The term missional is the buzz word in evangelical circles today. Everyone is trying to be “missional”. Everyone has “missional” in their mission statement or their core values. It is almost impossible to find a book dealing with the subject of church leadership, planting or missions with out seeing the term somewhere on the cover. Try it, go to Amazon and search the word “missional” and see how many hits you get. In fact, it has become so trendy that I have recently begun to see some of the guys who helped make the term trendy disdain the fact that it has become the trend. When a term gets used too much it not only looses it’s force but it begins to loss it’s meaning as well.
That is why we must first ensure that we understand what it means to be missional and then we must be tenacious about actually being missional – and this is just one of the reasons we call ourselves MISSIODEI.
ON MISSION | missiology
“Missional means adopting the posture of a missionary, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound…It means being a missionary without ever leaving your zip code.”
When we talk about church planting, we are essentially talking about missions. Good missionaries always study the culture in order to develop a strategy towards evangelism. We must ask ourselves, ‘How can the church relate to contemporary culture and contextualize the gospel in that setting?’
“Today North America needs to be treated as a mission field in the same way that we in the West have approached much of the rest of the world for the past several centuries.”
~Craig Van Gelder, Confident Witness – Changing World.
To most of us, this seems painfully obvious. Being a Christian means sharing your faith, leading others to Christ and making disciples, however, we would also agree that somewhere along the way, something happened and many Christians in America are simply not on mission.
Christendom | the Constantinian system
That is the unfortunate consequence of the Constantinian system, or Christendom.
“The churches shaped by the Reformation we’re left with a view of the church that was not directly intended by the reformers, but nevertheless resulted from the way that they spoke about the church. Those churches came to conceive the church as “a place were certain things happen. This understanding was not so much articulated as presumed. It was never officially stated in any formal creed but was so ingrained in the churches’ practice that it became dominant in the churches’ self understanding. Popular grammar captures it well: you “go to church” much the same way you might go to the store. You “attend” a church, the way you attend a school or theater. You “belong to a church” as you would a service club with its programs and activities — and this view corresponds well to the basic notion of mission that has existed under Christendom.”
Because under Christendom, the church didn’t really need to be missional. We did not need to be missionaries in our own culture because our own culture was very “christian”. In other words, because Christianity was, at one time, the preferred religion in America…,
“…the church was handicapped because it did not have to be missional; its mission muscles did not have to be flexed. But that is no longer true. We’re not on ‘home turf.’ Instead, we’re in a missionary setting, and we need to focus on reaching the unchurched around us. We’ve seen that church planting is the most effective way to reach those outside of the faith.”
This is what lead Peter Wagner to say that “the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.”
“New churches approach evangelization in a way that tends to be more culturally indigenous than established churches.”
And when you think about it, the process of Indigenization, or contextualization, is the most logical step in reaching a changing generation. Businesses recognize that if they want to sell their products they must understand the culture in which they are targeting. Even the early reformers understood that this was the only way Christianity had survived as long as it had. They would often use the phrase ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’ which mean ‘church always reforming’. The church will never arrive because “as the culture changes, the church is compelled to change” with it. When a church refuses to change, then we will inevitably experience what we are seeing today in the decline of churches and even worse, Christianity here in America.
On Mission | missio dei – the mission of God
Well that leads us to the missio Dei. Our identity as Christians is rooted in Christ and His role within the triune God. God the Father has always been a sender. God sent angels, and prophets and even the entire nation of Israel to be the light of the nations, until He finally sent His Son. The very “fact that Jesus was the ‘sent one’ is the most fundamental identification” we have with Christ. Identifying ourselves with Christ simply means that we too are sent ones. In fact Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” ~John 20:21.
Because of our identity in Christ, we must continue His mission.
“Mission is understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It is thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology or soteriology. The classical doctrine of the missio Dei, as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit is expanded to include yet another “movement”: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world.”
~David Bosch, Transforming Mission.
“There is no participation in Christ without participation in His mission to the world.”
~James A Scherer, Mission Theology.
“Jesus Christ is the embodiment of that mission; the Holy Spirit is the power of that mission; the church is the instrument of that mission; and the culture is the context in which that mission occurs.”
~Wilbert R. Shenk, Toward the Twenty-first Century in Christian Mission.
We have been chosen for this task. We are a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God and called to declare His praises, bringing him glory by proclaim his gospel to the world. We have been chosen to be a people who are sent and missional.
OUR TASK | we must be missional
So with all that said, what are we going to do about it? How are we, a church who is audacious enough to call ourselves “the mission of God”, how are we going to ensure that we are in-fact on mission? If we are not missionaries in our own zip code, if we do not win souls for Christ, if we do not make disciples who follow Jesus and also get on mission, then we can not call ourselves “the mission of God”. That audacity will simply turn into irony, and we would have failed.
One ● we must think theocentricly
The first thing we must do is shift our thinking from an ecclesiocentric (church-centered) view of mission to a theocentric (god-centered) view of mission. That is what the missio Dei is essentially all about. Mission is God’s. And we must not think of growing our church as much as we think about growing his kingdom. We are not marketing MISSIODEI Church, we are instead, following Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel and reconciling lost sinners to God.
A theocentric approach stresses “the mission of God, missio Dei, as the foundation for the mission of the church. Mission is not something the church does…Instead… the church’s essence is missional, for the calling and sending action of God forms its identity. Mission is found on the mission of God in the world, rather than the churches effort to extend itself.6
Two ● we must never slip into the constantinian way of doing church
Secondly, I am afraid that it will be all too easy to slip back into our old ecclessiocentric constantinian way of doing and thinking about church. Especially once we start to grow. So… in some way, as team, we must sharpen one another and correct each others’ thinking when we slip. I think we need to begin to structure our own lives so that they reflect the marks of a true disciple. I think that if we want MISSIODEI to be missional then we are going to need to rearrange some things in our own life so that we are missional.
To do that, I believe we need to start pretending like we are on a mission trip. Every time I go on a mission trip I am always thinking about sharing the Gospel. I remember in Hong Kong I went into a Starbuck’s and was so happy that the Chinese gal behind the bar could speak English. So I started talking to her and immediately my thoughts went to sharing the Gospel. Well, why was that, because I was on a mission trip in a foreign country. But, when I go to Starbucks here at home, all the baristas speak English, and sharing Jesus with any of them never even crosses my mind. Why is it that when we are on an airplane we think of sharing Jesus with that person we will never see again, and then we think nothing of the clerk at Walmart who we see at least once a week?
Three ● we must start tomorrow
Thirdly, I want to suggest that we begin tomorrow. In just a few short months our Turbo Team is going to split up in order to host Koinonia Groups in each of our homes. I think we need to start making a list of 10-15 people who we will invite to those koinonia groups. If we do that now, then we can start opening some doors and planting some seeds over these next 3 months.
It would be very awkward to invite our neighbors to join a small group if we do not know them. But if we spend some time with them now, if start listening and studying our neighbors and co-workers so that we might build inroads into the kinds of things that they like, do not like, or need, then… at the beginning of the year, when we invite them over for Bunko and dinner with a group of other friends and neighbors it wont be so weird. So, to do this effectively I think we would be remiss if we didn’t start tomorrow.
Now – I’m not saying to make friends with people simply to invite them to KOINONIA or MISSIODEI. That would be constantinian. What I am saying is this, lets pretend we are missionaries and lets truly love the people in our community, lets love our neighbors and pray for their salvation.
What do you think? Tonight I look forward to our discussion on how we can think and be missional.
The church bears a marked resemblance to the incarnation of Jesus. It is no accident that the church is called the “body of Christ.” It continues as an incarnate expression of the life of God. But no less than for Jesus, this expression means that the church always takes particular form, shaped according to the culture and historical context in which it lives.6
1 Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches. 19.
2 Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches. 32.
3 Peter Wagner, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest. 11.
4 Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches. 32.
5 Guder, Missional Church. 81.
6 Guder, Missional Church. 13.