churches and concluding with three sets of questions intended to be discussed corporately in the church context.  The first set of questions is focused on exploration and the second one is designed to spur deeper reflection.  The third and final set of questions is oriented toward action.  The authors also provide frameworks for action plans, which will assist in the implementation of these ideas.

    The Forgotten Ways Handbook certainly offers much for churches to consider and to discuss.  Hirsch, and his co-author Darryn Altclass, do set a high bar, and I imagine that a church conversation that would proceed through this book from beginning to end would be quite grueling.  However, I also imagine that discussing the topics here at a more leisurely pace – perhaps interspersed with other conversations – might bear some excellent fruit.  The best use of this book, I suspect, would be for church planters as their church communities discern their missional identity together in the early stages of the plant.

    If your church is headed in the missional direction, or at least is intrigued by missional ideas, read Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways first and then if you want to share or discuss his ideas throughout your church, this handbook is an excellent way to spark conversation, and Lord willing, also “to stir innovative missional action for Jesus in this post-Christian world” (11).