‘Missional’ is a buzzword in the church at large these days. We have been through several church leadership fads since I entered the ministry. When I first began as a pastor the Christian world was all abuzz with the “church growth movement.” Then shortly after that came the “third wave”, a movement similar to Pentecostal or charismatic renewals. More recently we had a movement that was known as “emergent” church, or postmodern Christianity. And now all of those fads have faded away- more or less- and we are firmly in the grasp of the ‘missional’ movement.
This new move among churches and ministry leaders is simply a reminder that every Christian and every church needs to be concerned about doing God’s will in every nation, community and home. It is not enough to hire professionals to do ministry, or to send our money to a foreign mission field, we all need to be deliberate and focused as we engage in mission right where we are. And we need to be about doing that all the time.
This requires that our attitudes and churches need to adjust focus a little bit. None of these is a dramatic shift, but even an incremental change can have a huge impact on the world.
· From an internal to an external focus. The tendency of all humans and human institutions is to focus on ourselves. We want to protect our health and interests first and foremost. This is very simply human nature. However, the missional church will focus on the needs of those who are outside the church. In this way we can anticipate growth in the church.
· From a program-driven to a people-development agenda. Churches are filled with programs. And unfortunately, programs die hard. Too often they outlive their usefulness. We keep supporting them because these programs have always existed. Rather than creating energy and positive momentum for the church, they become obligatory burdens for those who feel responsible to maintain them. Rather than that, the missional church is focused on developing people. This includes an emphasis on discipleship within the congregation and evangelism without. Missional churches are more likely to value building “big people” than “big churches.”
· From a maintenance model to a movement model. A maintenance model of ministry is the standard in most churches. These congregations focus on preservation of the status quo. Their very reason for existence is to maintain their existence. That is, they work on evangelism for the sake of the survival of the church. A movement model is just the opposite of this. “Movement” churches understand that God is less concerned with institutions than he is with individuals. That is to say that he has a great interest in the salvation of one soul, but the preservation of bureaucracy is not high on his priority list.
You can probably guess what my feelings are about the missional movement. I think that anything that helps us to focus on what God want us to do is a blessing. But, let’s don’t get too emotionally invested in this movement. It seems to me that it will likely fade away like all the earlier fads. But, lest we get too cavalier about the impermanence of this movement, let’s be reminded that all the previous seasons contained important lessons and principles for us to incorporate. So let’s work together to find how missional will work for us.