I’m alternating between what the confessional and missional movements should learn from each other. So far, I’ve blogged on why the missional movement should imitate the confessional movement on the doctrine of Scripture and systematic theology. I’ve also written that the confessional movement should take a cue from the missional movement on the issue of multiplication. So, what else should the confessional movement learn from the missional movement?
Today, I will contend that collaboration is a practice that confessional churches and denominations would do well to imitate. One factor in the rise of the missional movement is the splintered nature of ‘Christendom’ and the necessity of tangible unity across theological traditions, denominations, and networks in the post-Christian west. While it might have been feasible decades ago to be so separate from the other represented denominations in one’s town (“Here is the Baptist church. There is the Presbyterian church. Over there is the Methodist church. Take your pick.”), today’s climate has shown more disinterest in particular denominational distinctives and greater interest in a local church’s mission.
I find this trend both positive and negative. Indeed, I wish more people were Presbyterian and embraced my denomination’s distinctives…mainly because I think they are biblical. However, I think our cultural climate gives us the opportunity to establish rhythms of cooperation and catholicity which have been lost to us since the Reformation.
So, missional churches have formed and joined various networks bounded by a vision and shape of ministry and mission. Acts 29, Redeemer City to City, GCM, 3DM, Missio Alliance, Verge, GCA, and other networks are breaking down barriers and seeing churches collaborate.
But the local level is just as, if not more, important. In particular cities, churches and their leaders collaborate to see ‘every man, woman, and child have repeated opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the gospel’. There is less turf war and more kingdom war. There is less concern about the bottom line and more concern for the church’s witness and saltiness. Churches from different traditions and denominations will share people, resources, etc. to see particular pockets of people reached with the gospel.
Now, some individuals, such as D.G. Hart, would see this as unconfessional and unPresbyterian. In 1998, Hart made the comment to John Frame in an online debate, “I don’t see what the Reformed have to learn from other traditions.”
Yet, I’ve argued that such an attitude is unbiblical (Eph. 4:5) and unconfessional (Apostles Creed, WCF 25). So, I am glad to see confessional men such as J. Ligon Duncan, Ric Cannada, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Rick Phillips, Harry Reeder, and others be a part of networks such as The Gospel Coalition and Together For the Gospel. Indeed, the confessional voice is listening to the missional voice.
If you are part of a confessional church, perhaps the best way to live out the catholicity of Christ’s visible church is to seek out gospel-minded men and women from churches in your city of different theological traditions to have times of fellowship and prayer. Don’t force collaboration, but trust that the Spirit will produce unity and like-mindedness so that the church may be one even as the Father and the Son are one. (John 17:22).