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September 17, 2008

How Missional Is Your Church?

I am currently involved in a study group at my church which is evaluating our current mission activities and, ultimately, formulating a mission strategy for the next three years. As a result, I'm reading lots of articles about missions, and looking at what a number of church and mission organizations are doing. My church has a long history of commitment to missions at all levels (local, state, national, and international), but we're seeking God's guidance in what we need to do next and what we can do better. 

To that end, I'd like to ask our bloggers and readers about their own church's involvement with missions: just how missional is your church? How do you encourage every member of the church to see all of life as a mission field? What specific mission goals or strategies have been set for your congregation?

This morning, I read a couple of articles by Arthur Glasser on the "Biblical Theology of Misson" which included this lovely reminder of what we are to be about: "Ours is an age in which people all over the world are losing all sense of hope touching the future. But the reality of the Kingdom means that God has a glorious future for Israel and all the nations. There is going to be God's tomorrow. And every Christian is called to be a 'sign' of God's tomorrow in the world today." 

Do you think your church is doing this? If so, how? 

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Comments

becky

Our church is currently trying to find more ways to reach out in our local, and somewhat affluent, community. This includes our becoming involved with organizations that aren't necessarily Christian but are trying to provide sevices. Not sure yet how well this is working but definetly worth doing.
When we speak of being "missional" aren't we just talking about what used to be called evangelizing? Why do we feel the need to change our terminology? We recently had a guest pastor who refused to use the term "lost" when refering to people we've always called lost. He prefered to call them "distant from God". It made the lost people feel better about themselves, I guess, but I don't think it helps believers to see the seriousness of the situation for those who are indeed lost.

Diane Singer

Becky,

I too disliked the word "missional" when I first heard it a couple of years ago. I thought it was one of those "jargon words" that people come up with to try to spark interest in an old concept. However, much to my surprise, I discovered that the term "missional" has been around more than 100 years. The idea is that we start seeing missions as something we are ALL involved with, not just the few who are called to travel to other lands to be missionaries. It's "lifestyle" missionary activity for each and every member of the Body of Christ 24/7, wherever we happen to be.

Lorna

Unlike the former comment, I believed that you were referring to a team specifically involved in cross-cultural missions. To quote my favorite missionary trainer: "If everyone's a missionary - then no one's a missionary, we're all just Christians." In regards to cross-cultural missions, I would offer the following comments.

Just as every person is unique so is each church body. Evaluate the ‘body composition’ of your church. Do you have mature Christians or a heavy population of new believers? What strengths do you members have: prayer warriors, affluence, leaders, adventurers? Leadership styles affect congregations. Are your leaders studious, gregarious, evangelistic? Strategize according to your strengths.

If you’re just trying to figure out how to distribute funds (80/20 window, levels of current missionary support, etc) – then you’re biggest challenge is how to keep funding coming in. I’ve been in a church where they were trying to decide how to quit funding retired missionaries without offending – that was a challenge – but less about strategy. If this is your bottom line, have you ever considered letting people ‘fund’ their choice of missionaries? They feel more attached to the people they choose to support and less likely to ‘quit’ on a specific person. It seems as though givers today like to know that their contribution is making a difference rather than going into a pot.

Maybe though, you’re asking about tools and methods. That’s a place the composition of your church body comes in. Play to their strengths. Missionaries today need support in areas that are easily supplied by Christians in a global, technological world. Got prayer warriors? Pair up with a techno geek in your body that can supply/facilitate the technology needed for the missionary to blog his prayer requests. Got a missionary that needs a powerful presentation to raise funds while on furlough? Match them with the creative artist/marketing person in your church. Got a college student that wants a mission for the summer? Send them short-term to a missionary that has need to repair his compound.

Perhaps you’re wondering how to select a missionary. What are your churches interests? Enviromentalists: Bring them fresh water with a new well in their community while you tell them about the Living Water. Agricultural: Find places to help plant and give them the Bread of Life. Inner-city: Minister in the streets and tell them of the streets of gold that await in eternity. Unless your congregation can in some way relate to what the missionary is dealing with, they won’t be as likely to understand, to pray, to support.

O, and BTW, I truly believe that missions is not an option – it’s a direct command. My dad never told me that doing my chores was an option – neither does Jesus.

Lorna
Wichita, KS

Mark Berry

Can I echo what Diane said... "Missional" for me is not about activities or Strategy it's about a lifestyle in community and context... therefore a missional church/community is one where the primary focus is not participation in Church activities but in the everyday incarnation of both individuals and the community itself... Missions are things we do, missional is something we are and something that is lived out with God in the world... as John V Taylor (I think) said "Mission is not an activity of the Church but an attribute of God".

To respond to Becky... no Missional does not equate to Evangelism, for me it is far more holistic than that... in the way we use it it it refuses to compartmentalise the activities of the Church (worship, prayer, social action, fellowship, mission etc.) and/or to see Evangelism as the total of mission - Missional therefore means a lifestyle/orientation that see the Mission of God (missio Dei) as inclusive of reconciliation (bearing witness to the promise and hope of reconciliation with God, Creation and others), community restoration (not separating church from wider community), cultural transformation (leading culture and where needed seeking to turn culture on it's head e.g. where injustice and oppression are built into culture) and life in rhythm with Creation - or to put it another way "Shalom" - may I suggest Walter Brueggemann's book "Living toward a vision" - or to live a life in tune with Micah 6v6-8 Acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.

Diane Singer

Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I'm going to save them and incorporate several of your ideas into our group discussions.

Dan Knight

I like the quote from Lorna's "favorite missionary trainer: "If everyone's a missionary - then no one's a missionary, we're all just Christians."

I think that is the great point to understand, although I think the logic could also be rendered: "If everyone's a christian - then no one's a christian..." I have serious doubts that's the conclusion the "favourite missionary trainer" is leaning toward.

My point is Yes, we're not "missionaries", Yes, we'll "just" christians. I think the key step in "missional" strategies is to recognise that "we're not missionaries, just christians".

The Great Commission has nothing to do with evangelism! It is to make disciples! Now, of course, in making disciples, evangelims is a part. Yet the converse is not true: Discipleship is NOT incumbant in evangelism.

Too much of "missional" or missions thinking is the concept of people going after "the lost" (as an aside: I think the "guest pastor" from Becky's post is off his rocker,despite his compassionate intention. The "lost" are not "distant" from God, they are - as we all were - in rebellion to God) Anyway, most mission thinking is about "rescuing the lost", ie: evangelism. Something that is the province of evangelists and missionaries. Rather than see it as being one component of the church's role, view it as the very life of the church: to make disciples. This is something that includes "the lost" as well as the new-borns as the target audience...but wait, it also includes the mature as the active disciple-makers. It's not "something else" that we do in addition to "going to church", rather it is the life of a christian with "going to church" as the secondary activity.

Wanda

I am in the middle of a staff retreat so don't have a lot of time to write right now. But we believe that God has given our ministry, KidTrek, an amazaing vision to equip the church to minister to families in crisis across America.

Many, including Christians on the left, believe that The Church doesn't care about the poor. We believe they do but are not equipped nor know how to adequately serve the poor.

There is a lot of activity - but are there lasting results?

A seminary professor recently told us this is the most radical vision to mobilize the church he has every heard of. We know it is crazy and unless the Lord is in it it will never work. We do serve the God of the impossible so we know that with Him it is possible.

We believe that God is leading us to place 2 "missionaries" in each church with whom we partner. These missionaries will report to KidTrek, not the church. These way they will have the freedom to concentrate on their ministry to the poor without being sidetracked by church issues.

The "missionaries" will model for the church how to serve the poor. They will train those interested in getting involved at a variety of levels.

There are two kinds of churches - Local churches are in communities where the poor live - Resource churches are in middle class/upper class neighborhoods but have a heart for the poor.

We begin with an afterschool ministry - through serving the children the "missionaries" will win the trust of the parents and the neighborhood. They are involved in an indepth way with the community. The "missionaries" will model for the churches walking through life with these families.

This past week after a KidTrek trained adult had spent two years fighting for a kid who was not making it in school saw a team of professionals come together for this kid. After the successful session she walked out into the hallway where the kids father sat with his head in his hands. She walked up and asked if something was wrong, he looked up with tears and said, "I have no words, I have no words to say thank you to you."

This father is Muslim - he knows everything that this woman has done was done because of her love for Jesus. can you imagine if this was multiplied across America?

If interested in learning more check out our blog, www.whymissionaries.wordpress.com or our website www.kidtrek.org

[Ed. note: Wanda, I took out your e-mail address because we don't publish those. People can find you through your website or blog. --GRD]

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