Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Missional Church 101
I'm limping my way along toward understanding what God is calling us to--in my local church and in the denominational earthquakes of the last year, and coming years. One thing--one concept--I keep coming back to is that of the missional church. Here's a good primer, from http://www.missionalchurch.org/.
What is the difference between a missional church and a church with a mission
A church with a mission program usually sees mission as one activity alongside
many activities of the church – Christian education, worship, acts of service,
hospitality and other programs. A missional church focuses all of its activities
around its participation in God’s mission in the world. That means, it trains people
for discipleship and witness; it worships and practices mutual support before the
watching world. A church with a mission sends others to witness on its behalf. A
missional church understands that the congregation itself is sent by God to
proclaim and to be a sign of the reign of God. Just as God sent Jesus, now Jesus
sends the church (Jn..20:21).
What’s so new about the missional church? Aren’t we already missional?
Many congregations already have begun the journey to become more missional, but
have never recognized themselves as such. Some congregations are becoming
more missional and are eager to share the story of their journey. Other
congregations make a distinction between witness outside the church and the rest
of congregational life. The vision of a missional church invites all of the being and
doing of the church to become shaped by what God intends for the world.
Is "missional" a real word?
Yes. It may not be in every dictionary. But the Oxford English Dictionary says the
word has been around for almost 100 years. Missional is an adjective that describes
the way in which we do all of our activities, rather than identifying any one
particular activity. Within the last few years, it has come into more common use.
To be missional is to align all of the program, function and activities of the church
around the mission of God in the world.
Does being a missional church mean starting a lot of new activities? People in
our congregation are already so busy.
A missional church does not necessarily do more outreach activities. In fact, a
missional church may do fewer things better. To be a missional church means to
discern how this particular congregation’s calling is aligned with God’s mission in
the world. To be a missional church means to orient all of the life of the church
around God’s mission.
Is this a technique to help our congregation grow?
Many missional congregations are growing in numbers. But the missional church
vision is not a technique or a way of increasing market share; it is a way of
understanding the true calling of the church. It is a way of life for the church.
Rather than merely focusing on a congregation’s size, the missional church vision
calls us to focus on the reign of God. For a congregation, that means to be a living
sign and foretaste of God’s new creation. It also means inviting people to become
a part of God’s new community.
Does being a missional church mean that evangelism is more important than
No. It would be a mistake to invite people to become citizens of the reign of God
without equipping them for life within the reign of God. The purpose of the
church is to proclaim and be a sign of the reign of God. A missional church is
intentional about both its witness to those outside the community of faith and how
its life together gives people a glimpse of God’s new reality.
What connection does the missional church concept have with the unique
situation churches are facing in North America?
Key to the identity of a missional church is being an alternative society within the
dominant culture. When the church proclaims and is a sign of the reign of God –
whether by loving enemies or welcoming those on the margins – it will be a
contrast community in the eyes of the world. Many Christian traditions that had
previously enjoyed a privileged status in the dominant North American culture no
longer do. The missional church perspective offers important clues on how to be
the church when not at the center of things.
Can the church simultaneously be both nonconformed to the world and
engaged in witness to Jesus Christ in the world?
Yes. Missional congregations demonstrate full engagement in witness to the world,
but in a way that is different from the world. That witness is grounded in Jesus
Christ, who calls us to be "in the world… but not of it" (Jn.17:14-16)
Isn’t that risky?
It usually is. Churches that are in the world, but not of the world, take a lot of risks
– physical, financial, social. They are not universally liked. These churches are able
to take risks for the sake of the reign of God because they depend on the Holy
Spirit for power to witness. These congregations spend a lot of time in prayer.
They also know that, even if they experience rejection in the short run, the final
victory belongs to God.