Church Leadership, Philosophical Foundations, Index

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Philosophies of Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Index

Part of the Ministry Resource Guide on Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal. It discusses perspectives that were important to the first edition of the site, and is now part of the site archive that is not updated past 2012.


Discussions regarding ministry in the new era usually propose significant shifts in the way churches think of themselves. The result is not merely a change of methods, but in many cases a seismic overhaul of theology, philosophy, and practice. Some would argue postmodernity requires this. Others would argue that the church is not necessarily obligated to respond to postmodernity, as not all ministry settings are immersed in the latest cultural ethos. Yet most ministry literature acknowledges that whether as a result of postmodernity or other factors, the church no longer enjoys its privileged status, and must adjust.

Classifications of Philosophies

The question remains, how should these adjustments be defined, and how do we classify the resources? As one might expect, publications usually align with a philosophy of how best to respond. I doubt you could find five professors who would agree on a single taxonomy. But to use this site, you must understand my system. Thus when it comes to ministry resources and how they propose the church should respond to the new environment, I use nine categories. Follow the links nested in the following paragraphs to definitions and a list of representative resources.

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Some suggest redoubled efforts in Church Growth, continually striving for relevant methods to attract the unchurched population. This movement peaked in the 90s, but there is still a very active community of scholar-practitioners who convey this perspective.

Missionals go beyond simply responding to culture as if to enhance the church’s relevancy or effectiveness, but engage a deeper quest to recapture the church’s biblical identity. The idea is that in the recently demised Christendom period when the church was confident of its place in society, the church and culture became increasingly inseparable in a kind of “cultural captivity.” This captivity is supposedly reflected in the approaches of mainline denominational, traditional evangelical, and contemporary church growth movements. Consequently, many efforts in defining ministry first deconstruct the church’s symbiosis with the previous cultural landscape and the reconceive the identity of the church in our time. Fundamental to this reconstruction is the belief that the postmodern, post-Christian, post-Christendom era forces new realities on the church, mainly that Christians are a minority in North America and must think of themselves as missionaries in their own home land.

Emergents are similar to missionals, but not entirely alike. They emphasize more nouveau accommodations to postmodernity. Others, from an Evaluating Emergent perspective, react to perceived postmodern Trojan horses of the Emergents.

Others, while still responsive to the new environment, integrate their missional impulses with other commitments. To the extent these respective circles take scripture and Christian mission seriously, they have something to offer. I have described them as Missionally Responsive Trajectories.

  • The first responds to the new environment in a way that respects the role of conventional churches, thus Missional – Convergent With Conventional.
  • Others express their missional orientation out of deep Reformed convictions, and call themselves Resurgent Reformed.
  • Others preserve redeemable elements of the church growth perspective, thus Missional – Convergent with Attractional.
  • Closely related is a group that, while not adherent to church growth philosophy, is still deeply evangelical, thus Missionally Responsive – Evangelical.
  • Then still others are not aligned with a particular philosophy, but selectively adopt various insights that are helpful to missional work, especially among mainline Protestants. I have called them Missionally Responsive – Eclectic.

Again, I have detailed each of these in the article, Missionally Responsive Trajectories.

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Given this diversity, it helps to categorize resources based on their disposition. Each outlook results in a separate genre. Knowing the genre helps one appreciate the content. For example, where I live there are several newspapers. Among them is a standard news source that has thrived for over 100 years, and another addresses a niche market of local pop culture. Knowing the different orientations helps me approach each paper with a different frame of mind. The same is true with ministry resources. I should not expect to read a decidedly Emergent author and see strong affirmations of objective knowledge and absolute truth. Yet without them I may not see the blind spots in my own belief system, and may fail to appreciate the light they can shed on my journey. On the other hand, I should not read more Conventional authors expecting to see an appreciation for multiple belief systems, relativism, and mysticism. Yet without them I may fail to grasp the dangerous repercussions of postmodern encroachments or miss out on pragmatic tips that can forward the mission. So again, each genre makes a contribution.

Quick Links to Philosophies

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