A while back I saw Ed Stetzer put up a helpful depiction of the influential books of the Missional Church movement. It was called a Missional Family Tree. Stetzer didn’t develop it himself, the editors of the Leadership Journal did to accompany an article by Alan Hirsch. Here’s the chart they created;
Beyond debating whether the books in the branches all belong there or not, or whether there are some significant ones missing, which no doubt everyone will have something to argue about on that point, I have a more fundamental difference with the chart and how it illustrates pathways of influence for the missional church. I want to be clear here though, I was helped by it. It offered me the opportunity to reconsider and visualize how I saw influence moving in the missional church conversation. Eventually the time I spent considering it lead me in a clarified illustration that I’d like to share with you.
I want to suggest that the choice of a single trunk tree should be improved by a multiple trunk tree with ever expanding potential for new trunks. In other words instead of a single trunk tree like (ex. an Oak tree) it would have been better if it was a Banyan tree. While Banyan trees start with one trunk eventually they have several trunks in the ground that have branches that become new root systems. See the artistic depiction of a Banyan Tree below;
Darrell Guder’s book “The Missional Church” is certainly the most influential book for the movement but there were other books before his that made his possible like David J Bosch’s “Transforming Mission“; or Lesslie Newbigin’s writings for example his “The Household of God“; and Roland Allen’s works like “Missionary methods: St. Paul’s or ours?“; or moving away from missiology to the arena of biblical studies Albert Schweitzer’s work on Pauline eschatology, “The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle,“was formative for the eschatological commitments behind the missional church; and George Eldon Ladd’s thoughts on the The Gospel of the Kingdom filled out the connection between Jesus and Paul; just to mention a few.
Other books that have come after Guder’s have become so influential as to start new distinct root systems that while connected to the missional church movement have formed their own distinct foundations. For instance I believe that Mark Driscoll’s “Radical Reformissionary” is one such book. From it a host of other books have grown through his Re:Lit project, as well as through the writings and musses of Acts 29 pastors. And I think Alan Hirsch’s book “The Forgotten Ways” has begun its own root system with a host of books it has likewise influenced. Moving beyond books Tim Keller’s smash hit article “The Missional Church” has created its own root system as well with others springing from it.
But there is one other reason why I favor a Banyan tree over a single trunk tree. Banyan’s continue to grow and develop in light of their surroundings. They seem almost boundless in their ability to grow and spread, and they even engulf existing older trees.
What are your thoughts, concerns, criticisms of my proposals here? Which illustration do you favor?