The writer of Ecclesiastes was right: there is nothing new under the sun. The current focus (dare I say obsession) with the missional church is a case in point. But it is only the latest in a long line of new ideas or renewed ideas that I have seen come and go in the fifty years plus of Christianity I have personally experienced.
The first I can remember was prophecy. There was a time when it seemed every church was having special prophecy meetings or prophecy camps or prophecy seminars. Now, that was not all bad. There has always been an interest in what the future holds, and a lot of people came to the meetings curious and went away trusting the Lord as their Savior. But the interest eventually waned. Like the burned over district in the nineteenth century, the market became saturated.
There followed the church growth movement, the Jesus People and the new groups that derived from beach evangelism and various methods of personal evangelism such Evangelism Explosion and the Four Spiritual Laws of Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ. All of these, by the way, were used to bring many thousands to the Lord.
Then there was the mega-church movement and the small group movement and at the same time an emphasis in some circles on spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, and spiritual warfare. Again all of these permutations were effective in bringing people to the Lord.
But looking back there was a sense that we the church were struggling to discover who we really were and how we were to be in the world. I think we are still struggling. I think the current outpouring of books and seminars on the missional church is a symptom of our malaise. It is motivated by the deep realization that the church is stagnant and we have lost our way. It is an attempt to find our way back to the original paradigm. But I am not convinced that the missional church movement is the cure.
The simple truth is that when we are a church in tune with God, we do not need to follow the latest movements or methods any more than the apostolic church needed a method (and despite protestations to the contrary, that is what missional appears to be, another good idea which will one day run its course). In my mind, what we should be exploring is what it is to BE (rather than do) the church. But that is another post.