Baron, Eugene & Maponya, Moses. "The Recovery of the Prophetic Voice of the Church: The Adoption of a 'Missional Church' Imagination." Verbum et Ecclesia 41(1), 2020, a2077.
Baron and Maponya evaluate "ecclesial imaginations" in churches within South Africa. They recognize that not only doctrinal statements, but also the way church members conceive of the church, plays a role in the shape of the church in the community (Baron & Maponya 2020, 1).
During the controversy over apartheid, the church in South Africa pursued a mission of advocacy for voiceless people. It played a vibrant role in the community. After apartheid, the church has tended to lose its strongly prophetic voice (Baron & Maponya 2020, 2. The voice of the church, previously speaking for racial equity, was silenced by the success of its mission. This left congregants without a sense of mission and purpose. They then deferred to church leaders to speak on their behalf. Baron and Maponya see this prophetic message of the church to be its purpose. The loss of a prophetic voice thus defeats its purpose. With the church no longer functioning as it did, corruption, violence, and oppression are increasing in South Africa.
There is a movement in South Africa referred to as the "missional church" (Baron & Maponya 2020, 2). The movement, patterned on some versions of North American Christianity, seeks to align with the missio Dei, a concept of the Trinity sending the church to the world, but not as an example of ecclesiology or soteriology. This is a move to recognize the Trinity. The term "missional" had by 2020 become a "buzzword" in South Africa (Baron & Maponya 2020, 3). The churches are interested not in internal matters so much as in going outside of the church to transform the world. This reader recognizes much of the language used to describe the movement as being akin to the business model church growh language of a few decades earlier in North America, but recast with a postmodern concept of the function of the church. Bacon and Paponya do refer specifically to Taylor's articulation of the "social imaginary" (Baron & Maponya 2020, 4), which also suggests this conclusion.
Bacon and Maponya identify three core tenets of a missional church. It must first re-imagine itself (Baron & Maponya 2020, 4). The church must be engaged in an ongoing process of defining itself. This may well be reflected differently in official church documents than in statements from members in the pews. Baron and Maponya cite different periods in church history as occasions for the re-imagining of the church. While this process may be under way in South Africa, Baron and Maponya do not think it is sufficiently active (Baron & Maponya 2020, 5).
Second, the missional church movement is always reshaping and restructuring itself (Baron & Maponya 2020, ). The church is not to look inward and attempt to maintain itself. The purpose of this seems to be to reach across social and cultural barriers. This involves extensive active involvement of the members.
Third, the missional church is a prophetic voice (Baron & Maponya 2020, 6). In this, Baron and Maponya see every member to be engaged in speaking with prophetic force. All of them engage the community boldly about God's interests. This is an area in which Baron and Maponya consider the church in South Africa and in America to fall short (Baron & Maponya 2020, 6).
Baron and Maponya reviewed official church documents, profiles, and services, as well as evaluating social media areas where church members expressed themselves (Baron & Maponya 2020, 6). They found three basic concepts of the church in operation.
Some viewed the church in the guise of a theater. They would expect to be entertained and encouraged there (Baron & Maponya 2020, 7). It provides motivation, rest, relaxation, and a pleasant experience.
Baron and Maponya also found a view they call a "stokvel" ecclesiology (Baron & Maponya 2020, 7). Here it acts as a gathering which provides assistance, often monetary, for those members who are in need.
The third common view is a business model, which, if successful, brings in enough money to grow and thrive (Baron & Maponya 2020, 8). The work of the church is thus shaped by market forces - the demands of the customers, i.e., the participants.
All three imaginations of the nature of the church listed above fall short of what Baron and Maponya view as the missional ideal (Baron & Maponya 2020, 8). For this reason, they consider the church to have fallen silent. Baron and Maponya call for a renewal of the mission of the church, however it is a mission portrayed entirely in terms of a social gospel (Baron & Maponya 2020, 9).