Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Missional Has a Message

No one needs to be a soothsayer to divine that the missional movement has gained momentum over the last five to ten years. It's been around a lot longer, but missional is now the catchword for young, cutting-edge, in-the-streets followers of Jesus.

Personally, I am pleased with what's happening. The movement grew out of a realization that the church is not making an impact on the culture in post-Christian, Western countries and something needed to change. From Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch's early calls to mission to Alan Hirsch and Alan Roxburgh's stylized methods of how to go about it, the momentum to be "on mission" with Christ in the world rather than maintain the institutional church and its programs is now "it."

I have two observations about the movement, of which I consider myself and Legacy Church late adapters.

First, to be truly missional requires adaptive change, not tweaks that make you look missional. You can't add a food drive or a Habitat for Humanity house build to your church calendar to become missional. It requires deep changes to your values and practices. Too many church staff members seek to reflect the latest trends in ministry by adding a new mission project and miss the reality that missional is not an add-on. It's the DNA of who you are and what you do.

Those of you seeking to be missional by adding a project or two to what you are already doing, STOP. Either leave like Matthew or Peter what you are doing and follow Jesus' leadership into the mission field, or get back to what you were doing before you went to the last conference.

Second, missional has a message. My main concern about the missional call to plant yourself in a neighborhood or meet a community or global need is that more is said about the methods than the message. We want to know how rather than get to know the Who of our calling.

The end game of all the deconstruction of church as we know it and the creation of communities of faith in a neighborhood is a changed life that comes through an authentic relationship with Jesus, the Christ; and, that life-change comes through the message of Jesus in a real-life relationship with someone.

We can dig wells, build community centers, and host art festivals, but if there is no message of the Good News of Jesus then our efforts are as empty as the programs we advertise to get people to come onto our campus each weekend.

I love how God is reviving and reforming the church in America again. I don't want us to miss it. But, we cannot leave the message of Christ behind as we chase the enticing new forms of being the people of God in this world.


MikeS said...

Great word, Gene. Thanks for the reminder! We (the "church" and those who lead it) need to be reminded that we ought to be changing our world and the reason for the change = Jesus.

Keep it up, my friend.

Doug Miller said...


Really good stuff. Thanks for the reminder that missional it is not about an extra missions project, but about transformation in the name of Jesus Christ - of those we contact in our communities.


Tammy said...

Having lived in European culture briefly I became convinced that Americans can market a concept, an idea, a product like nobody else can. I don’t know if that’s part of our capitalistic, money-driven DNA or our need to build something bigger than ourselves, in other words, our egos. But can I say that American business has nothing over the American church. We jump on a new buzzword, like mission or missional, and bleed it for all its worth.

We create conferences, seminars, webcasts, simulcasts, and the list goes on in order to market a concept like mission or being missional; truths that have always been foundational and basic to the teachings of Christ. If we strip all the fancy jargon away, the 10 step guide to being missional, the need for Christian rock stars to illumine us on the concept and instead went straight to the core of the concept couldn’t it be simpler, less expensive, less confusing and less time consuming.

What if we believed that being “missional” is a natural outgrowth of a vibrant, healthy intimate love relationship with God. In other words, I don’t have much to go and tell if Christ and His love for me and others isn’t actively wrecking my life on a pretty regular basis. And if Christ is doing that, how could I not share that with the people around me?

Does it do any good to call people to mission if what they bring to the mission field are empty hands, a voice that doesn’t know or can’t deliver THE Good News, and a divided heart? Just asking????? I think if we focused on the stuff that really matters, helping people know God’s Word, grow in their love for Him, and help them to see that His teachings are really right, good and true, then mission and being missional would happen.

faithrunner said...

Thanks for your posts. I appreciate that each of you are living out a missional life and share the importance of the message of Christ in it all. Tammy, you need your own blog. Preach on!

Patsy said...

The church movement towards social programs both inspires and concerns me, and I haven't been able to put words to the "red flag" I've felt in my spirit for the past couple of years. Gene, Tammy, Doug, and Mike, you've done that.

The reason I serve comes from my relationship with Christ, the One who teaches me over and over what love really is. I appreciate the examples set by Brad & Angelina, George Clooney, Sean Penn, Bono, Ashley Judd, and countless others, and I have and will continue to support some of these efforts and others like them. The Church must keep a continual check on the motivation and ultimate command: Go and make disciples, not go and make this life better.

Tammy's absolutely right. I'm to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength while loving my neighbor as myself. I can't love Him if I don't know Him. And I can't know Him if I don't make the effort to grow in His likeness through Bible study, prayer, community, confession, accountability, worship, and service. I wasn't saved to sit but I also wasn't saved to do out of my own capabilities, strength, or influence. Transformation comes from knowing Him and allowing Him to remold me.

I pray The Church will live a life of service but will follow it up with the boldness to tell each one the reason we all need a savior. Helping those in need is easy and appreciated by the world, and my children's generation is inspired more than mine by a great cause. That's the thought that terrifies me because the message of Christ is still not politically correct and it still bucks the culture's cry for tolerance and coexistence.
The "show me" generation still has to be the "tell them" generation.