What the Confessional Church Should Learn From the Missional Church: Mobilization of Laypeople

In what will be the final post on what the missional and confessional wings of the church should learn from each other, this final topic is one I’ve become familiar with over the last two years.

The literature and lectures from missional gurus radically emphasize the necessity to mobilize God’s people to be on mission. In other words, it isn’t left to clergy or spiritual experts to do ministry.  Rather, as Ephesians 4:11-12 says, God gives leadership in the church so as to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.

Missional churches often critique traditional, confessional, and even attractional churches in creating cozy cultures where people come to consume a spiritual product, but nothing more.  As Mike Breen and 3DM would say, this is due to high invitation but low challenge.

This is one reason why the apostolic genius (as Alan Hirsch calls it) is missing in today’s church.  We lack a discipling culture, and this is because we don’t mobilize laypeople to be disciplemakers in their neighborhoods and networks.

Now, some may dispute this interpretation of Eph 4:11-12.  Many confessionalists such as Michael Horton prefer the KJV’s rendering of the text to say that it is church leadership (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers) that do the work of ministry and build up the saints.  Most missionalists say that all of God’s people fall into the category of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, or teacher.

I think both interpretations are short-sighted in some ways, though I do use the latter view for discipleship purposes as it seems that most Christians are good at missional pioneering (apostle), exhorting (prophet), evangelism (evangelist), comforting and counseling (shepherd), or communicating Bible content (teacher).

Even if the APEST interpretation of missional folk is short-sighted in some ways (especially if the interpretation denies that God gives some sort of leadership and authority to individuals in the local church), the confessional interpretation is short-sighted in denying a small role to laity.  We need both distinctive leadership (with some measure of authority) and a culture which mobilizes laity for ministry.

Still, the missional perspective is one which should be adopted by confessional churches.  The church is better served when we everyone is doing the ‘one anothering’ of the church and is equipped to make disciples.  There are great resources available to aid the church to take on this mobilization mentality.


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