Dr. Michael Goheen
Topic: What it looks like to be a missionary church
Michael Goheen is director of Theological Education at Missional Training Center, scholar-in-residence for the Surge Network of Churches (Phoenix), and professor of missional theology at Covenant Theological Seminary (St Louis). He is married to Marnie and together they have four adult married children and eleven grandchildren. He splits his time between Surrey, B.C., Canada and Tempe, AZ, USA.
- Book: The Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin's Missionary Ecclesiology
- Additional books from Dr. Goheen
- Formation and Families
- "The waning of Christianity as practiced in the West is easy to explain. The Christian churches have comprehensively failed in their one central task—to retell their foundation story in a way that might speak to the times." John Carroll The Existential Jesus (Brunswick, VIC: Scribe Publications), on page 7
We're happy to have Mike Goheen here today with us from Phoenix, Arizona right now. Sometimes from Canada, sometimes from south south America. But right now Phoenix and Mike has is, is a professor, a teacher, a thinker, a mythologist who has gifted. I'm sure many of us already on this gathering in his books, in his teaching. And I have benefited so much from the different things he's written. He's also bettered our family, cuz my daughter had him as a student. And so he was a professor of hers and and also the latest book that I've read that led to this was a book entitled the church in its vocation, which is about the missionary ecclesiology of Leslie NEWBA. And one of the things that has happened, at least for me and others that I've talked to coming out of COVID is people have stopped and said, so what is the church?
What is it supposed to be doing? It doesn't seemed that the church acted like it should have during these last couple of years. So sometimes it looked worse than the culture. And so one of the questions I've been exploring in my own mind and through reading books like, like Mike's is what is the church? How do we act at this time and how do we form a church that does better if you will when these things come around. So with that, I'm just gonna pass this off to, to Mike and have you take over and lead us in some great discussion. And thank you.
All right, well thank you. Larry, it's good to be here. I appreciate you taking, I know all of you are busy when you take an hour outta your time to listen to anybody that's you're really honoring that person. So thank you so much. I'll just hold up that book that Larry was talking about, this is the book that basically I'm gonna be talking about the church and its vocation and published by baker and what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna share a screen. And as I share that screen I'm gonna be doing a using a PowerPoint here. And I, what I'd like to do is I would like to start with a, just where this book came from, because it may be helpful to you. And I wanna just share a couple things. First of all I started life out of seminary as a church planter for about seven years, I was a church planter and a pastor in the Toronto area.
And as a church turn a pastor, I struggled with what in the world I was doing. And in that very hard soil, just outside of Toronto. And it was through that struggle that I, I was led to do my PhD dissertation on Leslie Newgen and specifically on his missionary ecclesiology. And so that was finished way back in 2000. So it was the, the mid to late nineties that I was doing that do dissertation and that dissertation had a big impact on me. Larry was just mentioning before that his daughter, Gail was also part of a congregation that I became involved with CRC congregation in the inner city of Hamilton. And we saw a church that was dying really renewed and revived. And a lot of that came out of, as we struggled to together out of the doctoral dissertation, I wrote on Leslie new Begin's missionary ecclesiology.
So the first thing I wanted to say was that this reflection on his ecclesiology came out of the pastorate out of church planting and has been directed back towards that in my own life. It's not just as a scholar that I did that, but a second thing, a point that may be helpful here is that this particular book was part of a much bigger book that started about 8, 6, 8 years ago, that I was authoring with Tim Sheridan. Some of you may know him, Tim Sheridan's a CRC pastor out in maple Ridge, just outside of Vancouver. He was one of my PhD students and he did his doctoral dissertation on the emergent and the missional church in light of new begin. And so we had a contract about eight years ago to write this book with that analyzed the missional church, the emergent church and church that is Keller Tim Keller center church in light of Leslie new Begin's missionary eclesiology.
Two things happened, one Tim was almost killed in a car accident and had some brain injuries. And we didn't know if we're gonna get him back. He's back completely now thanked the Lord for that, but it delayed the book. And in the process I kept wor this book was meant to be one of four sections in the book. The first section treating historically the second section on new begin, the third section on well, the, actually the, the, the third section was on the emergent, the missional and center church and the, the final section drawing it all together. But this second section on new begin became its own book. And so that's what this this book I'm gonna, that Larry asked me to talk about. It came its own book, and we just finished this other book this summer it'll be out in about another eight months.
And the reason I mentioned that is because what we were struck by, and I don't know where you stand in all of this, but what we were struck by was just how much the missional church movement, as well as the emergent church movement really had become very pragmatic and missional church almost became another word for an updated version of church growth. It had become very pragmatic. And there's a lot that I could say about why that is, but in many ways, the missional church movement did not have the ECAL and the, the logical foundations that had led new begin in many of the early thinkers in this area between 19 30, 8 and 1950s and sixties in that area, there's a lot of theological and EC work that was that grounded, this notion of a missionary church. And we were just struck by how much of that has been lost.
And that's what we, why we wanted to talk about new beginning, recover that and critique a lot of that in light of his thought. So what I wanna do this morning is just give you a very quick overview of what I did with new begin. And it's, there's not much you can do in 35 minutes, or now it's 26 minutes actually. But I wanna just sort of give an overview and just see where it takes us in terms of questions. I'm gonna use a diagram that basically diagrams the structure of the book and the way I would argue, Leslie, if you ask, where does this notion of missionary at ecclesiology come from? Where does it, where, how does it arise if it does not arise from the center of the Christian faith then is not that important, or it doesn't have the kind of central importance that new begin would say.
And so it must arise from something simply deeper than doing evangelism. And what out of what does this notion of missionary church arise? And I struggled with this as I was putting together a curriculum for a, a master's degree in missional theology and struggled with what in the world for new begin, what is the, if missionary church can mean a lot of different things? What is the surrounding theology that gives meaning to missionary ecclesiology? For me, a lifelong kind of quest has been how to together, Leslie new begin with my own Neo Calvinist convictions. The people that have influenced me most probably would be would, would be Herman, Ritter, boss, and Herman Bob, and how to bring Leslie Newgen together with those two that have so deeply influenced me. And so I, we were wrestling with how in the world does he ground missionary his missionary eclesiology?
And for new begin, you have to go back to the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and the good news of Jesus Christ is as he says, always, always. And he says always precisely a gospel of the kingdom of God and the, when he announces the good news in mark one 14, he says, good news. The kingdom of God has arrived. And when he says that he doesn't stop and offer a definition by kingdom. I mean, nor does mark, when he is writing like any good self-respecting academic write, give a footnote and say, by the way, a by kingdom, Jesus means. And the reason that they don't offer a meaning of the kingdom is they know full Jesus knows full well when he makes this announcement that everybody is looking for the coming kingdom of God. In other words, the biblical story was very deep in the minds and the hearts of Jews.
And they believe the kingdom was about to Dawn and they believed God was about to come back likely in a Messiah and that the kingdom of God would come. And so when Jesus announces that the kingdom of God is here, he is announcing that the end of cosmic history has breaking into the middle of history. In other words, where all of history, universal cosmic history is going that kingdom is somehow breaking into the middle in the person and the work of Jesus Christ. And what is that story about? Well, that story has the backdrop of God's good creation that has been messed up by sinful redemption. And it's a story in which God has begun to has chosen Israel and entered into covenant with Israel, to be a people through whom he's gonna restore the blessing of creation back to people from all nations, as well as back to the entire cosmos.
And it is this long story of Israel against the backdrop of creation and redemption that Jesus steps into and says that climb that moment you have been looking for has arrived in me. And it certainly in no way looked like what they were looking for. This simply didn't fit the expectation of course, as, as all of you would know, well, there were so many, many different S parties and S chronological for them didn't mean theological denominations. It meant political parties and they're fighting and they're struggling and literally sometimes killing each other over different views of what that kingdom was going was looking like. And when Jesus steps onto the Plains of history and announces the good news of the kingdom, he's saying this kingdom looks like nothing that you have been looking for. And that kingdom of God is about the restoration and renewal of the creation and human life.
But it's gonna come in such a way that almost all Jews are going to reject his announcement that this end time kingdom has arrived in history. I've found this kind of this diagram, a very helpful diagram, and many of my students have as well to sort of picture the way is Israel was under understood universal history, the way they were understanding history. Adam, the, the Adam had ushered in the old age with his rebellion and the old age is characterized by sin and death and evil and Satan, but they believed the rabbis and the rabbinic theology Jews believed that there was an age to come. That was about to arrive the kingdom of God, the new creation, and that that kingdom was going to come when God returned to his temple. And he was likely going to return turn and likely be represented by a Messiah.
The majority of Israel believed there would be a Messiah. Some believe there would be one, some, two, maybe even some three, they debated what he would look like, but the majority believed there would be some kind of Messiah. They also believed that the spirit of God would be poured out and exactly what that meant. Would've been debated as well, but they believed that Joel said in the last days, I'll pour up my spirit, but somehow God was coming back likely in a Messiah by the spirit. And as God returned, he was gonna usher in the age to come. Now, this would've been this, this, this is, is rabbinic language for the inter Testament period, the old age and the age to come. But it's language that both Jesus and Paul pick up on in the new Testament. And so they are functioning in using this kind of vision of universal history, painted by rabbinic theology in the inter Testament period.
And so the Jewish expectation is God is coming back. And when God comes back and the Messiah arrives, the age to come, will come. When the knowledge of God will cover the water earth as the waters cover the sea, there'll be love and joy, and there'll be justice. There'll be Shalom. God will renew the creation as he's meant to. But the reality is when Jesus makes this announcement of the kingdom, it looks nothing like this. In fact, what happens? It appears that he announces that the kingdom is already here. The age to come has arrived, but the old age remains very much here. It's already here, but not yet a ride. I'm sure you got so much of this in seminary. Like I did that. You had it up to here. You heard it so much that the kingdom had already come, but was not yet here.
The powers of sin and death and evil very much remained, but the power of God's spirit, his renewing work to renew and restore the whole creation, that power that's gonna be poured out in the last final. And when Christ returns finally, when Christ returns that that power has come in, the person of Jesus. And so there is an overlap of these ages, an overlapping of the age to come, which remains and the or the old age and the age to come, which has arrived. And we're living in this overlapping of the ages. But Jesus kingdom ministry continues as he makes known in his life, this power to renew and heal and to forgive and to cleanse. But then finally, what we see that this ministry of the coming kingdom of God comes to its climactic moment in the death and the resurrection of Jesus and the death of Jesus is the victory over the powers of sin and death and evil and Satan, and bring an and death as it were at least principally to the old age, but the resurrection inaugurates the age to come.
And with the outpouring of the spirit, now that kingdom of God can be known by those who believe the gospel repent and embrace Christ. And so this is the picture. I believe that as especially Paul, but the entire new Testament is painting of this overlapping of the ages of the ushering into the kingdom of God, by his death and resurrection and the awaiting of his re return and living in this age to come. This is the gospel that the renewing and healing power of God has broken into the middle of history, but then God pours out his spirit after Jesus re shapes the after Jesus has gathered Israel, he's sends the church to make known this good news. Now, the sending of the church, of course, I just, we just sang a song the other day when it says, it says with the coming of the spirit, the church was born.
I think from a form standpoint, we say, well, that's certainly not true. There was a church along before the long, before Pentecost going all the way back in the biblical story and seeing that Israel was chosen by God and God made a covenant with Israel. And the promise that was made to Abraham is that I am going to bless you. That is, I am going to restore the blessing of creation that was mentioned in Genesis one. I'm gonna restore that blessing to you and the curse that has fallen on the earth. And that that's the word that dominates Genesis three through a 11, I'm gonna restore the blessing of the whole creation. And I'm gonna make you that first fruit, that first beginning of the new humanity and your vocation is to be this new humanity in the midst of the nations for the nations.
In other words, I'm choosing to work in you to restore blessing, and I'm gonna restore that blessing in you first, and then through you to the nations, I'm gonna gather the nations and in, and finally the entire creation into this blessing that I pour out an you. And that blessing is a restoration of the renew and the renewal and the healing of the entirety of your life, or put another way you are to be the new humanity. You are to become the people that Adam and the addic humanity fail to be. I'm beginning again, you're the beginning of a new humanity. That one day is gonna fail the earth and that new humanity will eventually draw all the nations into it. And so God begins his formation of the new humanity and sets them in the middle of the nations. But we know the story.
Israel failed to be that new humanity, because they are still very much a part of the endemic humanity. And so they are punished and judged and they're scattered throughout the nations, but the prophets promise that one day God is gonna come back and he's like a shepherd. We read that from I Ezekiel 34 this morning, like a, gonna gather Israel back from all the corners of the earth. And when he gathers the scattered sheep of Israel back, he's gonna form them and he's going to give them a new heart. He's gonna form them again into that new humanity to be the people they were called to be. And so Jesus begins that minute history in Matthew, and he's sent to gather the law sheep of Israel, and he begins to gather Israel back. He begins to teach them. He begins to form them. And then after he has formed them and he completes his ministry and his death and resurrection, all the gospels show that the ending of Jesus's kingdom ministry is the sending of this new Israel, not, not the new Testament church yet, but the gathered and formed Israel into the nations.
Carl Bart makes the point that in Matthew 28, it's not the church that receives the great commission. If you want to understand the church in terms of the new covenant people of God, it's the gathered Israel that is now sent into the nations because now the time is coming for the nations to be gathered into Israel. And so, as we are gathered into this new humanity has been formed by Jesus, through his death and resurrection and through the gift of his spirit. As we're gathered into that new humanity. Now, the people of God change their form. They're no longer a political, ethnic geographical group. Now they become scattered pockets of the new human everywhere throughout the earth to make known what it means to be the new humanity and to be, to invite others into that community. Oh, that, I mean, that's trying to cover a biblical ecclesiology in five minutes, but what we see in that little telling of the story is that from the beginning, the people of God have always been blessed to be a blessing that from the beginning, their election and covenant was God working in them to work through them.
They were always not just about what receiving salvation, but being a channel of that salvation to others. In other words, the church has a missional identity of being the new humanity for the sake of the nations to invite them into it. And now that we are in a new era between the coming of Christ and his return, it's a time for the gathering of the nations from all parts of the world, into that new humanity that will one day fill the earth. And so to return to my diagram that this time of that this time between the resurrection and the return of Jesus is a time of gathering Hendrick Kramer, who was one of the primary mentors, I'd say the primary mentor of Leslie Newgen speaks of the walls of history remaining open until the church completes its mission of gathering in the nations into the new humanity.
Here's how new begin puts it. And this is, this is really a strong language, the meaning of this overlap of the ages in which we live the time between the coming of Christ and is coming again, is that it is the time given for the witness of the apostolic church, to the ends of the earth. The ends of the, of all things which has been revealed in Christ is so to say held back until witness has been born to the whole world concerning the judgment and salvation revealed in Christ the implication of a true as technological perspective. In other words, if we understand the already not yet correctly, the implication of a true ES chronological perspective will be missionary obedience, cause that's who we are. And the eschatology, which does not issue in such obedience is a false eschatology. If we can speak about already, not yet, without speaking about the calling of the church to known the gospel, the kingdom, the ends of the earth, we don't, he says have a biblical eschatology.
And so what you've seen is I've moved in Newgen from the gospel to the story, thirdly, to the missional people at the center of that story. But for new begin, there's a fourth dimension to that. And that is this, that is that Israel was called to be the new humanity in the midst of it, a culturally idolatrous cultural situation. In other words, the cultural idolatry, the engineers, this is what always threated them. They were to live in the midst of nations that served other gods and show what the new humanity should look like as the nation that served the true and the living God. And when there is this, when the church changes its form and is sent into the midst of the world, the problem doesn't become easier. In fact, it's exacerbated because now each of these communities is no longer is sent to live right in the middle of the idolatrous cultures of all the nations, whether that be the United States or Canada or Brazil, or Joe or Korea or hungry or China it's sent to live in the midst of the idolatrous cultures of all the nations.
And so the vocation of God's people is somehow to be the new humanity in each of these culturals embracing the cultural treasures and the good that is developed, but saying no to the twisting of the cultural idolatry of each of those cultures. And in fact, Newgen believed that the biggest danger threatening the church in the west in north American Europe is that it had taken on board so much of the idolatry of Western humanist, religion, just religion at the heart of col of the culture, that it no longer was able to encounter that culture with the gospel, because the gospel had been accommodated and absorbed into that Western culture. And I'm not sure where all of you folks sit on this, but as, as I look at the church's capitulation to the political, right, and the political left, what we see as a church capitulating to the humanist idol ideologies of the left and the right, and often not giving a gospel that would say yes to the insights of both and no to the idolatry of both.
So the church is called to be this new humanity in the various cultures of the world. Now, in a, in a sense, I've just given you sort of the fourfold dynamic of this book, gospel, biblical story people of God missional people have got at the heart of the story and missionary encounter with culture. I've said a lot now, what are the implications of this? I sat down and said, okay, if I had, if I could say six things, what would I five or six things? What would I say, what are the six, six things that come up over and over again, as I'm training pastors here in Phoenix, to think this out in terms of their congregations, the first, the importance of a discipleship that forms the people of God in the biblical story and the gospel of the kingdom, the thing I hear back from them again and again, is that their congregations really have a deep sense of the story and a deep sense of the breadth of the gospel, the kingdom.
There's no way to even begin to speak to them about the mission of God's people to be the new humanity in the midst of the nations, and to invite others in the second, a discipleship that forms the identity of God's people is the new humanity. One of the things I've struggled with, again and again, with these leaders and they acknowledge themselves is that we see the church as a voluntary organ spiritual religious organization that finds its place in the private realm of Western culture. We see it as one more religious community alongside of others. Whereas the new Testament says, no, the people of God is not this little religious community is nothing less than the new humanity that will one day inherit the entire creation. And I find that, especially in the United States and Canada, especially in north America to form God, to form God's people out of a privatized view of the church and an individualized view of the church and a poor view of the church is exceedingly difficult.
The church is the new humanity, thirdly, a discipleship that orients the gathered or institutional life of the church to form God's people as the new humanity. In other words, how is our worship, our discipleship, our formation, our preaching, our sacraments, our fellowship. How is that? Not only nourishing us to be the new humanity, but how is it also forming us to be an outward looking people, a new humanity for the sake of the new, I mean, that's that by itself is a huge topic. I spend a whole chapter of that from new begin, new the book on new begin fourthly, a discipleship that deepens our understanding of the religious vision of our culture. One of the things that I'm struck that I'm struck by Newgen says that the Western church has been deceived by the myth of a Christian culture or the myth of a neutral culture.
The sense that the Western culture is either neutral, cuz it's based on science or neutral because it's really pluralistic or it might even be safe because it's Christian or partly Christian. And he says those myths have been damaging to the church because they've not recognized the powerful neopagan humanism at the heart of Western culture. And they've been fooled by those myths. And one of the things that I hear reg from the leaders here in Phoenix, that they get most out of, out of seminary education here is when they start to understand the deep religious vision of Western culture and how it's shaping the church in so many ways. There's so much to be said there. And then finally, lastly, a discipleship challenges, the church to take up their responsibility in the world. We've been given a calling and a task and the first task is to be the new humanity.
And part of that is going to be to say, this is how you live that out in your vocations, out in the midst of the world. This is the Hyperion in kind of thrust, but it's also very potent in new begin. How do you teach people in their various vocations in the public life of culture to embody the good news of Jesus Christ? Also, how do you be a people that live and demonstrate and manifest social and political ju in your neighborhoods so that the church becomes known as a people that loves and is for their neighborhood, a people that speaks the good news and invites people into this new humanity that will one day fill the earth. And then finally, and sadly so much missional church literature has forgotten this dimension that is missions to the ends of the earth. Very often mission and a missional church has replaced missions that is establishing a witness in places where there is none missions to the ends of the earth. So a discipleship that begins to challenge the church to take up their responsibility in the world in ways that make known the good news in life, in word and in indeed, so that they might become part of that new humanity.
Okay. It's 10 35 and that's when I was told to end <laugh> so just reach 10 35 right now and I've reached the end. That's great.
Thanks. Thanks so much. We're gonna go to you questions and I'm, I'm gonna jump in with one here and that is you speak a lot about the new humanity, which speaks of community, right? We often speak of, or we often begin even in the church with individuals rather than a new humanity. And I, and I know that new big and actually kind of begins with cosmic and then church and then individual. Can you talk a little bit about how our focus on individual versus community you know, shows itself and what that looks like and how it helps or hinders?
We had a 45 minute conversation on that this morning. And I was just listening to pastors and leaders just lament the, with a lot of pain the struggle of forming a community in a strong culture of individualism and just how difficult this is. And maybe the background is interesting. I was talking about how are reform systematic theology works like this, the first low size, the doctrine of God. The second loci is is the doctrine of, of Christ. In other words, what happens is, is sorry, the doctrine of humanity, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of humanity. And then the next one is the doctrine of Christ. And the whole way, the story, our reform theology, systematic theology tells the story is God individuals related to God as sinners and image of God Christ comes to save us. And so the Christology is focusing on how we save individuals and we cut out two thirds of the Bible and very few systematic theology, anything to say about Israel.
And then we talk about Christ separated from the story as the one who saves individuals. And then the next loci in our systematic theology is soteriology. And by soteriology we may not a story of salvation, but all the individual benefits, we received justification sanc to adoption and so forth. And then the fifth loci and systematic theology is ecclesiology. In other words, saved individuals now become the church. Then the last one is, is is eschatology or cons consummation that those saved individuals now occupy the new creation. I think that is not the structure of the biblical story. The structure of the biblical story is that we have a cosmic story that begins in creation and ends in new creation. And God's purpose is not first to save individuals, but to form the new humanity. And that's what he starts with Abraham. I'm gonna make you into a blessed people and individuals, if you want to use that language or persons are invited into that community.
And so the biblical story as a community at the center of it and persons are invited into it. So you're absolutely right that for new begin, if you start with the biblical story at the center is a community that embodies the good news of that story. And then persons are invited into that. Or you look at Ephesians one, it speaks the cosmic redemption and Ephesians one, nine and 10, then it speaks of the community. And then it says, and you, as persons were included in this, when you believe the gospel included in the community in God's cosmic purposes. So that's just a theological background, but struggling with communities and church is that basically have that individualistic notion that we're a bunch of saved individuals yesterday. The whole conversation this morning started because a leader had said to another, to, to one of these people says, I don't agree with you.
I'm basically gonna stay online after COVID. I'm not coming back to church because all I can get everything online, everything I need spiritually to be nourished by going online and a service. And I don't need the fellowship and community of God's people. And you they're saying I could be saved without the church, right? Therefore air go. I don't need the, I don't need the church. It's just fundamentally goes against, I think, old biblical story and the very thrust of the Christian faith. How do you nurture that? Oh man, I, I hardly know where to begin. I, I mean, I think it starts with theological education with, with pastors themselves under standing. Well, how deeply centered the Christian faith is in community and really believing what the early church father said when they said you can't have God as your father, without the church, as your mother. And the whole notion that God's purpose is to have a people in the midst to the nations. And so I think it starts with pastors and I think that begins to, will begin to shape worship. It begins to shape preaching. It begins to shape the way we do the sacraments. It begins to weigh the shape, all kinds of ways that we are nurturing and discipling.
And it becomes just a long, I think, painful process that even sometimes you think you're fighting a losing battle because you want to go into that long discipleship process, but you got people coming twice to church twice twice on a month. And you say, how can I begin disciple of people when they're coming so few times and you, and you kind of I, I think, I think one of the things that we have been taught over the last 10 years here is the importance of pastors learning how to lament, how to lament. So they don't become cynical. Don't become skeptical, don't become angry, but continue to love their congregations and pour out themselves to try to nurture them into a deepening understanding of the Christian faith through discipleship. I'm not sure what else to say, Larry.
Okay. Well, thank you for saying that. That's great.
If you, you knew the struggles we've had with that very question over and over and over again in the last years as a result of COVID you'd feel the pain I'm feeling right now, as I've talked through this with so many people that have been part of our cohorts here. So
Yeah, so somebody asks is the real concern, the missional identity of the church or the message of salvation the church is to proclaim.
Well, I, I, I would wanna say that the missional identity of church is broader than the, than the message of salvation. The church is called to proclaim because the missional identity of the church first of all, says, the church is called to embody that message of salvation, but like Jesus, not only to body it, but to demonstrate it deeds and proclaim it. So I believe the proclamation is part Proclama in, in the life of Jesus. He embodied the kingdom, but as he embodied the kingdom, he announced the good news and, and invited others into it while at the same time, demonstrating that good news with his deeds. So that words interpret deeds and deeds substantiate and authenticate words. But those words and deeds are rooted more deeply in a community that is gathered and scattered, which is the new humanity, em, that salvation or put another way Friedrich NCHE says, if you want me to believe your message of salvation, you better start looking more redeemed. In other words, if you're not embodying that salvation, your announcement of salvation is going, is going to, is not gonna of carry the kind of weight it should. So I would say a missional church. I, I know it means so many things and I wanna unpack it in various ways, but missional means embodying the end of the story, the kingdom of God, for the sake of the nations and a big part of that is proclaiming that good news, inviting others into that community.
I have more, but I'm just letting that sit for a second. <Laugh> so I'm gonna to go here. I'm gonna read this one to you. But it is how should this sense of ecclesiology shape our understanding of relationships between churches and Christians, as we are to gather on mission out in the world, I'm thinking new, big, significant ecumenical work, true city, and the current church fracturing scattering reality of a conversation on sexuality and other fictitious issues.
Hmm. Oh boy, boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. <Laugh> first of all, about unity. One of the things that I have one of the reasons I'm in Phoenix as a Canadian is because we saw here an acumenical movement locally. Like I've never seen before a movement that is now over a hundred well, over a hundred churches and these churches working together and having a have, have a generosity towards one, another, a desire to be the people of God for the sake of the city. And I just wonder if ecumenical efforts that try to bring together, denominational groups are not misguided and often that's the way acuity was done. Even during new begins time. Let's the Lutherans get together with the Calvinist, the Calvin to get the Catholics. And let's talk about our confessional differences. If it's, if we, if what we're seeing here is a, is, is, is, is a church that is desiring to be the people of God for the sake of the city.
And they're having an incredible impact. And it is not simply a church that is said, okay, let's just do and put theology apart. MTC arose out of a desire to find a theological unity around Jesus Christ and the gospel and the word of God. And so the, the, the, I think that's, if you're asking me on this in my, my experience, my sense is the need for unity is to be found at a local level. And very often this thing called the denomination, which, which is one of, is the way that God, the way that the church has, has expressed itself often we've used that as the starting point for efforts in a human, the domination of the confessional tradition. And I wonder if it's not the place that whether Paul says to the church of God in EUS, and he says, the church is related to God and it's related to ESUs.
And if it's not related to ESUs or related to Phoenix or related to Ancaster or related to Vancouver, that that doesn't become one of the important points for a humanism. And so I've seen true city become fairly a potent thing that started when we were in Hamilton, there become potent because it was concerned for the city. And now seen that in Phoenix. And so if you ask me to speak about unity, I wanna say where I've seen it be really impactful is when it's done at a local level. Now the, then when you ask about what does unity look like around controversial issues?
You know, anything I say is gonna be controversial at this point. But it just seems to me that the contemporary testimony statement on unity is a powerful one. And some of you will know this, maybe you're old enough to remember when the contemporary testimony came through the, the general Senate of the Christian reform church back in 1980, what six or something around there, 87. It had a powerful statement on unity where basically it was confessing our disunity and confessing that and thanking the Lord that God uses broken pieces, picks them up to do his will. And it was a, just a potent statement on unity, but that the, that, that the that the Syed added at least two lines, or at least got those two lines added that I really appreciate. And it basically in the context of repentance says that when we struck for truth when we struggle for truth you know, give us boldness.
In other words, sometimes the disunity and the fracturing of the church comes because of unfaithful to the Bible and UN faithfulness to the gospel. And sometimes it comes because of pride. And so the can, Deborah Testament says when pride blinds us, forgive us when unity comes from pride, that blinds us. But when we are, when we is seeking to be faithful to the gospel, faithful to the word of God, and that's what brings sometimes struggles, then help us to be bold. And I, that doesn't answer the que, but at least sets it up in terms of struggling. Where is it? You know, where, what, when does the church begin to depart from the gospel depart from biblical teaching where boldness is demanded and not sort of an acuity that just paces over differences.
Thank you. A question here of is community or family at the center of the biblical story. How do these two metaphors family versus community relate to one another or does a metaphor family hinder a sense of missional
Identity? That's good. That's good. Oh boy. There's so many things I wanna say, first of all, want to think my, my own, my oldest son-in-law has written a book on kinship and missional church, this very topic, and he is writing another one. Now he teaches at Regent college. And so I, I, you know, we've been around the block on some of these conversations of kinship and church and seeing how that language is used in the gospels. When you basically says the one who follows me better, be willing to get his father and mother and come and follow me, that kind of language, and then how the churches becomes the new family. And so anyway, I, I, I don't know how to get into these complicated issues other than to say, I do think the church becomes a new family, especially for those who lose their family, because they turn from Christ.
And of course we don't have that problem, like Muslim countries do for example, or Jewish countries or Israel might when people turn to Christ, they lose their family and the church has to become their family. That's the context of those new Testament, I think words. So the church becomes a family, but I'm too much of a Neo Calvinist to say it sort of replaces the family. I think what we're talking here is about a new humanity that embraces the family and that the family remains important part of that new humanity and is a part of the church. And so where I would want to take the question is I would wanna, I would wanna say this, and I've said this quite often and quite strongly that if every church is doing everything they're called to be and do as a local congregation, they're worship, they're preaching, they're sacraments, they're church, discipline, they're discipleship and their formation.
If they're doing everything in the local congregation that is Orthodox and faithful and vital and missional, and yet not training families to train the next generation, it would almost feel like all of that could be lost because very often you have people that you're working with in discipleship, maybe two or three hours a week at most <affirmative>. And some people are spending four times as much time on the Lord's day alone, watching football than they are in worshiping and praying. And so how do you compete with these incredibly powerful cultural kinds of PO powers and, and pressures? And it seems to me that if we're not training parents to form and disciple their children, then we are going to lose any sense of what it means to be the new humanity and the missional and a missional people of God in the next generation.
There's this Australian sociologist, who's an unbeliever, he's a, non-Christian, he's a sociologist. And he kind of wants to examine why is the Western church failing and declining? And the non-Western church growing. And his answer goes like this. He says, the answer's quite simple. He says the, the church in the west, he's thinking about Australia, but also Canada United States, Europe. He says the church in the west is failing to pass along their founding narrative and scripture to the next generation and allow that narrative to touch on all the issues of public life. I've, I've sort of expanded and paraphrased him there. But he's saying the problem is that the, we don't see the Christian faith as a story that encomp all of creation in the entire world. We're not passing that along in the discipleship, within the churches or the next generation. And because we don't have this big, all encompassing narrative that is being passed along, we're not bringing the Bible to bear on issues of gender and sexuality on issues of of, of media, on issue, you know, on issues of social social media, on issues of politics and political ideologies and issues of economics.
And so and so on and so on. And so on all these issues out there, and he says, therefore, the next generation is being discipled in I'm I'm now adding, this is being discipled in into the humanist story, because it has no story that's being passed along. So I think of that very often when I get asked to speak about the family and the importance of nurturing the next generation of parents to train their children in the in, in the biblical story I took a time about 10 years ago and I put something in our bullet and that our at, at our Christian reform church, and I basically said this, any young families that are interesting and struggling with what it means to nurture the next generation, let me know Marni. And I are going to lead a year session on this.
We got so many, many young families that came to us over the next week that we couldn't fit 'em in our living room. We got about 25 families that came within one week. We had to divide 'em into two, and we started wrestling together with all these issues of what it means to disciple, help parents disciple families in the next generation. And we began to see some of that free root already 10 years later. But it, I think that when it comes to the family, if we don't take seriously the creation nature of the family, and it's important for formation, if we don't take that seriously as the missional people of God, I think we're in deep trouble.
Thank you. So it says one, one last question here. So how do you do that? The discipleship of parents to disciple their children? Any quick notes for us
On that one? Yes, I can. I can say that. I mean I was, I just mentioned what I did. I was in new west Christian reform church and basically I got stuck in the pulpit for a whole year, even while I was a faculty member and I was so busy. Finally, we got a senior pastor and I said, what can I do? And I offered this opportunity. I, and what I found was young families hungry. And so what we did is we then went through nine different areas and I'm happy to pass those nine areas along, but it started with baptism and the identity of our children. And I found that so many Chris reform people don't underst and how baptism forms the identity of their children, and they don't build on that baptismal identity. The second thing we talked about was worship in family worship the by the way, the first one was baptism and covenantal identity.
The second one, family and family worship. Third, we talked about prayer in our children. We talked about teaching them to worship in the congregation. We talked about I now I'm, I dunno if I can get all nine of them. We talked about technology in the home, and that became a real dynamic discussion boy, that was important discussion. We talked about how to train our children to begin to discern cultural spirits. And we talked about talked about that. We talked about discipline, what it means to discipline. We talked about training our children for in terms of respecting and loving the poor, the needy and so on. And so what we did is we, here's how we did it. We took Saturday mornings every Saturday morning for four months, and we set aside eight o'clock till noon, four hours. And we got some very good babysitters, so they could have their children downstairs in our basement and not have to worry.
And then we went from eight until noon, and I would present for about one hour and then we would open up for conversation. And we did that for four months going through these nine different areas areas. And we found the discussion to be really rich and really deep. And we've a few people have, have come back and taught us and said that really had an impact on beginning to form some of the things they did as families. My son-in-law who's now out, my pastor <laugh> at hope CRC and Siri said to me recently that I think he said the chair of their council was in that thing and basically says, he's very thankful for what that has done the chair
Of his council and for that congregation. So great. Thank you. And we'll get those nine from you in, in kind of something we can put together. But thank you Mike for being here with us today and for the wisdom you've passed on, it's been marvelous for everyone else. This conversation will be up in the next few days. The recording of it will be up along with the transcript. And also we will have a link to Mike's books that are there. These nine things, and somebody also asked about the book of the Australian author, and I'm sure we can track that down. So all those will be listed on vibrant congregations website and you can find all those pieces there a reminder for next month. We are here with Rob Dixon. Rob has written a book on women in men in ministry to gather it's an intriguing book intriguing topic of how, how women, men, women, and men minister well together and how as they do that, it helps build the kingdom in amazing ways. So hopefully you'll join us next month for that. And for now, for the rest of the day, we offer you God's blessing and God's speed for what happens next. Thanks for being here.