A Missional Church is Spirit-Driven!

At the heart of being missional is the understanding that the ekklesia has received from the Lord a mandate to be a sent people to carry the gospel of redemption to the world.  The church is sent by Christ and is empowered and led by the Holy Spirit to carry out God’s mission.  In order to be successful in this mission, as Costas has noted, “The church needs to develop a spirituality of mission, learning to discern, discover, participate, be patient, and be dependent on God’s grace…As God gives birth to the church as the Christian faith community, the church is the object of God’s mission, it is also the subject of God’s mission.[1]  With this in mind, the most important aspect of the church is not what we do for the Lord but what he by his Spirit is doing through us. 

            A missional church comes together to worship God, and to be realigned with God’s missionary purpose.   A missional Church depends on the Holy Spirit to direct and define the ministries of the church. The community confesses its dependence upon the Holy Spirit as it seeks the Spirit’s will and direction.  To truly be missional is to follow the Spirit’s direction in making the name of Christ known and exalted in the world.  It is beginning to redefine “success” in terms of faithfulness to the Holy Spirit’s calling and sending, (Acts Acts 13.1-4). 

The Holy Spirit is the executor of the missio Dei in the world today.   “Thus, just as Jesus Christ is the center of God’s redemptive mission to the world—since it is through him that God made possible the reconciliation of mankind—so the Spirit is the executor of God’s mission.  In other words, he is the force that extends redemption, which has its center in God, out into the world.  The ultimate goal of the Spirit’s ministry is to fulfill God’s redemptive purpose in Christ, namely, the creation of a new humanity.”[2]   The church is the agent of the Holy Spirit, the great executor of God’s mission and the missional church, through communion with the Holy Spirit is able to find and fulfill God’s unique will for their fellowship.   As Costas poignantly point outs:

[The church is a] mission community of the Spirit.   It is the Holy Spirit who empowers the church for mission and discipleship.  It is also the Holy Spirit who pushes and surprises the church in mission, such as happened to Peter in his encounter with Cornelius in Acts 10.  The work of the Spirit, inside as well as outside of the church, requires serious and profound thought.  The Spirit works as a missional bridge, guiding the community of faith in its discernment of its mission, discipleship, and witness to the broader community and world.  The Holy Spirit pulls the Christian community into new and exciting missional opportunities and challenges.  This is a new theological dimension in missiological circles.  The contribution of the Pentecostal tradition has been and continues to be important in the development of a theology of the Holy Spirit in the context of mission.  To be a community of mission in the Spirit allows the church to live on the frontier of being a sign and agent of the mission of the kingdom of God; it confirms that the church is an object and a subject of the mission of God[3]

The typical pattern of the established and organized church is to rely on its structures, traditions, programs, and organizations instead of the renewing of the Spirit of God.  The missional church seeks to follow the Holy Spirit wherever and in doing whatever he may so desire.[4]  The missio Dei of God the Father, the Son, and now the H.S.  is lived out in the life of the church.  As the church seeks to commune with the Holy Spirit and follow his direction, it is then able to become more then a religious entity; it becomes truly missional.

CONCLUSION

            Being missional is something that every church can and should strive to be.  America is increasingly becoming more unchurched.   Most churches are declining or dieing.  Many churches exist as testimonies to past glory days.  Christians increasingly just merely “go to church” without an understanding that the Holy Spirit wants to work through them in impacting their world for Christ Jesus. 

            The missional movement is a return to the understanding that as Christ Jesus came to earth as a missionary, full of the power of the Holy Spirit, drawing near to people to serve them in love and compassion, so the church is also sent into the world.  A missional church is a Spirit-empowered, sent people, who penetrate the culture with their loving presence while communicating the gospel in relevant ways.


[1] Orlando E. Costas, The Church and its Mission: A Shattering Critique from the Third World,8.

[2] Ibid., 7.

[3] Ibid., 65.

[4] David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 37-38.

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Building Walls or Building Bridges?

A MISSIONAL CHURCH IS CONTEXTUAL

Churches can be biblically faithful to God’s mission and at the same time work to relate to people in culture. Unfortunately there is a segment of Christianity that interprets attempts to become relevant as a compromise of the gospel.  Basically what these people have done in their minds is to make Christianity synonymous with their own cultural preferences.

                The missional church seeks “to remove the ‘extra’ stumbling blocks of culture without removing the essential stumbling block of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:23). “Unfortunately, the stumbling block of the cross has too often been replaced by the stumbling block of the church.”[1] Leonard Sweet observes that, “The church’s leaders have Alzheimer’s disease.  We still love them. We remember and pass on their stories. But they’re living in another world.  They’re totally clueless about the world that is actually out there.”[2] Sadly many churches exist in there own little world oblivious to the fact that they are no longer relevant because they have ceased to contextualize their ministry to the changing world around them.  They are stuck in a cultural rut and either can’t get out or do not want to get out. 

Being missional is about thinking and acting like a missionary in our culture.  It means thinking missiologically.  Missionaries know that, “they must have a profound understanding of their host culture before planning a strategy to reach the unique people group that exists in that cultural context.”[3]  What I mean is that churches will, and should, look different in each cultural context.  The gospel is unchanging but the church must contextualize the gospel to the culture in which we are trying to reach.  The fact is that, “God’s truth is not limited to any one culture.  The gospel is for all humanity, but it is always received within a specific cultural context.  This context includes a people’s language, customs, heritage, worldview, religion and all other things we find in a culture.[4]

For example, an urban church will and should look different from those in the country. Instead of relying on one model or one way of doing church, it is necessary to present the gospel to the community through the church in ways adapted for that particular culture. The church should contextualize its methods, strategically adapting its strategy in order to reach as many people with the gospel as possible.  Paul demonstrated contextualization in his own ministry.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win the Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are with law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.  Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.  (1 Corinthians 9.19-23)

           If the church wants to be relevant; if it wants to succeed in its mission, it must give attention to contextualization. It must learn to understand, communicate, and demonstrate the gospel in a way that is contextual to its community.  “For the sake of the gospel,” we must have the heart of Paul to seek to be a servant of all people so that we might reach them.  The effective missionary studies and speaks the language of the audience’s culture in order to better communicate the gospel.  There is no culture-free expression of the gospel.  The church’s message, the gospel, is inevitably communicated in linguistic and cultural forms particular to its own place, time, traditions, ethnicity and many other factors.[5] Considering the fact that America can no longer be considered a Christian nation, Pastors should be equally skilled in exegeting both Scripture and the culture in order to best understand how to communicate the timeless truth in relevant and meaningful ways.[6]  Some are saying that Christians are as foreign in the post-modern West as they are in unevangelized lands overseas.[7]  If we are going to reach people with the gospel we must become aware of our cultural differences and plan accordingly. 

           Some may be tempted to think that culture and the need to contextualize is unimportant but to think this way is being blinded to the history of the expansion of the church.  For 2000 years, missionaries have sought to take the message across cultures.   For 2000 years the gospel has remained unchanged but the church has undergone constant change.  The reason strategies and models change is because the world is ever changing.  Being missional involves translating the gospel into the language of the culture.  The gospel must be expressed in fresh ways to each culture.  The church is called to cross cultural boundaries and to communicate the unchanging gospel in fresh, and relevant ways.[8]  The gospel is literally translated into a culture.

          As previously observed, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “I have become all things to all men.” Why? Because the gospel message needs to be contextualized to the people one is trying to reach.[9]It is important to note that the missional church may look completely different in its style and methodology from one place to another.  A culturally relevant church in one community may look very different from a culturally relevant church in another community. Stetzer makes a poignant challenge to Pastors to think contextually in their culture without seeking to blindly mimic the model used by another pastor in another setting:

“…too many leaders pastor their churches in their heads and not in their communities. But the truth is, if you can’t pastor the people God has given you (not the ones He’s given Andy Stanley or Erwin McManus), then you don’t love them. John Knox said, “Give meScotland or I die.” He had a passion for the people of Scotland. We need to have the same passion for the people where we are, and to love them and their culture (though parts of every culture should make you uneasy and call for a biblical critique—see Acts 17. The reason we engage culture is not to be cool, trendy, contemporary, or cutting edge—words that have become idols to us—but so that those who live in culture can hear the message of Jesus. That message is more than just “come to Christ,” it involves how we live and structure our lives, and it matters deeply. Our churches should share the gospel message wherever they are and whatever their cultural context.”[10]


[1] Ibid.  [2] Leonard Sweet, Postmodern Pilgrims: First Century Passion for the 21st Century World, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 29.

[3] Stetzer and Putman, Breaking the Missional Code, 2.

[4] Donald S. Tingle, The Gospel Unhindered, 100.

 [5] Darrell Gruder, ed. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in
North America
(Eerdmans, 1998), 87.
 

[6] Eddie Gibbs, ChurchNext, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 32 

 [7] Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches: Planting a Church That’s Biblically Sound and Reaching People in Culture (B&H, 2006), 34.

[8] James V. Brownson, Speaking the Truth in Love: New Testament Resources for a Missional Hermeneutic, (Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1998) 4.

 [9] Ed Stetzer,Church and Contemporary Culture-Always a Challenge,”
http://www.catalystspace.com/content/monthly/detail.aspx?i=1198&m=01&y=2007

 [10] Ibid.

Incarnational Ministry: The Way of Jesus

The incarnational aspect of our Lord’s ministry went beyond the theological truth that Christ was literally God in flesh.  Jesus came as God in flesh to be with people.  He told his disciples that his mission was to seek and to save that which was lost.  Jesus did not camp in the temple in Jerusalem and build a ministry around a physical location.  No Christ Jesus came to love the masses.  Jesus went to the lost and served them.  An incarnational ministry means that the church goes to people the way Jesus did!  If Jesus came in our day, he would probably be just as misunderstood by the established Church today as he was by the Jewish leaders in his day.

The gospels tell us that Christ Jesus was a “friend of sinners,” (Matthew 11.19).  He associated with tax collectors, prostitutes, the diseased, and the down and outers of society. The religious leaders despised him for it and called him a glutton and a winebibber, because he attended the parties of the sinners, (Luke 7.33-35).  Socializing with these kinds of people ruined Christ’s testimony before the religious leaders of His day. The missional church is also often misunderstood and maligned as it attempts to reach out to people in the same manner of our Lord. 

At the heart of being incarnational is simply loving people like Jesus loved people; loving people enough to go to them.  The missional church understands that Christians are to follow the example of Jesus.  Jesus came to physically be with us and to reach us with the Father’s love.  The missional church is an assembly of Christ’s follower’s that understands that they must penetrate the culture with their presence.  Jesus did not retreat from culture, but penetrated it.  He was out among the people, going to their parties and reaching out to them in love.  Christ socialized with people of whom the religious leaders of his day would have nothing to do with. 

The missional church sees its mission as the same as the Lord’s.  Christians should be spiritually distinct from the world, but we are not called to be socially segregated from it.  God wants us to be a living Christ-like influence in this world.  Jesus drew close to us and the missional church seeks to draw close to those who do not know Him.  This is what it means to be incarnational; in the world but not of the world!  The world is not something that the missional church seeks to be isolated from or to shun.  The world is a place we engage and penetrate as missionaries spreading the love of Jesus. 

I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them in to the world.  (John 17.15-18)

A Missional Church is Incarnational

 

The theological support for this distinctive has been fully covered in previous posts.  The church is the extension of the missio Dei.  As Jesus was God in flesh, the church is to be the presence of Christ Jesus on earth.  The mission of Jesus is now the mission of the Church.   Peter Wagner points out that, “The mission of the church is so to incarnate itself in the world that the gospel of Christ is effectively communicated by word and deed…”[1]

The missional church understands that Christ has sent us, his people, to our culture to invite people to enter the kingdom of God.  We have been raised with the understanding that most of what it means to be a Christian, and most Christian activity occurs in the weekly church service. This is how Americans think about Christianity; to be a Christian means that you “go to church.”  Being incarnational means that the true work and ministry of the church is seen as being outside of a facility.   Stetzer explains that, “A church that is incarnational is interested more in the harvest than in the barn.  We have made sure the barn is clean, made sure it is attractive, made sure it is well organized…”[2]  The missional church is not concerned so much in getting people in the “barn” as it is in sending the “harvesters” into the field, (John 4.34-38).  Each Christian is salt and light where they live, work, and play.  In the missional church they are led to be on mission in their world.  In other words, the church, as the body of Christ, must “embody,” “enflesh,” “incarnate” the good news of God’s redemptive mission in their day to day lives.  The Holy Spirit endues the church with the power to be the body of Christ in the world, and the church then “incarnates” or “enfleshes” the continuing work of God on earth. [3] Being incarnational means that we no longer see the church service as the primary connecting point with those outside the church. Connecting with those outside happens within the culture as Christians act as missionaries in physically penetrating the world with their Christlike presence.   We must live, work, play and minister redemptively in our culture. “The well-intentioned tendency of Christians in America to withdraw from culture has only weakened our effectiveness in communicating Jesus to the people we want to reach out to.[4]


[1] C. Peter Wagner, Frontiers in Missionary Strategy, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972), 40.[2]Stetzer and Putman, Breaking the Missional Code, 67.

[3] Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church, 32.

[4] The Gospel Unhindered, edited by Doug Priest Jr.  (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1994) Donald S. Tingle “No Distinction Between Us and Them,” 101.

Aim Before You Shoot!

I love to hunt.  I began hunting as a boy in Southeast Missouri.  Turkey hunting is my absolute favorite.  For me there is nothing like getting up before the sun rises, silently making your way through the dark woods, getting in a strategic position, and then hearing those gobblers as the sun begins to poke over the horizon! 

One of the first principles I was taught about hunting is simply to know, I mean KNOW what you are shooting at!  Not think that you know, not hope that you know, but to literally SEE, RECOGNIZE, and KNOW you are actually shooting a turkey and not anything or ANYBODY else! 

 I think that this principle should be practiced in our Christian community!  There are some theological turkeys that may need to be “shot at.”  After all, we are told in Jude 3 to “contend earnestly for the faith…”  Timothy was also instructed to, “preach, reprove, rebuke, and exhort.”  There is definitely a Biblical precedent for taking God’s Holy Word and correcting or rebuking those who are in error.  That being said, there is a tendency by some in our Christian community to attack and shoot other Christians without first knowing the person or persons they are shooting at. 

We would do well to heed the admonition of Richard Baxter in, The Reformed Pastor,

“We must learn clearly the distinction between certainties and uncertainties, between fundamental issues and speculative theories of explanation.  Then we can clearly distinguish the fundamentals of the faith from those that are merely private opinions.  The peace of the Church depends on the former, not upon the latter…We must also avoid the confusion of those who make no differences between verbal slips of the tongue and fundamental heresies.  How tragic it is that there are those who tear their brothers apart as heretics before they have made any effort to understand them.” 

Sadly we are seeing some personalities in Baptist life who are more interested in shooting then they are in understanding.  I truly believe that we must unite around the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) and demand that those who seek to divide over issues that are not included in the BFM, cease and desist! 

I leave you with another quote from Richard Baxter:

“We must learn to understand the basic reasons for controversies, and then reduce them to the point where we see the differences between genuine differences instead of just seeing the prejudices.  Then we will refrain from making the differences worse than they really are.  Instead of quarreling with our brethren, let us rather cooperate together against our real and common adversaries”

“We must do as much of the work of the Lord in unity and harmony as it is possible to do, not to rule over one another, and to make laws, but to avoid misunderstandings, and to consult for mutual edification.  To maintain love and communion together is what the word of God has commanded us to do.” 

….”ongoing bitterness to each other only strengthens the common enemy.”  

The Characteristics of a Missional Church?

                 We have observed that a missional church is rooted in the understanding that it is an assembly of Christ-followers who are loved by God the Father, redeemed and sent by God the Son, and regenerated and empowered by God the Holy Spirit to continue the missio Dei on Earth, for the glory of God.  Now we will examine the foundational characteristics of a missional church.

In reading through a plethora of books, websites, journals, and sermons concerning what it means to be missional, I have discovered that there is a recurring tendency for missional writers to claim that characteristics are “missional” when in fact these same characteristics are true of any healthy, evangelical church.  And on the other hand there is a tendency to state that certain characteristics are not “missional,” with the implication that these same characteristics are present in non-missional churches, when in fact any healthy, evangelical church would also disdain the same attributes.  To over exaggerate, so that you get the idea, it is like saying, “Missional churches are not racist,”  or, “Missional churches love people.”   They claim everything virtuous to themselves and want to pin many attributes that are negative to the non-missional church.   For example, on a web site that serves as a compilation of missional articles and also as a doorway to the online missional world, these examples were given to describe what a missional church is and is not:

Description of a Missional Church

  • A missional church is evangelistic and faithfully proclaims the gospel through word and deed. Words alone are not sufficient; how the gospel is embodied in our community and service is as important as what we say.
  • A missional church seeks to put the good of their neighbor over their own.
  • A missional church will give integrity, morality, good character and conduct, compassion, love and a resurrection life filled with hope preeminence to give credence to their reasoned verbal witness.
  • A missional church practices hospitality by welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community.
  • A missional church will see themselves as representatives of Jesus and will do nothing to dishonor his name.
  • A missional church will be desperately dependent on prayer.
  • A missional church will feed deeply on the scriptures throughout the week.
  • A missional church will help people discover and develop their spiritual gifts and will rely on gifted people for ministry instead of talented people.
  • A missional church is a healing community where people carry each other’s burdens and help restore gently.

What a Missional Church is Not

  • A missional church is not a dispenser of religious goods and services or a place where people come for their weekly spiritual fix.
  • A missional church is not a place where mature Christians come to be fed and have their needs met.
  • A missional church is not a place where “professionals” are hired to do all the work of the church.
  • A missional church is not a place where the “professionals” teach the children and youth about God to the exclusion of parental responsibility.
  • A missional church is not about big programs and organizations to accomplish God’s missionary purpose. This does not imply no program or organization, but that they will not drive mission. They will be used in support of people on mission. [1]

I have chosen just some bullets out of a long list, but I think you can see what I am referring to.  There is a tendency to claim for their own, characteristics that are desired by all evangelical churches and on the other hand to reject characteristics that all Christians should reject.  This is a negative trait seen within the missional movement that could jeopardize the broader churches receptivity to their insights.  I fear that the missional movement has a tendency toward pride and arrogance and often has disdain towards the “non-missional” church.  Some talk and write with an air of superiority as if they are the only ones who know how to do church right.  Having listened to some messages and lectures of leaders in the missional movement, I have observed that some have gathered Christians into their missional congregations by being an anti-church church.                                                                                                                                                             To be sure, there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding concerning what it means to be missional.  This in part is due to missional leaders and prominent writers who blur the lines in attempting to characterize what it means to be missional.   Yet there are some characteristics that are distinctive to the missional movement.  In the following posts I will highlight some of the more important characteristics of a missional church 


[1] http://www.friendofmissional.org/

Being Missional: Is there Really a Difference?

 

            Some may think that the entire missional conversation is much to do about nothing.  You might wonder if the difference between being missional and being evangelistic is just a matter of semantics.  The biggest difference of a missional church is seen in the ongoing work of the leaders of the missional church to continuously keep the church rooted in its corporate purpose to take the gospel to the world.  The missional paradigm helps each Christian avoid common mental fallacies concerning the nature of the church.  These fallacies have the effect of causing the Christian to lose sight of their personal responsibility to share the gospel with the world.    For example, church is typically defined in one of several ways:

                  Church as a place: For many people, church is a place you go. It is a facility, a campus or a building.  The common phrase, “I’m going to church” summarizes this view.  When a person is at the building or facility, they are at church. The implication is that when they are not at the building, they are not at church.
                 Church as an event or spiritual activities: For others, church is something that happens. Church is defined by worship services, Bible studies, prayer meetings or other ministries. Again the implication is that when one is not engaged in one of these events or activities, they are no longer doing or having church.

               Church as associated with a person: For others, church is an organization associated with a pastor or Christian leader. For example, people often say things like, “I go to Chuck Smith’s church” or “I attend Jack Hayford’s church.”
              Church as offering programs or services: For others, church is determined by what the organization offers to meet needs such as youth programs, music programs, marriage groups, fellowship, discipleship, mission opportunities, etc.[1]
 

However, in a missional fellowship, the church is understood to be God’s sent missionary people. “That means when everything is stripped away – the building, the events, the activities, the leaders, and other identifying markers for the church – the people are the church and church is the people.”[2]  As a missional community, evangelism is the work and the part of the lifestyle of every Christ-follower.  Evangelism and mission is no longer seen as a program or one purpose among others.  Mission becomes the overarching identity of the body.  The church is not the sender but the one that is being sent.[3] 

On the other hand, in many churches evangelism and mission becomes a program, extension, project or special event of the church.  Evangelism has the tendency of becoming what some people in the church do, instead of being the very nature of the church.  Children ministries, youth groups, Sunday Schools, and small groups have the tendency of becoming places of growth but they do not embody any sense of “mission” as a reason for their existence. 
                Mission and evangelism becomes the function of another arm of the church.  In this kind of church culture, the church often becomes the place that Christianity happens.  Programs and ministries are formed to attract members and attendees.  There is little engagement with the lost world outside of the church facility.  There is no plan or strategy to take the gospel out into the culture.  Most of the emphasis is placed on ministering to, discipling and helping Christians.  In this system, which is driven by Christian consumerism, many lose sight of the fact that they are sent to be on mission each day and that the Holy Spirit wants to empower them to be missionaries to their city.
[4] 

In his book The Present Future, Reggie McNeal reveals the contrasts in the different ways leaders can think about the church and its ministry.  McNeal reveals the different paradigms that pastors can have as they fulfill their ministry in the church.  Being missional is first a shift in thinking about the nature of the church.  Once a missional understanding is adopted, the way we do church begins to change.   A missional church stresses community transformation over growing the church, turning members into missionaries over turning members into ministers, and recovering Christian mission over doing church better. [5] 

In the era of “movements,” missional is often looked upon as just another program or model to be used. But being missional is more than just another movement, it is a return to a biblical understanding of who the ekklesia of Christ is and what it is called to be and do. At its core, missional is a shift in thinking that fosters a change in the functions of the church.  Making this shift can be difficult for many who are accustomed to a church that is driven by a consumer mentality; i.e. we exist to get as many people in attendance as we can and meet whatever felt needs they have.  This kind of church says that its mission is to reach the world, but most of its financial, human, and time resources are used to build, help, edify, and meet the needs of members.  Sadly, while the church in America is being “discipled” the world is going to hell. 

 The missional church fosters an understanding that each and every member of the church is on mission in the world and a missionary in their culture.  That is what Jesus had in mind when he commanded us to go make disciples.  In a missional church, mission/evangelism is not seen as one of 5 or 6 purposes of the church.  In a missional church, the purpose of our creation is to glorify God, but the purpose of our existence in the world is our participation in the missio Dei.  Christ did not die on the cross to heal our inner man, to prosper us and make us healthy and wealthy, to aid us in our self-actualization and self-fulfillment.  Christ died to redeem us from hell and to send us out to tell others the good news.  When a person joins a missional church they are told from day one that the church exists as a missional community and they are invited to join them in reaching their city for Christ Jesus the Lord.  In most churches mission training occurs later as an option or is class 401 at the end of a discipling plan.  The missional church makes evangelism and participation in the shared missionary purpose of the church a foundational understanding of all members immediately.


[1] Jason Zahariades, “What is a Missional Community,” http://www.theofframp.org/missional_comm.html.[2] Ibid. 

[3] Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, Mission an Essential Guide, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 14.

[4] Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 135. 

[5] Reggie McNeal, The Present Future,(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003).  

What Does it Mean to Be Missional?

       The term missional is an adjective that describes the fact that a church totally aligns itself with the missio Dei ( the mission of God).  Christ Jesus prayed to the Father, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world,” (John 17.18).  This truth reveals that the church is to be missional, on mission, acting as “sent ones” in this world. The church is formed to continue the mission that began in the heart of the Father, was seen in the life of the Son, and is to continue in the Spirit empowered endeavors of the church.   The basic premise of the missional church is that “missions” is not an organization or program of a church.  Missions constitute the very essence or nature of the church.[1]      

       The trinitarian God is sending the church on mission. “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said, “even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). The central focus of the community in a missional church is the shared, common mission of taking the gospel of redemption to our world.  A missional church understands that it has been sent to a lost world as a continuation of God’s redemptive mission.  The church exists to proclaim this gospel of salvation that has been made possible by the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus for our sins.  Every follower of Christ in a missional church is led to understand that they share responsibility for the mission to proclaim the gospel to the world.  Mission is not a program of the church; mission is the reason for the further existence of the church on earth.  With this view, “mission” shifts from naming a function of the church to describing its essential nature.   In a missional church, the church is mission rather than does mission as a program or activity of the larger life of the church.

       The missional church actually operates and functions in light of a missiological ecclesiology.  The missional church sees itself as being a body of people who are joined together for the purpose of being a part of the missio Dei.  This missional ecclesiology is rooted in an understanding that God is a missionary God.  Therefore, its starting point is the missional nature of the Trinity. God the Father sent the Son.  God the Father and the Son sends the Spirit. God the Father, the Son and the Spirit sends the Church (Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).  The missional church understands that they are God’s sent people. As Costas states, “The Church is the agent of God’s mission.  The church is used by the Spirit as an instrument of God’s mission.”[2]   Costas goes on to aptly describe the missional understanding of the church:

The church is basically a missionary community, i.e., her fundamental character can only be understood from the perspective of God’s mission to the world.   There is an intrinsic, inseparable relation between the church as such and her calling.  In other words, the church is a miraculous redemptive community.  Not only is she the product of God’s redemptive action in the world, but from the beginning she has been called to be the Spirit’s instrument in the activity out of which she herself was born.  Her participation in God’s mission involves the transmission of a message imbedded in her miraculous experiences.[3]

       My definition of a missional church is that: A missional church is rooted in the understanding that it is an assembly of Christ-followers who are loved by God the Father, redeemed and sent by God the Son, and regenerated and empowered by God the Holy Spirit to continue the missio Dei on Earth, for the glory of God. 


[1]Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church, (
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 31.
[2] Orlando E. Costas, The Church and its Mission: A Shattering Critique from the
Third World,
(Wheaton: Tyndale Publishing House, 1974), 7. 
[3] Ibid., 8.

Why Be Missional?

            Various studies reveal that America is increasingly becoming an unchurched mission field.  The percentage of people who identified themselves as Christians has dropped 9 percent from 1990 to 2001.[1]  Furthermore, George Barna has reported that, “Since 1991, the adult population in the  United States has grown by 15%.  During that same period, the number of adults who do not attend church has nearly doubled, rising from 39 million to 75 million—a 92% increase.”[2]  If the mission of the church is to reach this country for Jesus, the statistics reveal we are losing ground.  Although there is still a part of America that is rural, conservative, and Christian, this cannot be said of
St. Louis,where I live, as well as many other metropolitan cities in our country. 

           Michael Wolff described the dichotomy that exists in  America: There is a fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There’s the quicker-growing, economically vibrant…morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually polymorphous, and ethnically diverse nation…and there’s the small town, nuclear-family, religiously-oriented, white-centric other America, [with]…its diminishing cultural and economic force….Two nations…[3]  

            Christians are finding themselves increasingly in a culture that is not Christian and in some places even anti-Christian.  We are also seeing the people of the world come to America.  Missions no longer can be seen as something that happens in another country; in urban centers, the different cultures of the world are making a home and becoming our neighbors.  This new phenomenon has given rise to the use of the word “Glocal” in describing the melding of a local and global ministry.[4] There is a great need to reexamine how we do church and to begin to strategically think about our mission in this new glocal situation. 

The condition of the typical church has much to do with the fact that Christianity is waning in influence in
America.  Sadly it is commonly reported that 80 percent of churches or either plateaued or declining.
[5]  William Easum makes the startling prediction
that three out of four established churches with attendance of 80 to 200 will close in the next thirty years unless they transition into doing church differently.[6]  These grim observations coincide with studies that reveal that a great majority of Americans simply do not go to church.  Outreach Magazine compiled statistical information from various church researchers and pollsters and reported what they saw as, “7 Startling Facts” concerning the church.[7]  They are:

1.      Less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church—half of what the pollsters report.

2.      America church attendance is steadily declining.

3.      Only one state is outpacing its population growth.

4.      Mid-sized churches are shrinking; the smallest and largest churches are growing.

5.      Established churches—40 to 190 years old—are, on average, declining. 

6.      The increase in churches is only ¼ of what’s needed to keep up with population growth.

7.      In 2050, the percentage of theU.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990. 

                The missional movement is in part a response to these daunting statistics.  The missional movement recognizes that in spite of the fact that America has more mega-churches than ever, we are still losing ground in reaching people for Jesus.  Eddie Gibbs notes that, “the majority of church leaders throughout the Western world find themselves ministering in a rapidly changing cultural context that is both post-Christian and pluralistic. Consequently they are in as much need of missionary training to venture across the street as to venture overseas.”[8]   Seemingly there is a great need for a missional ecclesiology that will educate and equip the Church concerning its primary purpose to reach America with the gospel.[9]  Because America is increasingly an unchurched and non-Christian nation, and because the people of the world are making their homes in our cities, Churches must reevaluate the role and function that mission has in their fellowship.

            My desire is to lead Rock Hill Baptist Church to see itself as a missional entity in our urban setting.  The majority of Christians at Rock Hill  Baptist Church do not ever share their faith.  They are not engaged in the mission that has been left to us by our Lord.  How true it is that evangelism is one of the highest values in the church but possibly one of the least practiced.[10]  Our church needs to remember the gospel message and the fact that its ultimate mission is to make known to the world this good news.  In light of statistics that reveal the spiritual condition of our nation and our churches, it is appropriate for our church to begin to consider itself as a missionary entity and function accordingly.   If the church is going to recognize that they are to live as a sent people, it will be its leaders that help them to capture this vision and equip them for this endeavor.  The church will always be sending others into the uttermost parts of the world, but we must also live as a sent people to the neighborhoods in which we live. To simply think of ourselves as established, and being the senders of others, robs us of the gospel-mission, imperative to join God in his mission to the people who live and work in our neighborhoods.  Pastors must be the key leaders that serve as the mission guides for the church.  Pastors must come to see their churches as a fellowship of missionaries who need training, equipping, motivating, and instruction in how to take the gospel to their world. 


[1] Ed Stetzer & David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006) 8.

  [2] George Barna, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateBarriw&aBarnaUpdateID=163 

[3] Michael Wolff,New York, Feb 26 2001, p. 19. 

[4] Bob Roberts Jr., Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006). 

[5] Stetzer & Putman, Breaking the Missional Code, 17.  

[6] William M. Easum, Warning! Turning a Church Around is a Dangerous Calling, “Net Results” September 1999, 21.  

[7] Rebecca Barnes and Lindy Lowry, “Special Report: theAmerican
Church in Crisis” Outreach Magazine, May/June 2006. 
[8] Eddie Gibbs, ChurchNext, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 27. 

[9] Charles Van Engen, God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), 27.

[10] Mark Mittelberg, Building a Contagious Church, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 20.

A Missional Church

My desire is to transform our church to become a fellowship of disciples that has fully embraced the mission given to us by our Lord to reach our community with his gospel.  The Bible record is consistent and clear in its recording of the fact that Christ Jesus taught his followers that they also were to be a missionary people.[1]  The missionary God sent Christ Jesus as a missionary to redeem the world.  The missionary Christ has in turn left all who are his people with the mission of going into the world to make disciples, (Matthew 28.18-20).                                                                                                                                             

The typical Christian needs to better understand the mission of God, the mission of Christ, and the subsequent mission of the church of which they consist.  The fact is that, “Many North Americans fail to understand the ontology (nature) and praxis (function) of the Church.”[2]  There is a great need to recapture a realization and understanding of the role that each Christian is called to have in fulfilling the mission of the Church.  The pastors and church staff are not the only ones who are called to be on mission for Christ.  In order for a church to have its greatest impact for the cause of Christ, it must recapture the vision of being a community of people who are joining the mission of Christ to redeem a lost people for himself.  Evangelism must become more than just a ministry of the church.  Evangelism must become more than just an activity of certain trained or gifted people in the church and be recognized as the ongoing mission that every Christian is empowered by the Holy Spirit to participate in, (Acts 1.8).  This way of thinking moves the church toward becoming missional.                                                              

The understanding that the church is called to be “missional” is a concept that is garnering much attention in America.  Jim Thomas has observed that:

 

“On the one hand, missional hints at moving from church as a “club” for Christians, to church as Christ’s body, sent by God to reconcile the world to Himself. On the other hand, missional means moving from missions as an activity in which a few Christians are sent to foreign countries to convert unbelievers, to mission as God’s most basic purpose, intended for all believers.”

                The point is that there is a difference between being “mission-minded” and being “on mission.”  Too often mission is considered to be an activity that is conducted on foreign soil.  I truly believe that it is of vital importance for the church to embrace the fact that we are to be a missionary entity right in the middle of a lost and dying world.   


[1] Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, Mission an Essential Guide, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 29.  

[2]J.D. Payne, The Challenge of the Great Commission, Chuck Lawless and Thom S. Rainer, editors (U.S.A.: Pinnacle Publishers, 2005), 109.

[3]Jim Thomas, The Missional Church, http://www.urbana.org/_articles.cfm?RecordId=993