One of the main emphases of the missional church movement is putting mission back at the heart of the community of Jesus. Following from this emphasis would obviously be the question of how best to do mission in the postmodern culture we find ourselves. Now, cultures aren’t hegemonic by any means, but if we’re interested in young people who don’t know Jesus becoming his followers, then we’re definitely going to have to deal with postmodernism (as opposed to creating yet another church for disgruntled church-goers looking for their next church-fling).
I just finished reading Colossians Remixed by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat. If I were part of a team of church planters, this book would be on our "must-read" list. Their understanding of the climate and varying expressions of postmodernism, as well as their ability to elucidate the historical context and current application of Paul’s letter to Colossae in a winsome and humble way, make this book a benchmark in terms of how an ekklesia might function in a postmodern world. Much of the current debate between postmodernism and the church establishment suffers from their proponents talking past one another (as so many debates unfortunately do). The postmodern suspicion of objective truth claims butts heads with the church’s arguments of the objective truth of the Bible, which only calcifies both sides in their positions. Walsh and Keesmaat blaze a trail for Christians to be able to speak in an engaging and humble way with postmodern antagonists. In many ways this book functions as a postmodern apologetic for following Jesus. It goes beyond the simple argument from personal experience (which isn’t sufficient, because the sceptic says what "works for you" doesn’t necessarily "work for me"), and avoids the arrogance of assuming our interpretation of truth is the "objective" one. It centers around the embodied witness of the ekklesia of Jesus, which is as powerfully potent an apologetic as one could offer, in the postmodern world or the Greco-Roman world of the first century. So that’s why this book would be on the list if I were to plant a missional church.
Other books that would make the list (off the top of my head):
- The Shaping of Things to Come, by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
- The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard
- The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, by Lesslie Newbigin
- The Company of the Committed and The Incendiary Fellowship, by Elton Trueblood
- Following Jesus, by N.T. Wright (or Jesus and the Victory of God for the bold)
Any other books you can think of that would lay appropriate foundations for church planting in the postmodern world?