Paradigms for Mission Renewal by Tim Snyder, Outreach Architect at Hope Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN and Paul Erickson, Director for Evangelical Mission, Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA.

What if the biggest challenges we face in the work of mission renewal are adaptive ones, not technical ones? What if we don’t need to figure out a better way to do what we’ve always done, we need to figure out a new way to be who and what God is calling us to be? As congregations move forward, it is helpful to consider a series of paradigm shifts. Here is a concrete way of imagining the breadth and depth of renewal. … More:

A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Excerpted from a presentation by Inagrace Dietterich at American Society for Missiology.

What is “Missional Church”? The phrase “missional church” has entered the vocabulary of the church in North America. … More:

One Thing Needed: A Biblical View of the Church by Timothy W. Whitaker

We are living through the most profound change in the relationship between the church and Western civilization since the fourth century. In this new post-Christian age, the church must discover an identity other than that of being the religion of the culture. … all long-term fundamental change occurs because of big ideas. The big idea most needed today is a biblical understanding of what the church of Jesus Christ is. … More:

One Thing Needed: Fall in Love by Lovett Weems

While no one thing is most needful for church renewal, one practice that could go a long way toward that goal is for churches to fall in love with their communities again. The longer a church has been in existence, the less knowledgeable it is likely to be about its community and the less connected it becomes with that community. Although that sounds strange, it is rare that a long-existing church is more aware of the trends, demographics, and movements of its community than a new congregation in that same place. How does this happen? … More:

Missional Imagination: Excerpt from Thesis by The Reverend Rachel Connelly                                                                      

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” The encouragement of utilizing one’s imagination is a part of our learning from a very young age. Using our imaginations can be a link to a new way and even a new world. The missional church conversation encourages Christians to entertain new possibilities of living into the people God is calling us to be in this time and place. Roxburgh and Romanuk, in The Missional Leadership, vividly describe the role of leadership in our time, “to cultivate environments wherein the Spirit of God may call forth and unleash the missional imagination of the people of God.” These authors expound upon this idea of fostering a missional imagination as they emphasize the importance of leaders developing their own skills that help others to think outside of and beyond the box and to reframe familiar stories and situations. Engaging a missional imagination leads God’s people to imagine what the future can become as congregations’ link their core values with the biblical story.

A leading question asked by Craig Van Gelder and Dwight Zscheile in their book, The Missional Church in Perspective, as they consider missional practices of church life and leadership is: “What does missional church look like in practice?” The authors frame the missional church conversation as a place where missional imagination is lifted up and lived out:

Missional Church is, on a deep level, about theological imagination—a different way to see and experience life in the church and the world. In our view, missional imagination is fundamentally about seeing the church and the world in light of the triune God’s presence and activity.

These authors strongly affirm the notion that missional imagination is grounded in biblical and theological concepts surrounding the missional church conversation. They also remind their readers that Jesus, throughout the gospels, introduces new teachings and “stresses new ways of seeing in his encounters with various people in the Gospels.” Seeing the presence and in-breaking of the kingdom of God involves being open to the Spirit of God doing a new thing in our midst. New practices are needed across the church as God’s Spirit calls and leads missional leaders to imagine a new day and new ways of being church.

Diane Butler Bass, in The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church, shares her understanding of the Holy Spirit’s gift of imagination as seen through both pastoral and congregational imagination. Bass first references Craig Dykstra on the skills needed in the pastoral ministry as he emphasizes the need for pastoral imagination. “Good pastors also must have clear awareness and analytical understanding of the world that the church exists to serve, both locally and in relationship to the larger environment in which it operates.” Dykstra shares a definition of the pastoral imagination as “a way of seeing into and interpreting the world” Pastoral imagination offers the people of God ways to see God at work in the world ushering in God’s reign and love.

Butler Bass affirms the need for pastoral imagination while also pressing the need for congregational imagination. She claims that this is a gift of the Spirit. “Thus, the pastoral imagination works in tandem with something else—the congregational imagination, the imagination of God’s people in community.” The pastoral and the congregational imaginations help God’s church to live more fully into the shared ministry of the priesthood of all believers.

The pastoral imagination and the congregational imagination are two different angles of vocational calling and vision, one from the pulpit and the other from the pew, of a common spiritual gift of seeing God at work and embodying faith, hope and love in the world.