The Church Unleashed

The second of two books that have most affected the formation of my pastoral philosophy is The Church Unleashed by Frank Tillapaugh. Long out of print but widely available used, this along with Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness by Jerry Cook should be formative reading for anyone exploring the ideas behind the Missional Church. Tillapaugh describes in his wide-ranging chapters a variety of ministries that the Bear Valley Church explored in the 1970’s and 80’s. What is central to the development of all of the ministries is the notion that the church should focus their energies on those outside the walls of the sanctuary, to be true missional entities wherever God has planted them.

Tillapaugh emphasizes a phrase that I don’t know is original to him but has become a part of my lexicon as I work to disciple my leaders and laity. The fortress mentality is the fear of being polluted by those outside the sanctuary and therefore, the Christians must blockade themselves inside the safety of the four walls, ministering to one another. Nonsense, counters Tillapaugh, we should not be in retreat from the world but rather, we should consider our security in Christ and follow his command to be the salt and light desperately needed by the people around us.

The church he led built around the ideas in this book has lived out two fundamental ideals that remain critical to the missional churches of today. First, they have committed to maintaining minimal internal expenses in order to focus on external (outreach) ministries. I drive by the modest building every day sandwiched between apartments and small park and reflect that it could have grown much, much larger. Second, they have empowered their laity, trusting that the Holy Spirit can work through everyone. The laity are able to germinate ministries rather than waiting for seeds to be dropped from the leadership.

Long before it was a movement, the missional church was an idea. The Church Unleashed is a practical guide to the foundations of the movement. It is worth whatever effort you must expend to purchase and savor a copy of this book. But don’t stop there. Trust the Spirit’s guidance, break the fortress mentality, and expand your ministry to every corner of wherever God has placed you.