Friday, September 14

Reggie McNeal's six tough questions for the church

The longer we are engaged in missional church planting, the more I find myself going back to Reggie McNeal's, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. This courageous book first came out in 2003, and has been challenging my thinking ever since. In the book McNeal describes the church in terms of six "new realities." The related questions to each of the realities are ones we find ourselves struggling with in our own life and ministry.

1. The collapse of the church culture.
  • Wrong question: How do we do church better?
  • Tough question: How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity?
2. The shift from church growth to kingdom growth.
  • Wrong question: How do we grow this church?
  • Tough question: How do we transform our community?
3. A new reformation: Releasing God's people.
  • Wrong question: How do we turn members into ministers?
  • Tough question: How do we turn members into missionaries?
4. The return to spiritual formation.
  • Wrong question: How do we develop church members?
  • Tough question: How do we develop followers of Jesus?
5. The shift from planning to preparation.
  • Wrong question: How do we plan for the future?
  • Tough question: How do we prepare for the future?
6. The rise of apostolic leadership.
  • Wrong question: How do we develop leaders for church work?
  • Tough question: How do we develop leaders for the Christian movement?
Of these six, the one we are focusing upon the most in our own ministry is #4. We are passionate about developing followers of Christ who understand the difference between religion and relationship. In our own context there are 800,000+ believers sitting in the pews of churches all across this nation. It is my conviction that "followers of Christ" were not made to sit in pews week after week. Their relationship with Christ calls for a response like that of Isaiah, "here am I, send me." We are actively seeking to deconvert disciples from "Churchianity" to Christianity.

Which of Reggie's six points above resonate with you? What are you doing to address these issues in your own life and ministry?


Anonymous said...


Eugene H.Peterson says on page
117 in Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading the following:

"It is astonishing how many ways we manage to devise for using the Bible to avoid believing obedience, both personal and corporate, in receiving and following the Word made flesh."

I(Esteban) am astonished how many ways we manage to devise for avoiding the simply put but difficult command of Jesus to make disciples. Everything we do should be guided by some simple questions:

1) Are we making disciples?
2) Are we teaching our disciples to put into practice HIS teachings?

Disciples of Jesus Christ that abide in HIM and have HIS words abiding in them will live transformed lives, be spiritually prepared for the future, and will cross any and all barriers to share the message with others.

The third and last question is the most difficult but...Am I(are we) living as true disciples of Jesus Christ?



J. Guy Muse said...


You need to start a blog of your own to get these kinds of great ideas across to a broader audience! Thanks for sharing something that I totally agree with you about.

WTJeff said...


I think for the church to move toward any of these goals, #2 has to be the emphasis. Once we have a kingdom perspective v. an empire perspective, the focus turns to making disciples without any regard to how it benefits us or our church. The focus has to be on God and His kingdom.

J. Guy Muse said...


Good observation about #2. This is already happening in a much greater way where we live than our experience there in the States. I plan to blog on this very issue someday because I feel it is so key. When we see all we do as part of God's Kingdom (rather than our mini-kingdoms) the HS is free to work through ALL the available kingdom resources to bring in the harvest.

RMc said...

I read this a couple of years ago, and it has influenced me to work in most of the directions he mentions...

1 & 4 go together IMO. If we do 4, then 1 should be much easier in the church I pastor.

2 & 3 go together also. As we are working on 2, 3 will be easier to realize - I hope....

5 is where I'm at currently, with 6 on the front burner for this weekend.

I suppose I see this like a big plate of spaghetti, you grab one part and it effects all the others.

J. Guy Muse said...


Are you coming up with the new Rodney methodology: the "spaghetti" method of planting churches? :)

I see what you mean by the way the different realities pair up. Let us know how the #6 pans out for this weekend.

Alan Knox said...


These are great questions, and I think the contrasting pairs of questions shows how people are thinking differently. I don't know if I can single out one or even two questions because they are all so important for all of us to think seriously about. Thank you for listing them here.


J. Guy Muse said...


If you haven't already read the book, it is a "must read." Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

RMc said...


No, I'm not that smart.... but I have been forced to live with 5 women for almost 20 years now. That's bound to mess with a guys mind somehow!!

Dion said...

Hey Guy, I guess it won't kill me to comment! I have you in my google reader so it's been a while since I actually saw your real blog. I like the new look.
I think I'm going to have to read that book, but lately I've been trying not to just read more books but start to do what I've already read. I kind of have the same philosophy about conferences too. I know they are going to have another organic church conference in CA but I'm still trying to do all that I learned from the first one! I think I'm going to skip some classes for a few months and work more on doing what I've already know! Of the writing of good books there will be no end!

J. Guy Muse said...


Glad you stopped by. I too enjoy keeping up with you and the family via my OMEA blog reader. One thing I try to do with every book read and conference attended is to try and come up with ONE thing that I intend on implementing or putting into practice. There's always so much good information, books, conferences, etc. but most of it just gets shelved (information overload.)

For example, from the conference where we met last year in CA, I briefly met a guy and visited a while over breakfast. That contact led to him writing me about a project to start 1000 house churches in Venezuela. I was able to correspond and put him into contact with some of the Venezuela missionaries. The project is well on its way in the planning stages for launch in 2008. Who knows, maybe this is what God intended all along in my going to that conference. Just a tiny little piece of a much larger puzzle. All that trip to just make that one contact!?!? All I know is that it is thrilling to be used in the Kingdom in even the smallest of ways!

P.S. I also picked up some great books while there which have added to my understanding of church planting...every little bit helps!