“Missional Renaissance” by Reggie McNeal – A Review
Here is my review of Reggie McNeal’s latest book: Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church. In this review I will share a bit about the author, his thesis, an overview of the book and then some of my own personal reflection.
Reggie McNeal is an author, teacher, and activist with a passion to see people and churches engage in God’s mission intentionally. As an activist he has served in local congregations. As a teacher who has lectured or taught for multiple seminaries, including Fuller Theological (Pasadena, CA), Southwestern Baptist (Ft. Worth, TX,) Golden Gate Baptist (San Francisco, CA) Trinity Divinity (Deerfield, IL) and Columbia International (Columbia, SC). He is an author of numerous books and articles including The Present Future and he currently serves as the missional specialist for Leadership Network of Dallas.
McNeal in Missional Renassiance contends that going missional requires three shifts: “from internal to external in terms of ministry focus, from program development to people development in terms of core activity, and from church-based to kingdom-based in terms of leadership agenda“(xiv). These three shifts also call for a new “scorecard” for success.
McNeal develops his thesis in a straightforward, practical and engaging way. He encourages us to roll up our sleeves and get dirty in the missional task. He first lays the groundwork by describing the missional renaissance that is taking place, followed by the missional manifesto. After establishing a scriptural base for missional living he unfolds each of the three shifts necessary for the church to live out her true missional identity. The first shift from internal to external involves a change in the identity and way of life of the church, not merely an emphasis on certain activities. The second shift from program to people involves asking how are your people doing in their missional development verses how the church programs are going. The third shift from a church oriented to kingdom oriented approach involves moving from leadership that is “institutional, maintenance-oriented, positional, pastoral, church focused and highly controlling”to an “organic, disruptive, personal, prophetic, kingdom-focused, empowering” kind of leadership. He follows each of these chapters up with a new way to think about and gauge success (a new scorecard) beyond the typical butts, buildings and bucks approach, or as they say in England – pews, people and pounds.
Having never read Reggie McNeal before, I didn’t know what to expect. I have to say that the book engaged, instructed and encouraged me to continue to be a part of the missional renaissance. It is evident that McNeal is a practitioner and missional consultant, because he moves beyond missional theory and gives much help in a missional mindset and missional practices. The three shifts that he has identified are both key and vital in helping to cultivate missional communities.
A few practices and focuses that stood out to me include, “in a kingdom-oriented worldview, the target of God’s redemptive love is the world, not the church” (44), for Jesus didn’t say, “For God so loved the church” but “God so loved the world.” “People don’t go to church, they are the church” (45). He has a great section on moving from a membership culture to a missionary culture (54). The missional church tracks the development of people verses the participation of people in programs.
The book is filled with practical advice for living missionally, like when he identifies his approach to developing leaders in four different areas: “paradigm issues (how the leader sees the world), microskill development (competencies the leader needs), resource management (what the leader has to work with), and personal growth (the leader as a person) (158). His concrete challenges on our approach to our calendar and resources help us to gauge whether or not we are making these major shifts.
While there is much to commend in this book, I sense an overemphasis on production to the point that people are considered as “resources” (69,74). The new “scorecards”, while they are simply to “stimulate our imaginations” which they do, they also have a strong emphasis on numbers. This emphasis seems to add to a business production-orientation, which may cause some to be enamored with the fruit instead of abiding in the vine. It may also feed some people’s proclivity (like me), to find their value and worth in what they produce instead of in whom and whos they are. I think that Reggie’s book read in conjunction with Kenneson’s Life on the Vine – where he teaches us how vital it is to develop transformational communities that cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in a culture that wants to squeeze us into its mold – would be a crucial companion to help our congregations fully live out their mission in the long run.
With that said, I deeply appreciate McNeal’s focus on the three shifts necessary for the church to go missional. He defines the missional church as the people of God partnering with God in his redemptive mission in the world, (24) (which is a great definition) and he helps the church practically move toward this missional way of life. I would encourage you to pick up this book, read it, study it, and join the missional renaissance!
Click here to learn about the three reasons why Reggie wrote this book.