Thursday, February 16, 2012

M3: Methodist Missional Movement

This week I saw an article that one of the formational buildings of the early Methodist Movement, the Whitfield Tabernacle, has nearly collapsed from neglect and vandalism.  I couldn't help but wonder if this wasn't a metaphor for the Methodist Movement that, over time, has ceased to "move" and become located in buildings. Eventually all movement stops and begin the practice of preserving monuments. Once great churches, all over Europe and even some in the U.S. are now more like museums than places of worship.

This slow decline was not unforeseen by the founder of Methodism. John Wesley wrote, “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

Below is an ill-formed starting place for discussions about missional discipleship, recovery of passion, and a return to the practice of "doctrine, spirit, and discipline" that I believe rang true in Wesley's heart.
Admittedly much work, reflection, and prayer needs to accompany this process but I believe that within it lies the process for us, not to recover as a denomination, but to return to radical disciple-making. I look forward to your comments and further conversation.


  • Home base church with healthy mission, vision, and values acts as center for M3 (Methodist Missionary Movement).
  • Spends six months to two years training a team of twelve to twenty-four missionaries who commit to a minimum of a two-year commitment. 
  • District/Conference identifies a church that is closing and/or endangered within XX miles of home base. 
  • Existing church closes and becomes center for new "mission outpost."
  • Missionaries begin spending significant time in mission outpost area, including having at least one family move into the area (perhaps in the parsonage?) and begin "staking a claim" to the area. 
  • Missionaries spend at least ninety-days prayer walking entire community, engaging community, sponsoring mission teams from "home base" to come in and provide radical mission service
  • Missional Community group begins for regular study and learning. 
  • Missionaries and those embraced into missional community begin "hang and run" campaign to canvas every home in local community.
  • Missionaries and those embraced into missional community spend intentional time in "walk and chat" campaign in community with home base support. 
  • Home Base supports by offering additional training, children's ministry opportunities, youth ministry opportunities, support for mission efforts, administrative support, financial oversight and centralized banking, etc. and remains center for worship until outpost begins Sunday morning gatherings. 
  • Mission Outpost begins process of intentional discipleship reflecting Home Base system but specialized to meet needs of local community.
  • Sunday Gatherings are not launched until there are at least Connection Groups (12-20) or three Missional Communities (30-70) are established. Lead communicator works closely with Home Base leader for consistency of message, planning, and synergy. 
  • Mission Outpost remains linked to Home Base as center for administration, leadership, sacrament, etc while remaining largely lay led and moves toward becoming a training organization to train missionaries for next adventure. 
  • Home Base brings together home base congregation and outpost partners at least monthly for mega-worship, vision, and inspiration, oversees and supervises leaders, and supports outposts administratively and structurally. this even possible? Can we so "ReThink Church" to even imagine this possiblity? Do we have leaders bold enough to try it? Let us pray that we do not follow the path of the beloved Whitfield Tabernacle and become another decaying monument on the hillside of Christianity. I remain:

Consumed by the Call,

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