Earlier today in staff meeting, we continued our ongoing conversation about the journey of living missionally. Of course, we preface any discussion regarding missional by acknowledging that the term has been misused, if not overused in the current church culture.
“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.” – Alan Hirsch
For a pretty good and concise definition of "missional" click here for the Missional Church Network's take on it.
I like what Reggie McNeal said years about about the "missional church" being a redundant term. In fact, there's no such thing as a New Testament church that isn't missional. However, there are numerous gropus gathering around our nation and community weekly claiming to be the church, but are little more than clubs.
But. . .you've heard me talk about this before, no doubt.
The challenge of living missionally as a Christ-follower and being a church that never forfeits the missional DNA is the ever-present push of those who claim to know Christ, enjoy fellowship with others and allow, although most often unwittingly, for the emphasis of ministry to turn inward, rather than outword.
Jen Hatmaker, a writer, blogger, church planter/pastor's wife, and speaker shared about "How to Kill a Missional Community" at the Verge Network Conference in 2012. I led training for area church planters last Saturday and shared the clip below. We also watched it today in our staff meeting. These are wise words and there's value in hearing what is said.
Some good points to ponder:
- Consumerism is a cancer to missional community.
- Attempting to build an outward-facing faith community with believers who are intent on just getting their owns needs met is simply unsustainable.
- If we develop a church bent on serving the saved, then the already blessed people will come wanting more blessings.
- You will draw the type of people who crave what you're offering.
- Only Christians want forty Christian programs to choose from.
- If we're positioned to reach Christians, then Christians we will reach.
- The (local) church has a very limited amount of resources. If we consume them all for programs for saved people, then we cannot expect our folks to live on mission elsewhere.
- If we're drowning in a sea of Christian consumers, we'd better take a hard look at the scaffolding we have built.
I asked the staff to respond. The resounding answer was "OUCH!"
Yep, it hurts, because we know it to be true. Yet, this is a continual shift for many. This disavows the default in our lifestyles and our belief systems. The reality is that we (humanity) easily default to self-centeredness and wanting things how we want them. That's why the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all we have and our neighbors as ourselves is so radical. It pushes against the default setting in our hearts.
What does this mean? Where do we go from here?
We know what is broken. We often just don't know how to fix it.
I've come to the realization that we cannot fix it. Definitely not on our own. What would do? Create a program to lead people away from reliance on programs?
As was stated in the clip and affirmed by many others - programs, in and of themselves, are not bad. They're tools of ministry. They are avenues of service. It's just that our consumeristic defaults crave more "stuff" and many churches, since we're full of self-centric human beings (not throwing stones, including myself here,) do the best they can and still, in their own power, create more inwardly focused programs and events.
Thus, missional doesn't happen.
That is called sin.
The truly "missional movement" of churches and believers today is a reclamation of deep doctrine, heretofore left on the back burner. Which means, with this movement, these are indeed incredible times for the Kingdom of God.
To grow as fully-devoted followers of Christ (i.e. disciples) means more than adding the adjective "missional" to programs, tasks, events, etc. Yes, we're called to live missionally, but to do so means we must be surrendered to Christ at such a deep level that we're living incarnationally in a world that needs the Gospel!
We are His ambassadors. This is not "new news."
Even here in the "buckle of the Bible belt" our city, Jacksonville, is increasingly becoming more and more "post-Christian." Hey, we're number 77 on Barna's latest list. What this means, practically, is that to continue doing church with an inward focus will result in nothing but higher and higher numbers of those in our communities who see the church as irrelevant and unneeded.
This is much to consider. There is much to do and yet, we have come far. At least we are recognizing the issues more clearly now.