M-R Ducks (the Missional-Relational Movement)

“Thank you for calling Pizza Shack, home of the Shack-a-Lackin’ Fat-Lover’s Extra-Greasy Giant Pizza Pie for only $19.99 delivered, this is Gigi, can I get your phone number please?”

Every time I hear one of these exhausting phone greetings I wonder how fast that must get old to people like Gigi. My guess is, by the fourth time or so.

I’m starting to feel the same way when people call The Core an “ Emerging Church ”. Granted, I don’t really blame them… we have a lot in common with that movement. And if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck… well, you know. But really we don’t necessarily have any more in common with self-described Emerging Churches than we have in common with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, or any random non-denominational church.

What I usually say is that we draw some degree of information and inspiration from the Emerging Church Movement, but the word “emerging” is far too broad and vague to be very helpful in understanding The Core (or any given church, for that matter.) Then I go on to explain about the word “Emergent” and how it is different. Namely, because it is not a simple adjective; it represents a proper nomenclature, being shorthand for “ Emergent Village .” The EV is a specific organization, with which we have made no effort to identify. This is not to be judgmental of them; it’s just that no real relationship exists between us.

So in other words, it is accurate to say that The Core has some emerging qualities. It is inaccurate to say that The Core is an “emerging church” and especially inaccurate to say that The Core is an “emergent church”.

But all this leaves me feeling a bit empty… as if I’ve appropriately said what we aren’t, but not what we are.

So I thought about how we could positively define ourselves, in a simple and clear way. Ultimately I settled on two words that seem to characterize us: Missional and Relational. I would feel safe to say that The Core is a Missional-Relational Fellowship. I know these are not very unique words, but I believe they are clear in their meanings.

We are Missional because we emphasize that every Christ-follower is called in one way or another to help make disciples in the context of his or her own mission field. This results in a much more active and interactive faith that understands that “belief” is not mere intellectual assent to a code of orthodoxy, but to “be” and “live” like Christ Himself.

We are Relational because we emphasize that relationships are the be-all, end-all of human life and God’s redemptive plan—first to enable and cultivate our relationship with Him, and secondly to do so in our relationships with each other. Ultimately, the value of every thought, word or deed is dependent upon its contribution to these relationships.

We are a Fellowship because it’s better than saying we’re “a church”. I believe that to speak of “The Church” in singular, local terms is to risk compartmentalization of the Universal Body of Christ, which can result in competitiveness and cliquishness. That’s why I prefer the word “fellowship” to define The Core as a local manifestation of the global Body of Christ, and fundamentally as a group of people, rather than an institution, building, or establishment. However, just because we don’t prefer to say we’re “a church” doesn’t mean we are less than, or more than that. We are not simply a ministry, a charity, a para-church organization.

By writing this, I would like to encourage other believers and groups who share these sentiments to use the phrase “Missional-Relational” because it really says something about who we are. “Emerging” is like the terms “Modern”, “Post-Modern”, “Contemporary” and so on, in that it is not descriptive. It is based on time-frames and contrasts. In other words, once the “Emerging Church Movement” becomes more established, it is no longer emerging. But names stick, even after they have become incorrect. So why not strive to describe ourselves by actually describing ourselves?

[Here I must note that we don’t want to obsess over describing ourselves. That’s far too narcissistic to be useful to the Kingdom of God . The reason I bring all this up is because of the prevalence of the word “Emerging” and how such a broad brush is really beginning to paint everyone the same color who has a new idea. Let’s keep all this in its proper perspective, but if we’re going to use labels (and there’s no getting around it) let’s strive to be as clear and accurate as possible.]

Within the Emerging Church Movement, I see plenty of people like us, who would be well-described as Missional-Relational. So perhaps we should call it the “Missional-Relational Movement”.

Who’s with me? (I see that hand, thank you…)

0 thoughts on “M-R Ducks (the Missional-Relational Movement)

  1. Bravo! Let’s shift the entire conversation from buzz words (which are easy to dismiss) to real descriptors, as you mentioned. Looks like you’ve already taken a huge step in that direction. Keep it going. :)

  2. Bravo! Let’s shift the entire conversation from buzz words (which are easy to dismiss) to real descriptors, as you mentioned. Looks like you’ve already taken a huge step in that direction. Keep it going. :)

  3. “People ask me all the time, ‘Am I emerging?’ If you’re asking that question, you are ’emerging’… Emerging is…a hermeneutical posture.” -Tony Jones, in a recent interview with Scot McKnight

  4. “People ask me all the time, ‘Am I emerging?’ If you’re asking that question, you are ’emerging’… Emerging is…a hermeneutical posture.” -Tony Jones, in a recent interview with Scot McKnight

  5. Missional Jerry… I’m interested to hear your description of the “function of being missional” as opposed to the “form”.Do you think the church is in danger of adopting the missional concept by “form”alizing it?

  6. Missional Jerry… I’m interested to hear your description of the “function of being missional” as opposed to the “form”.Do you think the church is in danger of adopting the missional concept by “form”alizing it?

  7. While descriptors are necessary to a degree, they are also problematic in that they allow people to assume what you’re about without real investigation. The obvious problems you had with “Emergent.”That said I like “Missional-Relational.”

  8. While descriptors are necessary to a degree, they are also problematic in that they allow people to assume what you’re about without real investigation. The obvious problems you had with “Emergent.”That said I like “Missional-Relational.”

  9. I like your missional relational terms but I don’t know about the fellowship. I would rather be called a church than a fellowship and I don’t know why. Maybe because the word “fellowship” is too churchy sounding (and the word “church” isn’t). I think that my view of the church is what could be described as a fellowship. The New Testament labels each of the churches as … churches. I guess its all about semanitics.

  10. I like your missional relational terms but I don’t know about the fellowship. I would rather be called a church than a fellowship and I don’t know why. Maybe because the word “fellowship” is too churchy sounding (and the word “church” isn’t). I think that my view of the church is what could be described as a fellowship. The New Testament labels each of the churches as … churches. I guess its all about semanitics.

  11. We have recently changed our approach toward the word “Fellowship” as well… even since this blog was written.We have decided that the best word for The Core as a whole is not “church” or “fellowship” but “community”. And we are now calling our individual “home churches”, “home fellowships” instead.Words are words, and you just have to do the best you can.As far as the New Testament calling them churches, you’re probably referring to when it was said (by Jesus himself, even) “to the church in Philadelphia,” or “to the church in Sardis…”Well, it should be noted that the NT never refers to “one of the churches in Sardis”. They were all ONE CHURCH. People of that day had a limited universe, due to a much more stationary culture than we enjoy today. For them to consider themselves ONE CHURCH with all those Christians within reach, was really to exercise the concept of THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH. Note also that they considered those who traveled from The Church in other cities their brothers and sisters.I think a phrase like “the church in Ephesus” is best understood, “the portion of the Church located in Ephesus” when cultural considerations are made.

  12. We have recently changed our approach toward the word “Fellowship” as well… even since this blog was written.We have decided that the best word for The Core as a whole is not “church” or “fellowship” but “community”. And we are now calling our individual “home churches”, “home fellowships” instead.Words are words, and you just have to do the best you can.As far as the New Testament calling them churches, you’re probably referring to when it was said (by Jesus himself, even) “to the church in Philadelphia,” or “to the church in Sardis…”Well, it should be noted that the NT never refers to “one of the churches in Sardis”. They were all ONE CHURCH. People of that day had a limited universe, due to a much more stationary culture than we enjoy today. For them to consider themselves ONE CHURCH with all those Christians within reach, was really to exercise the concept of THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH. Note also that they considered those who traveled from The Church in other cities their brothers and sisters.I think a phrase like “the church in Ephesus” is best understood, “the portion of the Church located in Ephesus” when cultural considerations are made.

  13. Let me first say that actions speak louder than words and your actions of starting something good downtown speak louder than my words on ministry theory. I live hours away from Springfield and try to involve myself in selfless ministries in my area. That being said, there are some great… um… churches, if that’s what you prefer to call them, that label themselves as fellowship. Your right about words being just words and you try to do your best. I can’t see it as being unbiblical to label your group anyway you want (“The Tom Arnold Fan Club”) if what is taking place in your church/fellowship reflects what a church is supposed to do – stuff just like what seems to be taking place in The Core. However, purely for discussion, I know of my own church’s experience. When it was first formed many of the leaders wanted to call us a fellowship. Other churches we talked to, with the title fellowship, told us if they could go back they would change their name to church because that is what they feel is the function of their group. It is true that the churches in New Testament time were separate from each other because of local. However, churches of the present have the very same separation, even those within the same local. Our church has very little to do with the Presbyterian Church across the street from us. We are a separate entity from all of the other churches in the area as well as those that are very much like ours in other areas. We are trying to fulfill the same purposes as many of the churches in the area. But because of cultural/theological/ministry differences, and also location, we are a separate entity. Hopefully we are in UNITY of purposes, just not in a UNION (same organization). We try to cooperate with other churches as best we can through certain activities but we are still a seperate body for what I think are legitimate reasons. Furthermore, te label church seems to encompass many things, including being a fellowship. The word fellowship describes a very important part of church but not everything that a church does and is… in my humble opinion. I don’t see it as being wrong to call yourself a fellowship. It’s probably a personal preference. I just thought I would share my thoughts on why I like the word church better. There is a lot more I like about what I see on your web site than the trivial things I might not agree with.

  14. Let me first say that actions speak louder than words and your actions of starting something good downtown speak louder than my words on ministry theory. I live hours away from Springfield and try to involve myself in selfless ministries in my area. That being said, there are some great… um… churches, if that’s what you prefer to call them, that label themselves as fellowship. Your right about words being just words and you try to do your best. I can’t see it as being unbiblical to label your group anyway you want (“The Tom Arnold Fan Club”) if what is taking place in your church/fellowship reflects what a church is supposed to do – stuff just like what seems to be taking place in The Core. However, purely for discussion, I know of my own church’s experience. When it was first formed many of the leaders wanted to call us a fellowship. Other churches we talked to, with the title fellowship, told us if they could go back they would change their name to church because that is what they feel is the function of their group. It is true that the churches in New Testament time were separate from each other because of local. However, churches of the present have the very same separation, even those within the same local. Our church has very little to do with the Presbyterian Church across the street from us. We are a separate entity from all of the other churches in the area as well as those that are very much like ours in other areas. We are trying to fulfill the same purposes as many of the churches in the area. But because of cultural/theological/ministry differences, and also location, we are a separate entity. Hopefully we are in UNITY of purposes, just not in a UNION (same organization). We try to cooperate with other churches as best we can through certain activities but we are still a seperate body for what I think are legitimate reasons. Furthermore, te label church seems to encompass many things, including being a fellowship. The word fellowship describes a very important part of church but not everything that a church does and is… in my humble opinion. I don’t see it as being wrong to call yourself a fellowship. It’s probably a personal preference. I just thought I would share my thoughts on why I like the word church better. There is a lot more I like about what I see on your web site than the trivial things I might not agree with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *