Fomenting a Missional Revolution

A college president recently opened a can of worms in speaking of changing music on a “missional level.” I’m not sure what he meant by that, but “missional” is not going away. It is not easily toppled as some critics have imagined. I have read articles and heard sermons on “missional” which left me puzzled and convinced that many opponents have never been involved with a heterogeneous church or engaged in extensive cross-cultural ministry.

Much time is spent in libraries doing research to find something to use against something disliked. This is especially true when one starts from the perspective that “missional” is bad and needs to be exposed and avoided. The critics then cite sources and employ the worst representatives and distortions to prove their point. For some, “missional” sounds too new age or emergent or associated with the compromise of the social gospel. Surely there is something in “missional” for everyone to dislike, and aberrations can easily be found.

What I hope to accomplish in this brief article is a simple reflection on the validity of churches and Christians adopting a missional stance regarding those who are outside the church and who are in desperate need of an encounter with followers of Jesus Christ. Many churches are mission-minded. They love missions. They support missionaries. They even allow missionaries to plant churches that reflect the culture and community in which missionaries live. Yet often they themselves remain locked in a cultural time-warp, fight battles that were won or lost long ago, debate issues that matter little or matter only to them and their regional or relational sub-culture, and ignore the enormous changes in our society and the challenges we face in reaching people for Christ with the gospel. Disagree if you must with missional churches, but do something to get out of the religious ghetto where you have lost contact with the world and get out of your office occasionally to be on mission rather than on management.

I am not surprised that missional movements have become the whipping post for those who are experts on just about everything. I am surprised that after stating their distaste and opposition, they won’t let it go but will beat what for them is a dead horse.

To understand what it means to be missional, we must distinguish among different phases in our collective history. Many still remember the days when Christian churches were dominant in North America, at the center of society so to speak, places of influence, and when the majority of people to whom the church spoke had elements of a Christian worldview. People of other faiths were known mostly at a distance. Other religions were less visible. We often refer to this as Christendom—where people often spoke, rightly or wrongly, of a Christian nation. Times have changed. We now live in another phase, in another place occupied by competing worldviews. Christianity now competes with other faiths for a place in our society. If Christianity was one time at the center of society, it now occupies the fringes and has been marginalized. Immigration has changed our demographics. The people we meet every day are less biblically aware and have had little exposure to what it means to be truly Christian. They have not been raised in a Christian environment, and Christianity is simply one way among many. Although we possess the changeless gospel to confront a changing world, there is little contact with the culture at large, and preaching the gospel comes to mean Sunday morning sermons for the faithful.

Christians themselves must bear at least some of the responsibility for the present situation. Many churches fled the cities over the last few decades to find suburban refuge. In leaving the cities they left places of influence. Many of the decisions and direction of our society take place in cities where we find institutions of higher learning and government which influence culture through ideas and through legislation. As churches fled cities, Christian influence waned as believers retreated from dark places in need of a gospel witness. Churches built large and impressive suburban ministries. These ministries were fed by a steady stream of Christians moving into the suburbs. Many churches grew by adding displaced Christians, and most evangelism was done by bringing in evangelists for special meetings or by impersonal confrontation. Churches started Christian schools to protect their children from the ungodly influences in public schools. The Christian Right became an ally of political parties and many churches all-too-quickly jumped on political bandwagons which further estranged them from the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. Christians who left cities to avoid the ghettos created their own ghettoized form of rabbit-hole Christianity.

Separatism became the hallmark of many churches, which created an enclave mentality, cutting off believers from contact with outsiders. Lists of regulations were established analogous to what we find in Colossians—“Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch” (2:21). Churches which were not supposed to be “of the world” were no longer truly “in the world.” Christian sub-cultures were created which in the end removed salt and light from society. Churches became havens of rest for Christians alienated from their communities and relatively untroubled by the turmoil of life outside. The building became the church and the center of activity while the people of God grew comfortable and passive in the institutions that now existed primarily for the benefit of those who were already believers. These churches, to their credit, often gave heavily to foreign missions and were known as mission-minded churches. But “mission became only one of the many programs of the church” (Darrell L. Guder, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Eerdmans, 1998, p. 6). Churches saw themselves as sending churches rather than seeing the church as sent into the world.

The present decline of Christian influence and a fortress mentality cannot be reversed overnight. There is no utopian redemption for our cities. There is no reversal for the moral decay and corruption of our society apart from divine intervention. Yet there is redemption and transformation of lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be missional! There is hope for the hopeless, help for the helpless. Believers can be salt and light in government, in institutions of higher learning, in public schools, and in community organizations. God’s answer for the sins and ills of our society is the glorious gospel of grace. Churches know this but without contact with the world, without returning to the dense and diverse populations of our cities, there is little reason to hope for substantive change.

Christians, churches, and para-church organizations can continue to make resolutions which are mostly defensive in nature, often out-of-touch with reality, and filled with Christian jargon or they can commit to a missional engagement as the sent people of God in taking the gospel to those presently outside our reach. They can continue to fear contamination by association with outsiders or begin to build redemptive relationships with outsiders. They can continue to make extra-biblical lists of how faithful Christians should look, act, and dress or they can humbly depend on the Holy Spirit to transform lives and change practices. They can continue to avoid addressing social injustice or they can raise a prophetic voice against evil in its variegated forms and seek to alleviate human suffering as a legitimate implication of transformative gospel ministry. They can continue to fight among themselves for the inconsequential and irresolvable or they can turn their weapons of warfare to pull down enemy strongholds. They can continue to use their resources mostly to sustain their institutions and maintain the status quo or they can invest in planting new churches in cities enveloped in darkness. They can continue to invent new applications of unbiblical separation from brothers in Christ or pursue gospel-centered biblical unity. They can continue to argue over who should speak where or they can graciously disagree and let churches and schools follow the Lord’s leading.

Many churches will not be able to make the transition from being merely mission-minded, that is, caring about missions, to becoming radically missional. Thankfully, in spite of not being able to cross over, God in His good pleasure will deign to use them in His own way for His glory. Sadly, some of these churches will continue their decline as they remain unable or unwilling to engage the new realities of our day; some will continue to receive a stream or trickle of new members who were Christianized elsewhere and added to membership rolls; hopefully some might invest in planting churches, particularly in urban areas, which remain faithful to Scripture and effective in blending cross-cultural ministry and counter-cultural living.

We are living in unusual and challenging times in uncharted territory. Do we remain faithful, few, and fixed in place, or do we faithfully go to Jesus who stands outside the camp (Heb. 13:13)? We may be safe behind the walls we construct but need to peer over the edges and see where Jesus is, with the outsiders, and join Him there. It’s time to look around and see that Jesus has left the room. He is outside many movements and ministries which serve mostly as a fortress against the world. It is time to leave the artificial safety of the fortress and encounter the world with the good news of God’s expansive grace.

[node:bio/steve-davis body]

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't that America has changed and the trend away from a Christian worldview is pretty clear. But the whole country is not quite like Philadelphia or other major urban areas yet. In the community I live in, most people still have a vaguely Christian idea of God, the competing religions are Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Methodism, etc. (though a huge portion are in the Oprah spirituality category I think... sentimental about God but few if any firm convictions).

But in any case, it's still not clear to me what the changing landscape has to do with "missional." I need help seeing the connection.

One question...“mission became only one of the many programs of the church” ... we kind of need a definition of "mission" before we can make any sense of this statement. Clearly the church exists to do multiple things, all connected to the mission of the glory of God. But we gather to build one another up in Christlikeness (Eph.4) and to worship together as believers (e.g., Col.3.16), and to fellowship with the likeminded (Heb.3:13.. which sounds a whole lot like some aspects of a fortress, by the way) as well as to take the gospel to people.

So if "mission" = taking the gospel to people (vs. being "attractional" to bring them to us), it is indeed "one of the many programs of the church," though "program" isn't the word I'd use there.

So if I should believe that "mission" is everything the church does, why should I believe that?

Charlie's picture

Steve, I don't think this was one of your better articles. Perhaps it was originally in a series of posts from your blog or something like that, but by itself, it doesn't communicate much. You have a lot of thought-cliches, phrases that sound meaningful but aren't.

For example:

Quote:
To understand what it means to be missional, we must distinguish among different phases in our collective history.
I agree with this statement, but we need much more. The historical overview is only the background story. While you provided a helpful summary of cultural shifts in the last century or so, you still don't explain what it means to react to those changes in a missional manner.

Quote:
Yet there is redemption and transformation of lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be missional!
Really? Wouldn't almost every evangelical church, missional or not, agree with this statement? So it can't be what missional means. Perhaps it's an idea that missional people find significant. But, you don't develop the idea so that people can understand the distinctive nature of the missional church.

Quote:
We are living in unusual and challenging times in uncharted territory. Do we remain faithful, few, and fixed in place, or do we faithfully go to Jesus who stands outside the camp (Heb. 13:13)?

Yes, let's go to Jesus! But wait, I don't know what that means. It smells like a false dichotomy.

Really, the only developed idea from start to finish is that people who disagree with "missional" ideas are critical, out-of-touch, and irrelevant. You say critics misunderstand the missional church; perhaps advocates of missional thinking ought to do a better job explaining themselves. I think SI readers are looking for two things: 1) what concrete activities distinguish a missional church from a non-missional one, and 2) how do those activities all connect to an over-arching theology that drives them?

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:
One question...“mission became only one of the many programs of the church” ... we kind of need a definition of "mission" before we can make any sense of this statement. Clearly the church exists to do multiple things, all connected to the mission of the glory of God. But we gather to build one another up in Christlikeness (Eph.4) and to worship together as believers (e.g., Col.3.16), and to fellowship with the likeminded (Heb.3:13.. which sounds a whole lot like some aspects of a fortress, by the way) as well as to take the gospel to people.

So if "mission" = taking the gospel to people (vs. being "attractional" to bring them to us), it is indeed "one of the many programs of the church," though "program" isn't the word I'd use there.

So if I should believe that "mission" is everything the church does, why should I believe that?


Along these lines, it is unfortunate that the word 'program' has such negative connotations. Really- any time we do something in an organized manner, one could call it a 'program'.

Steve Davis wrote:
which remain faithful to Scripture and effective in blending cross-cultural ministry and counter-cultural living.

I wonder if this is the basic idea behind 'missional'. I'll grant that being a 'missionary' church or 'mission-minded' has long been mostly associated with foreign missions and not efforts to evangelize in one's community. Almost as if it isn't really missions unless you go to a foreign field, and church planting isn't really church planting unless you start one where there are no other churches within a 100 mile radius.

ChrisC's picture

Steve Davis wrote:
Separatism became the hallmark of many churches, which created an enclave mentality, cutting off believers from contact with outsiders.
not that it matters much, but how can i tell whether separatism created an enclave mentality or the enclave mentality created separatism?

white flight's affect on urban/suburban churches is an interesting problem. before thanksgiving, i was in west kensignton for a weekend (i know, hardly a blink of time) helping a ministry that's using an old church building that got left behind because too many people didn't feel safe worshipping there. i never felt unsafe, but we took some common-sense measures like not wandering the streets alone or late at night. and none of us had our cars there.

J. D. Coleman's picture

IMHO it seems that we do a lot of unnecessary bickering about terminology here (and on SI in general). Granted, "missional" is a somewhat vague and cliche term, but the author acknowledges that. Instead of focusing on the exact definition and activities of a "missional" church, he is addressing a mentality.

The need Steve Davis is hilighting is not to further define or structure -- many churches have good definitions and descriptions. They agree that the Gospel is transformational. They talk about outreach. But they still have a "holy huddle" mentality.

In other words, we need to quit arguing about what "missional" really means (or doesn't mean) and actually do something.

Perhaps it would be more profitable to discuss here specific ways in which we can engage the lost in America today with the gospel. Any thoughts?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

@ Bro. Coleman- Our word choices are significant, and in IFBdom some terms have baggage we need to deal with.

For instance, I noticed that you used the words 'bickering' and 'arguing' to describe the discussion- need every discussion of differing points of view be characterized as a petty argument, thus insinuating that those who've participated are themselves being contentious?

I say "No"- discussion is necessary, disagreement is inevitable, and for the teachable spirit, it is always enlightening.

I've viewed 'missional' as an old idea in a new package, so I agree that a focus on new or trendy labels to describe the mission distracts from accomplishing the mission itself.

Mike Harding's picture

Steve,

Thanks for your thought provoking article. My only exposure to the missional church has been one a few miles from us. Also, I have had a few students attend a missional church near their Christian college. In both cases I believe that the missional church philosophy has had a very negative influence over that particular church and the students from our church.

I know that you and your brother John most likely apply the missional approach carefully and with discernment. My main concern is that the missional approach could easily lead to a social gospel emphasis. My other concern is that the missional approach could diminish a necessary separation from worldliness. "Missional" is a legitimate word that we all should be able to use freely in our ministry. The issue is defining the mission properly.

First Baptist Church of Troy exists to passionately promote the glory of God’s name through the extension of Christ’s Lordship in the New Testament church throughout the world (Rom 1:1–5; Phil 2:5–11; Matt 28:19–20) via the evangelization of the lost, the edification of the saved, the establishment of vital churches, and the expansion of God’s salvific rule over the people groups of all nations (1 Cor 1:17; Col 1:28–29; Rom 12:4–8): “That the Word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored” (ESV 2 Thess 3:1).

Implementing the mission is always the great task. I have appreciated your commitment to the mission of the church these past 25 years. You have always been militant (that's a good word in this context) in your service for Christ. I know you will continue to serve God with your whole heart. Yes, I have concerns about the missional church philosophy; however, there are certainly things I can learn even from those with whom I have disagreement.

I attended Dave Doran's conference on the missional church. I thought he handled the issue carefully and discerningly. Other than that, I am not familiar with anyone else who has done an expose on the movement.

Pastor Mike Harding

J. D. Coleman's picture

Susan,

I agree that discussion and even disagreement can be profitable. It just appears to me that most of this discussion revolves around labels whereas the point of the article, which was a good one, was overlooked.

I don't believe that the discussion has been contentious, however, and I agree that I could have used better word choices. Words are indeed important.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
But they still have a "holy huddle" mentality.

In other words, we need to quit arguing about what "missional" really means (or doesn't mean) and actually do something.

Perhaps it would be more profitable to discuss here specific ways in which we can engage the lost in America today with the gospel. Any thoughts?


Well, I'm not sure it would be on topic in this particular thread. Steve is clearly saying big change is needed. Before we "just do something" we should think through what it is that we ought to do.

But I do agree it would be good to try to look past the term and figure out what the essence is. I've found that to be a bit frustrating so far, though it seemed like something like clarity was emerging in the thread on Steve's last article. That is, he seemed close to saying that all he means by missional is to rearticulate what faithful churches have always been doing but in terms that emphasize the need of our present day situation.

I think its already been established that folks mean different things by the term, but for purposes of what Steve is advocating, I really want to understand what he means.

As for "holy huddle" .... do we really have to choose between the building-up-believers work of the church and the reaching-out-to-the-lost work? The apostles did not seem to think so.

Anne Sokol's picture

i have questions about this. i'm not sure if i am ready to put them into words yet. I need to think some more.

but anyway, i just got an email about this guy's blog--steve hamilton--i'm just barely acquainted with him and his wife--we met b/c we are mutually interested in midwifery, and they are one reason I starting thinking about all the human trafficking going on in our area of the world.

this post on his blog features a pastor in NC---imagine that being a place where they have a human trafficking ministry!

anyway, i'm not saying a "missional" church has to be defined by a "social justice" issue or that I agree with everything the pastor says, but it's an interesting read. they are part of the vineyard mvmt.

http://justiceresponse.blogspot.com/2011/01/vineyard-spotlight-tom-camac...

Charlie's picture

J. D. Coleman wrote:

I agree that discussion and even disagreement can be profitable. It just appears to me that most of this discussion revolves around labels whereas the point of the article, which was a good one, was overlooked.

What was the point of the article? I see this from the author: "What I hope to accomplish in this brief article is a simple reflection on the validity of churches and Christians adopting a missional stance regarding those who are outside the church and who are in desperate need of an encounter with followers of Jesus Christ."

So, until the readers understand what the author means by "missional," we can't possibly discuss the validity of adopting a missional stance. That's what's frustrating. I'm looking for a concise definition or at least a clear explanation of what "missional" means. Instead, I read a lot of rhetoric, much of it quite empty, like this sentence: "They can continue to fight among themselves for the inconsequential and irresolvable or they can turn their weapons of warfare to pull down enemy strongholds." Hoorah! But it's just cliches.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Steve Davis's picture

Charlie wrote:
Steve, I don't think this was one of your better articles. Perhaps it was originally in a series of posts from your blog or something like that, but by itself, it doesn't communicate much. You have a lot of thought-cliches, phrases that sound meaningful but aren't.

Really, the only developed idea from start to finish is that people who disagree with "missional" ideas are critical, out-of-touch, and irrelevant. You say critics misunderstand the missional church; perhaps advocates of missional thinking ought to do a better job explaining themselves. I think SI readers are looking for two things: 1) what concrete activities distinguish a missional church from a non-missional one, and 2) how do those activities all connect to an over-arching theology that drives them?

What can I say, nobody bats 1000 all the time. I'm glad there was one developed idea you took away although I don't think it was mine. Not much time today to dialogue. If I respond less on the comments maybe I can write better articles Smile If you need missional defined better, check out Larry's recent article. If you need more than that I don't know what to say. It's an article not a book so I'll leave it to others better equipped and with more time to connect it to an over-arching theology. When you foment a revolution you are looking for others to really engage and further the revolution or dismiss it. I look forward to your articles.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
My main concern is that the missional approach could easily lead to a social gospel emphasis.

As one that has devoted much of my study about the social gospel, especially Walter Rauschenbusch, I can assure you that unless those who are missional have other leaky doctrines besides an over-realized kingdom, they will not slip into the social gospel. However there are other doctrines combined with an over-realized kingdom which most definitely will lead one down the slippery slope to embracing the social gospel.

1. What is their view of sin? (total depravity, original sin, etc.....)

2. What is their view of the atonement? Do they embrace substitutionary atonement, or do they primarily see it as a moral example?

3. What about their view of the Scriptures? Do they see it as infallible, inerrant, and authoritative?

4. What about a future judgment? View on hell?

Incidentally, Walter Rauschenbusch did not acknowledge the doctrine of original sin and total depravity. He held to a moral example view of the atonement and viewed substitutionary atonement as inadequate. He did not hold a very high view of the scriptures, rejecting infallibility and inerrancy. I may be missing a few more heresies but it is 1:00 in the morning for me right now :bigsmile:

When one rejects all of these essential doctrines of the Christian faith, the gospel will be seen primarily as social. Evangelism will be relegated to a secondary role, and its primary emphasis will be social transformation.

The most current example of the slippery slope to the social gospel have been certain emergent church advocates. Brian MacLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell (although he never claimed to be emergent) had shaky theology to begin with, combined with their emphasis on a Kingdom-Now. Therefore, it was quite easy for them to slip down the social gospel slope because they really had no real doctrinal foundation to begin with.

Let me add to this list a Roman Catholic sacramental view of the poor, which affects the doctrine of original sin and total depravity. There is a tendency for evangelicals to view "the least of these" in Matthew 25:31-46 as Jesus is disguise. Therefore, when one is serving the poor, really they are mysteriously serving Jesus. Thus, they take a romantic view of the poor (who in their eyes can do no wrong) and really don't believe the poor need Jesus because Jesus is already mysteriously living in them. As you can see, this sacramental view of the poor leads to a social gospel as well. My experience has been that many younger 20's and 30's evangelicals have a difficult time abandoning this view because they deeply desire a mystical encounter with Christ and they think they can get it through serving the poor (who is somehow Jesus in disguise). Shane Claiborne, who is incredibly popular at evangelical colleges and universities, is the primary advocate of this view, along with his mentor Tony Campolo and Tony's son, Bart. Hope all this makes sense........

Bob T.'s picture

The first missional churches were here in California. We have the Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Diego, Mission Santa Barbara, and some others. They were established by the Roman Catholics. It was an effort to change the established culture and win many to the Christianity of Catholicism.

Today the term Missional stands between Feldergarb and Bobilygook. However, it may be a term out of which seminaries can build another D.Min. major with all sorts of courses and research papers.

Meanwhile, the evangelistic churches will keep on with soul winning and establishing new churches.
In case some are not familiar with the meaning of evangelistic, it has to do with that old fashioned gospel. You know, all men are sinners and Christ died for their sins. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Reminds me of a Pastors meeting here in So.CA. at Pine Summit at about 1985. A "missiologist" was talking about the need for churches to culturalize and change music, methods, and vision to reach the younger generation. One Pastor raised his hand and said; "we already have many churches in the area doing that - their called Calvary Chapels. He was right. The great awakening of the West coast brought about a whole new group of churches called Calvary Chapels. Thousands were converted and discipled.

There are many varieties of established evangelistic churches. They range from the IFB churches, Charismatics, and seeker churches. They have different methods for different cultures, sub cultures, and locales. Some have poor theology. Some compromise in many ways. But many are very effective.

MISSIONAL = Soul winning.
Soul winning = Discipleship
Discipleship = Matt. 28:16-20
Matt. 28:16-20 = The great commission
Commission = Missional

We have had that kind of missional for a long time.

The new Missional belongs with the other replacement terms we are now using such as mentoring, Vision Casting, Purpose philosophy, spiritual formation, and others. Anytime we use a word and then have to figure out what it means we should ask if it is even the best word to use. Perhaps we need to be more specific in our wording.

Steve Davis's picture

Bob T. wrote:
The first missional churches were here in California. We have the Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Diego, Mission Santa Barbara, and some others. They were established by the Roman Catholics. It was an effort to change the established culture and win many to the Christianity of Catholicism.

Today the term Missional stands between Feldergarb and Bobilygook. However, it may be a term out of which seminaries can build another D.Min. major with all sorts of courses and research papers.

Meanwhile, the evangelistic churches will keep on with soul winning and establishing new churches.
In case some are not familiar with the meaning of evangelistic, it has to do with that old fashioned gospel. You know, all men are sinners and Christ died for their sins. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Reminds me of a Pastors meeting here in So.CA. at Pine Summit at about 1985. A "missiologist" was talking about the need for churches to culturalize and change music, methods, and vision to reach the younger generation. One Pastor raised his hand and said; "we already have many churches in the area doing that - their called Calvary Chapels. He was right. The great awakening of the West coast brought about a whole new group of churches called Calvary Chapels. Thousands were converted and discipled.

There are many varieties of established evangelistic churches. They range from the IFB churches, Charismatics, and seeker churches. They have different methods for different cultures, sub cultures, and locales. Some have poor theology. Some compromise in many ways. But many are very effective.

MISSIONAL = Soul winning.
Soul winning = Discipleship
Discipleship = Matt. 28:16-20
Matt. 28:16-20 = The great commission
Commission = Missional

We have had that kind of missional for a long time.

The new Missional belongs with the other replacement terms we are now using such as mentoring, Vision Casting, Purpose philosophy, spiritual formation, and others. Anytime we use a word and then have to figure out what it means we should ask if it is even the best word to use. Perhaps we need to be more specific in our wording.

You might be right about the term but I think it will be around for a while. And will have to be defined - like all terms - like "soulwinning" which is often decisionism. Missional is not mostly a call to anything new. It is more a return to the commission as given by Jesus but in a new arena with the church at the margins of society and often inwardly focused. Missional is a greater intentionality in engaging people with the gospel rather than avoiding lost people for fear of contamination. It is less focused on maintaining the status quo with most church programs and resources geared toward toward the gathered rather than going. It is undeniable with some rare exceptions that the majority of churches do maintenance better than mission. Missional is a call back to our NT roots of going into the world with the gospel and not waiting for people to find us or attend a church program. Again it is more intentional in evangelism AND discipleship than what we have seen in the last decades in preparing Christians to get into people's lives. And it is not afraid to take risks or make mistakes. You go to your average church and ask members how many lost friends they have with whom they have any significant contact, when was the last time they invited a lost person to their home for a meal rather than just inviting them to church, and ask the church what percentage of its resources are for member care and outreach. Then determine if they need a dose of missional.

Charlie's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

You might be right about the term but I think it will be around for a while. And will have to be defined - like all terms - like "soulwinning" which is often decisionism. Missional is not mostly a call to anything new. It is more a return to the commission as given by Jesus but in a new arena with the church at the margins of society and often inwardly focused. Missional is a greater intentionality in engaging people with the gospel rather than avoiding lost people for fear of contamination. It is less focused on maintaining the status quo with most church programs and resources geared toward toward the gathered rather than going. It is undeniable with some rare exceptions that the majority of churches do maintenance better than mission. Missional is a call back to our NT roots of going into the world with the gospel and not waiting for people to find us or attend a church program. Again it is more intentional in evangelism AND discipleship than what we have seen in the last decades in preparing Christians to get into people's lives. And it is not afraid to take risks or make mistakes. You go to your average church and ask members how many lost friends they have with whom they have any significant contact, when was the last time they invited a lost person to their home for a meal rather than just inviting them to church, and ask the church what percentage of its resources are for member care and outreach. Then determine if they need a dose of missional.

See. I knew you could do it. Now I know (basically) what you mean by missional.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Missional is not mostly a call to anything new. It is more a return to the commission as given by Jesus but in a new arena with the church at the margins of society and often inwardly focused. Missional is a greater intentionality in engaging people with the gospel rather than avoiding lost people for fear of contamination. It is less focused on maintaining the status quo with most church programs and resources geared toward toward the gathered rather than going.

This helps alot. The "mostly" part indicates there is some new stuff in there, and some of that may be a problem, but the kernel of "Hey, let's get more serious about outreach" is a point I can't--and don't want to--argue with.

I think I'll just call it "Getting more serious about outreach," though. Less potential confusion.

Steve Davis's picture

Charlie wrote:
See. I knew you could do it. Now I know (basically) what you mean by missional.

Again I would refer you and others to Larry Rogier's article "What is 'Missional'"? http://sharperiron.org/article/what-missional

I gave a few simple off the top of my head thoughts. Larry goes deeper. DBTS did a whole conference on it/against it.

Tim Keller's article on "The Missional Church" is a must read. I have a hard time taking serious any detractors who are not familiar with this. http://www.redeemer2.com/resources/papers/missional.pdf

Charlie's picture

Since everyone else has taken their shot at describing/defining "missional," I'll take mine. We don't really use the term much at Downtown Pres, but we are definitely a missional church in the Tim Keller vein. We promote a Christian lifestyle where Christians integrate themselves into the pulse of a community to work for its good and provide a context for evangelism.

So, this could be different than "getting serious about outreach." A church might try to get serious about outreach by ramping up its door-to-door evangelism program. However, that's not necessarily missional, because that method of outreach doesn't presume any long-term involvement of the church in the life of that neighborhood. In college, a church about 45 minutes away from Greenville recruited about 30 college students to do door-to-door outreach on Sunday afternoons. They talked to people and witnessed, but they weren't missional. Their involvement in those neighborhoods began and ended with a 15-passenger van.

At Downtown Pres, members are encouraged to live, work, shop, and recreate in the downtown area. We patronize downtown artists. We follow downtown community issues. We volunteer in downtown non-profits. Many of our children attend downtown schools. We attend downtown events. We ask ourselves how we can make the downtown area a better place. We have geographically-oriented community groups scattered around the downtown and surrounding area. We are invested in our community.

As far as I know, we have no formal evangelistic programs (though I would support that), but we have lots of visitors every week, many of whom are not practicing Christians. Even though our church isn't huge (maybe 400) and we're in a warehouse building on a side street, I hardly go anywhere in the downtown area without meeting someone who knows about us. We have presence because we are present.

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

WilliamD's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

You might be right about the term but I think it will be around for a while. And will have to be defined - like all terms - like "soulwinning" which is often decisionism. Missional is not mostly a call to anything new. It is more a return to the commission as given by Jesus but in a new arena with the church at the margins of society and often inwardly focused. Missional is a greater intentionality in engaging people with the gospel rather than avoiding lost people for fear of contamination. It is less focused on maintaining the status quo with most church programs and resources geared toward toward the gathered rather than going. It is undeniable with some rare exceptions that the majority of churches do maintenance better than mission. Missional is a call back to our NT roots of going into the world with the gospel and not waiting for people to find us or attend a church program. Again it is more intentional in evangelism AND discipleship than what we have seen in the last decades in preparing Christians to get into people's lives. And it is not afraid to take risks or make mistakes. You go to your average church and ask members how many lost friends they have with whom they have any significant contact, when was the last time they invited a lost person to their home for a meal rather than just inviting them to church, and ask the church what percentage of its resources are for member care and outreach. Then determine if they need a dose of missional.

Thanks for this paragraph. This is what sets missional apart from "soul winning" or "evangelistic". Soul winning has to do more with sales pitch evangelism and door to door outreach programs that are run two nights a week in the average fundy church. The rest of the week, the "soul winner" is off the clock.
"Evangelistic" smacks of revivalism and crusade evangelism. It's really easy for Christians to invite someone to hear someone else present the gospel, but it's not so easy to do it yourself in everyday life wherever you meet sinners.

Aaron posted a link to a Shepherd's conference lesson in 2009 called "Missional Madness". I listened to his lesson and it was a good lecture on what "Missional" is being pawned off as by those with a "Kingdom now" and post-mil theology that drives them to think that they are doing kingdom work without preaching the gospel and simply living the gospel much like the old "lifestyle evangelism" cop-out. He also points out that having a metro haircut and listening to U2 isn't going to remove the offense of the gospel either, so if that's what it means to be "Misisonal" then they are just as misled as the seeker sensitive purpose driven bunch.

JVanDelinder's picture

This seems to be a fairly healthy dialogue regarding the use of the term "Missional." Many of my thoughts have been summarized about. Let me chime in by saying that I would describe myself as a missional church planter for the most part (I say for the most part because I don't have any deep-seated antipathy for using attractional methodology occasionally.) It seems that I am using the term in much the same way as Steve does in this essay.

However, I must emphasize the point that some have brought up, namely that the term is far having a consistent, unambiguous meaning. I have found in many conversations with other evangelicals in the church-planting world that some have a dramatically different shade of meaning to the term. With respect to @Joel Shaffer 's comment the fact is that missional often does accompany doctrinal errors.

So while Steve said:

Quote:
There is no utopian redemption for our cities. There is no reversal for the moral decay and corruption of our society apart from divine intervention. Yet there is redemption and transformation of lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be missional!

the fact is that I don't assume that to be what it means to be missional in most conversations. It may mean that to some, but to many of my evangelical friends it does precisely mean that there IS a utopian redemption for our city and that the reversal of the moral decay is tantamount to gospelizing. Simply put, some people use it as a surrogate word for a kingdom now view, even in some cases that which approximates a social gospel.

I know, I know "words have meaning." Certainly they do. But a word is only as valuable as the parties using it agree on its precise meaning or at least its semantic range. I appreciate your understanding of missional, but don't think I would generalize it to all who use the term.

Jeremy Van Delinder
Church Planter, Pastor
North Hills Baptist Church
Round Rock (Austin), TX

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
the fact is that I don't assume that to be what it means to be missional in most conversations. It may mean that to some, but to many of my evangelical friends it does precisely mean that there IS a utopian redemption for our city and that the reversal of the moral decay is tantamount to gospelizing. Simply put, some people use it as a surrogate word for a kingdom now view, even in some cases that which approximates a social gospel.

I would tend to agree that there is this segment. Nevertheless, those who have a more utopian redemption/reversal of moral decay that are advocating a 21st century version of the social gospel lack a robust theology and/or embrace a error-filled theology of one or more doctrines such as sin, man, atonement, angels/demons, future things, and etc.....

The evangelicals that would use the word missional that I know that lean towards the social gospel are usually quite naive in regards to the sin nature within every human being, but are quite ready to call out sin when it affects structures of society. Also, a liberal theologian that is beginning to have alot of influence on certain social justice type evangelicals such as Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne when it comes to structures of powers and sins is Walter Wink. Wink does not believe in Angels/Demons, the Devil, and etc... But rather sees these terms as symbolic for the powers and evil that are created in the systems and structures of society. For instance, the structures and systems of Wall Street with its greed and evil accompany it need to be unmasked, named, and engaged by Christians. Here is a link to his books. http://www.walterwink.com/books.html

Compound this with either a moral or Christus Victor view of the atonement, and you have a "missional" church that embraces the social gospel.

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