The Ministry of the Missional ChurchVan Gelder, Craig. The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.


read about Craig Van Gelder in this post.

My Thoughts

This book covers the bulk of the material we discussed in the class that Van Gelder taught called The Hermeneutics of Leading in Mission. Our conversations centered around Van Gelder’s model of Spirit-Led decision making in the last half of the book. Our final project for that class required each of us to write our own theological theory of strategic action. You can see mine here. Ministry was a sort of sequel to Van Gelder’s first book The Essence of the Church. In Ministry of the Missional Church he emphasizes the centrality of the Holy Spirit in gathering, shaping, and sending the church to participate in God’s mission to bring God’s redemptive reign to the world.

Highlights from the Book


1. Spirit-Led Ministry

2. Spirit-Led Ministry in the Bible

3. Spirit-Led Ministry in Context

4. Spirit-Led Ministry in the U.S. Context and in the Missional Church

5. Spirit-Led Discernment and Decision Making

6. Spirit-Led Leadership and Organization

7. Spirit-Led Growth and Development

“Seeing the Triune God as the primary acting subject changes the way we think about both the church and the world. The world becomes the larger horizon of God’s activity. This represents a fundamental reframing of God’s primary location in relation to the world. When one starts by focusing on the purpose of the church, the church tends to become the primary location of God, which makes the church itself responsible to carry out activities in the world on behalf of God. A trinitarian understanding shifts the focus such that the Spirit-led, missional church participates in God’s mission in the world. In doing so, it becomes a sign that God’s redemption is now present in the world, a foretaste of what that redemption is like, and an instrument to carry that message into every local context and to the ends of the earth in living out this identity and living into this role, the focus for the church shifts primarily to one of discerning and responding to the leading of the Spirit—being a Spirit-led, missional church.”[1]

Summary of Chapter Two

“The ministry of the Spirit pervades the whole of Scripture but usually comes to expression more as subtext than text. This is the nature of the Spirit’s work, i.e., to carry out the works of God and bring glory to the person of Christ. It is critical for the church to understand the ministry of the Spirit if it is to understand how to participate fully in God’s mission in the world. Attending to the ministry of the Spirit provides the framework for understanding this participation. This framework represents the focus of the rest of this book, where the ministry of the Spirit is examined in relation to congregations in the context of the U.S.”[2]

 Two Key Questions to Ask…

What is God Doing? — The Issue of Faith and Discernment

What Does God Want to Do? — The Issue of Wisdom and Planning[3]

Aptitudes of Spirit-Led, Missional Congregations in Context

Spirit-led, missional congregations…

1.  …learn to read a context as they seek their contexuality.

2. …Anticipate new insights into the gospel.

3. …Anticipate reciprocity.

4. …Understand they are contextual and, therefore, are also particular.

5. …Understand that ministry is always contextual and, therefore is also practical.

6. …Understand that doing theology is always contextual and, therefore, is also perspectival.

7. …Understand that organization is always contextual and, therefore, is also provisional.[4]

Established Church vs. Corporate Church vs. Missional Church

Established Church identity

Self-understanding: Exists as the primary geographical location of God’s presence on earth through which the world can encounter God, with this authority being lefitimated by the civil government.

Corporate Church

Self-understanding: Exists as an organization with a purposive intent to accomplish something on behalf of God in the world, with this role being legitimated on a voluntary basis.

Missional Church

Self-understanding: Exists as a community created by the Spirit that is missionary by nature in being called and sent to participate in God’s mission in the world.[5]

From Summary of Chapter Four

“Congregations are created by the Spirit, and their existence is for the purpose of engaging the world in bringing God’s redemptive work in Christ to bear on every dimension of life. In being true to their missional identity they can never function primarily as an end within themselves—the tendency of the self-understanding of the established church. In being true to their missional identity, missional congregations can never be satisfied with maintaining primarily a functional relationship to their contexts and communities—the tendency of the self-understanding of the corporate church the missional church has a different genetic code.”[6]

Spirit Led Decision Making


Spirit-Led Leadership and Organization


Spirit-Led Congregations, Organizational Theory, and an Open Systems Perspective[7]

Growth and Development

Missional leadership and growth is based on adaptive change

Observations from Acts:

Growth and development from…

  • Conflict – Acts 6
  • Adverse circumstances – Acts 8
  • Ministry on the margins – Acts 11
  • Intentional strategy – Acts 13-19
  • Divine intervention – Acts 16
  • New insights into gospel and culture – Acts 10 and 15[8]


[1] Craig Van Gelder, The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 18-19.

[2] Ibid.,  46.

[3] Ibid.,  59-60.

[4] Ibid.,  63-67.

[5] Ibid.,  73.

[6] Ibid.,  93.

[7] Ibid.,  140-153.

[8] Ibid.,  158-159.

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