Musings On Missional

I probably operate on a very basic, possibly naive assumption about the Church. That assumption is that the Church is only about the mission of God. It’s what I read in God’s word. It’s what I witness in the life of Jesus. I suppose it makes me feel rather sheepish then calling a church “missional” as opposed to any other type of church. Are they not all missional? If a local church does not share in, and participate in that very basic mission of God, then the matter of the issue need not be discussed. It has missed the point altogether. It is no church at all.

Being Missional is not to be reduced to a model, methodology, program, or even to the development of another outreach to the poor. It is much bigger than that. It is also not a call to downplay the significance of, and run away from, the “modern” church for the sake of a new way of doing church.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to open a ministry book or attend a church conference without reading or hearing the word missional. The Christian world is filled with everyone’s interpretation. Just walk in any Christian bookstore and go the the popular literature section and I can, with absolute certainty, guarantee you will encounter the word.

Phrases like “missional communities,” “missional leaders,” “missional worship,” “missional seating,”  “missional movements,” even “missional spirituality” and “missional coffee”  which we all know must take place at the local starbucks.”. It seems that everyone wants to use the word missional in their language.

As leaders pile onto the missional bandwagon, the true meaning of the word seems to be getting buried under a pile of assumptions. We need to gain a reasoned approach to a theological calling, (not a methodological calling) which seems to be dividing us and causing such vigorous, and disheartening bashing of Christ’s Bride.

Being missional is an issue of the heart for both the individual as well as a local church.  It is a call to obedience. It is about connecting with the Missio Dei: A biblically-centered, Incarnational life-style. It is not about a new way, but about reconnectting to the heart of God.

All of this has little to do with how you launch a church, or what model/approach you use as a church. It has little to do with whether or not you have a building, use lights and sound, or meet in a coffee shop.

In fact, truth be told, being missional has nothing to do with “how” and everything to do with why. To ask why is a primary question. We are missional because it is what God is. God is on mission and we are follow His example.

The reason the Church is in its present situation is because we have lost contact with the heart of God, not becuase we use mass mailers, lauch large churches, talk about church growth principles, operate dynamic children’s ministries or use marketing techniques to attract people to our buildings. These issues are all straw-men arguments we point to in order to cast blame. However they have little to do with the heart of the issue.

Caution must also be taken when prescribing how that mission is to be carried out. Every city, town, state, country and people group have different needs and cultures. Just because one person uses outreach to the poor to be missional, does not mean all are to follow suit in order to be missional. It becomes all the more critical then to study and know your community and culture. Let no one define missional and then let it stand as prescriptive rather than descriptive.

One final caution must be stated. The quality of a persons conversion must not be measured by how they came to Christ. Which is more valid: one who comes to Jesus through a mass mailer, or one who comes to Christ through serving the poor? Does it matter? Is one’s faith deeper because they first served the poor then came to the Christ, or the one who came to the church through the use of a marketing technique, and then came to Jesus and began to serve the mission of God? Does it matter?

The issue at hand must then be defining missional. I had the privilege of working with a group of leaders for several days as we wrestled with this enormous task. Here is what we were led to Write

The church should organize and align its life and ministry with the Missio Dei.  We believe that missional churches are transformational by nature, sent out,  led, and empowered by the holy spirit, seeking to save those who are lost and far from God. Missional churches participate in and reflect the life and mission of God.

We believe these three basic areas are what it means to be missional.

Missional churches are Restorative (Isaiah 61:1)

  • Freeing people from the bondage
  • Caring for God’s creation
  • Involved in righting social  injustices
  • Building healthy community

Missional churches are Incarnational   (Phil 2:5-8) (Matt 28:18-20)

  • Sacrificial – sharing in the suffering of others
  • “Go and do” not simply “come and see” – therefore becoming a part of the
  • community and not simply a subculture within a community.
  • Contextual
  • Relationally  relevant
  • Posture of humility and servanthood

Missional churches are Proclaimational

  • Share the Word (Luke 4:18-19)
  • Institute the Sacraments (Acts 2:40-47)
  • Seeking to save that which is lost.

Seeing that these things describe the mission of God, it only makes sense that being “missional” fit within this context. Therefore, we must affirm all modes, and methods of church regardless of the model used to plant, relaunch, restart or reconfigure a church.