Reggie McNeal both gets it and bugs me! His latest book was recommended to me by Scot McKnight. Once I began reading I could hardly put it down. My reactions throughout the book were both “aha!” and “ouch!” McNeal is the author of a previously provocative book called This Present Future; six tough questions for the church, that I bought for our entire church council to read.
His latest book, Missional Renaissance: changing the scorecard for the church takes his leanings from This Present Future and gives it concrete shape for today. The book revolves around three necessary shifts for the church to remain vital: 1. from an internal focus to an external focus, 2. From program development to people development. 3. From church-based to kingdom-based leadership.
The attractional model of church that many of us grew up with (if we build it they will come) has failed for a number of reasons. It encouraged a culture of passivity and spiritual consumption rather than production. It created a climate of competition between churches for an ever-shifting audience. If we are honest, most churches that experience growth experience it as people transfer from one church to another. It creates administrative complexity and huge costs of operation.
The problem, according to McNeal, is that what gets measured gets rewarded and what gets rewarded gets done. When we limit our metrics to people in buildings at one time and money collected and programs offered, success is more of the above. The deeper question that McNeal probes is; have we made deeper followers of Jesus? Have we made disciples that have transformed the world? By and large the answer is “no”. Our attractional model of church has not yielded the fruits of the spirit that pastors and believers would hope for.
McNeal is insightful in his analysis and description of what it looks like to change “scorecards” and get new metrics for evaluating effectiveness. Expect resistance and denial that the old scorecard is faulty. Get ready to be surprised in discovering new ways in which God is leading his church out to touch the world with Good News.