A classic 1970s study on the demise of railroads concluded that they went out of business because they thought the business they were in was railroads. It wasn’t. The business they were in was transportation. Likewise, churches may decline or die when they think the business they are in is church. It isn’t. The business they are in is God’s mission in the world.
Under the leadership of scholars like Craig Van Gelder, George Hunsberger and Darrell Guder, a missional church movement has been brewing for several decades now. It traces its intellectual parentage to Lesslie Newbigin, who realized when he returned to the U.K. after years in India that the gospel needed to be distinguished from Western culture and that Western culture needed to be engaged more deeply and challenged more thoroughly by the gospel.