The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (August 14, 2016)
  • Language: English


You can often tell alot about a book by its title. In “The Church As Movement” authors J.R. Woodward and Dan White Jr do an excellent job unpacking the title of this book. For most of us our view of “church” is tied up in a building; a place we go to on a particular day of the week. Our inherited patterns of “church” fall short of the kind of movement that Jesus and his disciples initiated. Imagine what it would look like for us to return once again to The Church as Movement “where everyone, regardless of race, gender and class, is an active agent in the game.” This book will help the reader understand with great clarity what it looks like to recover lost practices and perspectives of living this out in the world around us on a day-to-day basis.

For those not familiar with the terms “missional” and “incarnational” the authors do well at not only unpacking these terms as well as others related to them, but explaining it as well.

Missional is about joining God in His work of restoration in the world around us. “Not only is God relational; he is also a sending God. In other words, God is missional in his very essence. The Father sends the Son into the world to reveal and inaugurate the kingdom; the Father and Son send the Spirit into the world to continue their work, and the Son sends the church into the world, through the power of the Spirit, so that we can join our triune God in the renewal of all things (Rev 21: 5).”

“Incarnation is about inhabiting the place where God has called us to live, to engage in grounded missional practices in the concrete realities of life. It’s moving from Facebook to facing our neighbors and networks. It’s about standing in solidarity with those who suffer, and celebrating with those who are experiencing the goodness of life.”

Mission and Incarnation is best expressed in community and not an individualistic pursuit. “Too often we approach mission in an individualistic fashion, instead of communally. We get the impression that Jesus has sent us out alone, by ourselves. But typically he sent people in at least pairs.”

There is much I love about Woodward’s and White’s book and much that challenges my thoughts and perspectives as well. I have more highlights in this book than I usually do in other books. Over the last 10 years or so there have been many books written that introduces readers to the missional conversation that is taking place. This book builds on the works of others on this same subject without repeating much of the same conversation but taking the conversation several steps further. If you are ready to move from theory to practice in forming missional communities this book will prove valuable.

One of the many things I love about the book is how broad the concepts range but how interrelated they are to the topic at hand. The reader will begin the journey to understanding the church as movement. The reader will learn about leadership structures with a specific focus on Polycentric Leadership. Woodward and White also do perhaps the best I have seen at unpacking giftedness with an intentional focus on the theo-genetic coding of the five-fold typology and how these relate to starting and sustaining missional-incarnational communities. The reader then will journey to understanding how to be a disciple and then how to make disciples. The reader will then come to a broader understanding of missional theology to help frame and broaden perspective of living out our sent-ness. From there the reader will come to an understanding of ecclesial architecture that allows the reader to designs systems and structures for mission. Finally there are the much-needed competencies of community formation and incarnational practices.

This book will serve as a valuable resource and troubleshooting guide for years to come for practitioners in starting and sustaining communities. The many exercises, with a focus on formational learning through meta-learning, reflective learning, and experiential learning along with the resources available within this book gives the reader many tools to process, implement and apply what they are reading.

Order a copy and allow your perspectives of “church” to be reframed and charged with a grander vision than what we usually settle for. Move beyond inherited structures and patterns of “church” to a glimpse of God’s Kingdom movement in the world around us.

In our American imagination success means growing bigger, collecting more resources, consolidating power, creating strong hierarchical structures and growing rapidly. These are the most obvious, simplistic cultural signs of success. The same is true of the church, whether we serve in small or big churches. (Kindle Location 258)
We need a new lens through which to view the church if we want to live into the reality of the church as movement. The church-industrial complex has become the dominant lens for the church. Today, many churches believe their survival and success depends on collecting and consolidating more resources, programs, paid staff, property and people in attendance. (Kindle Location 263)
Scripture portrays a God who is inviting people to participate in his reign, not by statically worshiping him but by worshipfully working with him in the here and now. This glorious vision is not suspended in a far off galaxy; it is breaking into the now. The entire world—our cities, our neighborhoods, our communities and our own lives— are in the billow of God’s in-breaking kingdom. (Kindle Location 1974)

If we are true to our faith and love our neighbors as Jesus did, we’ll love them no matter their country of origin, no matter the color of their skin, no matter their financial status, no matter their sexual preference. We will love people no matter what their religious or spiritual tradition may be. We will actively work for everyone’s well being, not because my neighbor is or might become a Christian. If I want to faithfully follow Jesus, I will love my neighbor because I am a Christian. (Kindle Location 3527)

You need to ditch the church as industrial complex. If you want movement, you need to be willing to start small and focus on making disciples, remembering that discipleship is more about imitation than instruction. You need to become a master at helping your discipleship core start missional-incarnational communities who multiply across the city, into other states and countries, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth. (Kindle Location 3543)
NOTE: I received an advance e-copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. The thoughts expressed here are my own.