I recently recieved in the mail two out of print books edited by Harvie M. Conn; Theological Perspectives on Church Growth; and Reaching the Unreached. People are usually harsh toward things that seem like there shelf life has expired, but at times things ‘on the shelf’ are valuable to reappropriate into our understanding of what the church is, and what mission is? Or for that matter what a missional church looks like. These two text help bring that out.

The Church Growth movement has been attached to names like Donald McGavern and Peter Wagner, but often times other names that have as much vigor and spiritual wisdom have not been brought up in discussions on Church Growth, one such name is Harvie M. Conn. Listen to Conn rehearse some of the antithesis and concerns many people felt who were planting churches, or considering the Church Growth movement;

Does God want church growth? Is the goal of the church quality, not quantity? Should the church be content with faithfulness in the seed-sowing of proclamation, a “theology of search”, or does God expect persuasion, a “theology of harvest”? Are we called to win men or to glorify God? Will an emphasis on church growth not repeat the sin of Israel in numbering and lead us into a new Constantinism?

If you’ve ever had an interest in the Church Growth movement or are a church planter right now. I think you’ll find many things helpful in Conn’s chapters, ‘God’s plan for Church Growth’ and ‘Church-Mission Relationships’. Or if you’ve ever wondered what a particularly Reformed view of missiology would look like then Edmund P Clowney does a fine job in a chapter entitled, ‘The missionary flame of Reformed Theology’. How I wish he were still present at Westminster Seminary today…

The second book, Reaching the Unreached, many missiologist join together to converse how they might serve the Church as she tries to reach those who have nothing beyond God’s glory in creation to speak to them. Listen to Conn open the work (incidently Conn doesn’t have a particular chapter in this work, but there are many helpful contributors like Ralph Winter, Roger Greenway, and Philip Long);

In the last decade especiall a concept has arisen within evangelical circles to remind us in a fresh way of that unfinished task – unreached people groups. As a technical category, it has been shaped out of the need for strategy planning to reach three-forths of the world’s population who do not know Christ in a saving way. At least a billion people can be evangelized by local churches. But there are at least another two billion who can only be reached by cross-cultural missionaries. The “unreached people” emphasis is one approach to the task.

One thing that needs to be kept in mind as we discuss what a missional church would look like, and also realize afresh that our own local context is a post-Christian missions field, is that there are still many places that are pre-Christian. Places that have never been touched by the Christian story, by the gospel of Christ Jesus; even in a general fashion. Living in post-Christian global cities or post-Christian suburban sprawls may make us think we are in never touched land, but just imagine if you came to a place where no Christian has ever passed by with the gospel. If you can find this booklet please pick it up and wrestle with your own missional calling, yes we are all called to be missionally living Christians but some of us may be called to places that are hundreds of miles away from any visible Christian witness.