"Can a church be too missional or too focused on global missions?"
Every so often I hear the murmuring. It's natural. No church of any size, seeking to engage its community and and the world for the Kingdom is immune to the this.
Terms become buzzwords all to quickly in our world, so just to clarify. . .
WHAT IS MISSIONAL?
Perhaps it is best to begin with explaining what “missional” is not. Missional is not the latest in a long line of church growth strategies. It is not a new program for evangelism. It is not a way to mobilize church members to do missions more efficiently and effectively. Neither is it a fad created by postmodern Western Christianity. It is not the same as being “mission minded.” It is not an effort to increase mission giving or support within the church.
In the western church, we have been trained to use a scorecard that validates event attendance and participation in church programs as evidence of congregational health. The reality is that by focusing so intently on this man-made scorecard, the church has drifted from fulfilling its commission to make disciples. There are a number of theological distinctions that help undergird the theological foundation of living and conversing missionally. Without a biblical foundation to terms used within the culture of the church, we run the risk of simply attaching the word “missional” onto everything the church is already doing, and therefore ignoring the necessary paradigmatic shift.[i]
In an attempt to make the shift to the new paradigm, pastors and churches often misuse terminology. As Alan Hirsch states, “The word ‘missional’ over the years has tended to become very fluid and as it was quickly co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they themselves were doing, be they missional or not. It is often used as a substitute for seeker-sensitive, cell-group church, or other church growth concepts, thus obscuring its original meaning.”[ii] This is why missional is often viewed as just another phase or program. In this case, since “missional” seems so hard for many to define clearly, the word is misapplied. Consequently, the missional theology we have been called to live out becomes nothing more than a watered-down retread of previous attempts to be relevant in a changing culture. When the term is used in a way to mean anything that is evangelistic or contextualized or relevant (often viewed as being edgy or “cool”) its meaning is then lost in the method employed.[iii] Missional then, becomes difficult to define. Therefore, we are left describing what it is not. We are then relegated to describing its uses.
Missional is. . .
- God's nature (John 20:21)
- Joining God in His mission
- A movement
- Making disciples
In our effort, as a church, to live missionally, we have strategically sought places of impact outside the walls of the church facility. Whether it be a school, a nursing home, a hospital, a community gathering place, coaching at the Y, serving the community, or anything else that offers us opportunities to be the hands of feet of Christ in the midst of the community where we have been placed, missional living becomes the new normal.
As Southern Baptists, global missions has always been a big part or our identity. The thing about global missions is that it begins in our "Jerusalem" and extends throughout the world. Our focus is not to complete our mission efforts here (our "Jerusalem") and then move to the next outlying area ("Judea, Samaria, etc.") before going throughout the world. The mission of Acts 1:8 is concurrent.
Over the years, since before I was called to be Lead Pastor at our church, leadership has led the church to engage globally. This has been done through short-term mission trips and through the partnerships with missionaries on the field, not to mention our financial support given directly to missionaries, through annual missions offerings as well as consistent giving through our Cooperative Program.
As God has blessed us, financially and in other ways, we have been able to send teams to places throughout our city, state, nation and the world.
We have been able to play a strategic role in seeing Kingdom growth throughout the world.
It's a joy to get a message from a church planter in Tucson, Arizona or Greensboro, North Carolina or even Burlington, Ontario relating God-stories regarding services, gatherings, small groups, life change, salvations and baptisms. We celebrate with our partners knowing God has used us in a small way in this great story.
When our missionaries in the UK let us know of a young man in their post-Christian culture who surrendered to Christ as Lord, we celebrate because we are part of this!
WE'RE DOING TOO MUCH REGARDING MISSIONS?
Sometimes, it's easy to forget the mission. It's easy to forget what really matters. It's easy to get worried (i.e. temporary atheism) about church finances and property and worship times and other things and come to the conclusion that "We need to take care of things here rather than worry about those churches and missionaries 'over there.'"
Yes, I have heard this.
It grieves me to hear it.
Here's my premise - we can never do too much.
Oh, I know, we (as one local church) cannot fund every missionary fully. We cannot provide everything for everyone. I understand that reality. However, I believe partnerships are more than financial (though finances are vital, and I don't apologize for reminding people to give.) Prayer for and with church planters, missionaries and those in the community we serve is tangible.
Prayer is not passive.
We must remain focused and remember that God has blessed us so that we may be a blessing. When we are engaged in the larger story, God's story, He is pleased. When we settly for small stories where the kingdom is more about us than God, sin is the result.
Do you ever wonder what happens to churches who refuse to live generously, model prayer and proper stewardship, refuse to give and partner with those "over there" for the sake of the Kingdom?
Some have been dead for years. They still have buildings. They still meet. They survive on the financial gifts of club members who have voted God out of the story, but they're dead and eventually. . .even the building will be empty.
YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO MISSIONAL OR FOCUSED ON MISSIONS.
[i] Brisco, Brad. "What Is Missional?" Web log post. Missional Church Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.
[ii] Meigs, Rick. "Friend of Missional - What Is the Missional Church?" Friend of Missional - What Is the Missional Church? N.p., 30 Jan. 2010. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.
[iii] Thomas, Scott. "What Is Missional?" Web log post. Acts 29 Network: Flower Mound, TX. Acts 29 Network, 15 June 2010. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.