About 10 years ago there was a flurry of books on the subject. All the contemporary authors were writing about it, but the problem was that most people didn't have a really good understanding if what "Missional" really was. So most people just took the word and applied it to whatever they were already doing. Your church values evangelism? You're missional! Discipleship? Missional, too. Have good coffee? Well that's some missional brew right there. I might be a little facetious, but the gist really is true. In my past two church staff roles, I would have said that we were missional, but the reality is that we didn't have much of an idea of what it meant either.
So what truly is missional? Simply put, it means that the Church assumes a missionary stance toward culture. The emphasis goes from bringing people to sending people. This is often confused with valuing world missions (and a missional church should value world missions), but that's not all it is. A missional person understands that they've already been sent. You are already a missionary! You don't have to go to Africa or South America to live missionally. You are already called to live as a missionary to your neighbors, co-workers, and family.
There are definitely some significant consequences of adopting a missional approach to church strategy. Here are just a few:
- Leadership becomes de-centralized: Every person in the congregation is seen as critical to the mission on a leadership level and the so-called "expert" Christian (typically the Senior Pastor) isn't needed as much.
- Action is Valued: Serving the poor, marginalized, and elderly becomes a critical part of the daily life of the church.
- Structure changes: The church's structure shifts to meet the missional needs of the area. The church leaders look at the surrounding community and, understanding that they were "sent" there for a reason, make changes to speak the language, both literally and figuratively, to the locals.
The reality of a church moving from an attractional mindset (come here) to a missional mindset (go there) comes from a change in how we view the church and, consequently, God. On the one hand, we see God as a being that the church is determined to share with the world. This is the essence of attractional ministry. It's why we bring our friends to church to "hear the good news." But in a missional theology, God has a mission to share the church with the world. It's not so much that the Church has a mission to bring God into the world. It's that God has a mission and His mission has a Church.
Now, this isn't to say that the attractional approach is completely unnecessary. It is! In fact, Jesus was constantly sending his disciples to the next village to bring crowds for when he arrived. This was, in a way, early church marketing. But the key word in the last sentence is not "bring," but "sending." In fact, if you are like me, you naturally saw the emphasis of that statement as being on bringing. But the action Jesus took was to send his disciples. This is how you have to be seen: sent.
This is the essence of missional. God has sent you into the world to be Good News and share Good News with the people in your life.
How will you live "Missional"?