Ever since the word “missional” began traveling through churches and seminaries as the new hot buzzword, I’ve heard pastors proclaim everything from, “We must be missional!” to “Missional is just mission, but with an –al.” In Live Sent, Jason Dukes takes on the monumental task of defining and illustrating the term, “missional” in a manner that anyone can understand.
“We were made to live sent. We were made to be on mission daily. We were made to be letters of God’s love.” (188)
The Good Stuff
Dukes makes the emphasis repeatedly that we must rethink what the Christian life is all about. Far too many of us, have made the focus of our walk with Christ attending a worship service, joining a Bible study, attending discipleship classes, and filling our calendar with other church events, as we pull out of our driveways and neighborhoods and pass those who need to hear God’s Word on our way to church.
As the title of the book suggests, he posits that we should “live sent” – that is, we have a specific purpose to share and spread the love of Jesus to our communities and circles of influence. And in Live Sent, he challenges the reader to view this as a lifestyle change, as opposed to any sort of church model or program.
And while I agree with so much of his premise, I certainly have some strong concerns as to some of the statements he makes along the way.
The Not-So Good
A poor understanding of sin and as a result – salvation
Throughout the book, Dukes describes “sin” in extremely unhelpful ways.
”[God] is sending us to deliver that message of love to the rest of humanity who have been deceived into thinking untrue thoughts about the Sender.” (34)
“Even though we have wired in us an awareness of a God who made us and loves us, we learn to not love and not trust and not respect because of the ways we have treated each other since the Garden.” (77)
“Sin is rooted in selfishness rather than in whether we keep a list of rules. Selfishness versus selflessness… He loves us to much He can’t bear our rejection of the love we were made to have in abundance.” (81)
“We must understand that the way Jesus taught about the lost throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John indicates that He simply considered them to be people who had not found their way yet or were simply so consumed with themselves that they couldn’t see the way beyond themselves.” (150)
It comes across in the book that the author’s understanding of sin has everything to do with not understanding God or living selflessly. There is no mention of sin as a defiant act against a perfect and righteous God deserving his justice and wrath. There is no mention of salvation as God’s deliverance from death to life, from hell to heaven, from the Kingdom of the Devil to the Kingdom of God. Merely, the reader must infer from the book that salvation is simply receiving God’s love and then living sent. At best this is assumptive and oversimplistic, at worst, this is the expectation that Christians living alongside non-Christians will change their behavior, and in turn, their eternal destination.
Who is a church?
Chapter 2 opens with an interesting dialogue between two men: one believer and one non-believer. These two men would often go surfing together when the non-believer began to grasp onto a different kind of church than the one he had experienced in the past.
Maybe Jesus intended the church to be sent, not gone to.
He asked Ted, “So, are we church right now? Here in this truck? Talking about this stuff?”
Ted replied, “Yes.”
I have a growing concern that much of the missional church conversation (this book included) has a reactionary position on the church. Most missional church leaders and authors seem to be making a knee-jerk reaction to the modern-attractional church whereby the goal of church is gathering. The accusation against this model of church is that it’s all about numbers, it’s all about gathering, and it’s all about building an empire, rather than the Kingdom. I think all of these accusations are valid and need to be made.
However, just because we constantly seem to be falling off of one side of the balance beam doesn’t mean we need to leap off of the other. The Bible anticipates that believers would gather. I myself, wholly agree with Mark Driscoll’s definition of the church as he outlines it in Vintage Church:
The local church is a community of confessing believers in Jesus Christ who obey Scripture by organizing under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, and scatter to evangelize and care for people everywhere. They observe the Biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, and are unified by the Spirit for mission in the world, and are disciplined to live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission to the glory of God.
The Bible defines the Church as a body. To think that somehow a foot, by itself in the distance, can call itself a body is to miss the point. We must gather, in order to scatter well. It’s a both/and. We must get beyond thinking in terms of either/or.
Criticism toward Pastors
”I know how pastors are. I am one. We get all worked up with our fragile egos when people question the importance of the stuff we do.” (121)
“I am a pastor. So, let me speak frankly to pastors. We, generally speaking but it’s nearly always true, have fragile egos. We are not unlike most people who want to feel valued and who want to see value in what we do. So, no wonder, we, again generally speaking but it’s nearly always true, expend so much energy creating some “thing” that we can measure, feel proud of, and get patted on the back for, that it’s no wonder we centralize the church.” (182)
I hesitated to include this offense to this blogpost, for fear of seemingly making his point for him, but I wanted to include it for this reason: What about faithful men who’ve been leading their flocks for decades? What about men who’ve been doing the diligent work of shepherding their church well displaying both faithfulness and fruitfulness? What about men who preach the Word of God with boldness and power in order to equip their people to go into their communities to reach the lost?
The danger of this missional conversation is that though it seems (and this is my own personal understanding) to be reacting against the modern-attractional, Purpose-Driven, Willowcreek, mega-church model, they shoot arrows and throw darts at any and every church model or method that isn’t already in their own camp. They rail against egotistical pastors (some of whom I’ve met in ministry, though I’ve also met some of the most humble, faithful men in the world), and counting numbers, and spending too much time on sermon preparation. It just seems to bash a cartoonish caricature, and offers little to no respect for the very men that first passed the Gospel on to them.
While I think this book has some strong emphatic points that need to be read, for the reasons above, I would not feel comfortable recommending it. One of the reasons I was so excited to grab this book was Ed Stetzer’s endorsement:
”Live Sent is vital for pastors if they are truly going to lead missional churches.”
While I wholly respect Stetzer’s opinion, theology, and ecclesiology, I truly think he completely missed it here.