Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Can Your Church Be Missional?

posted by Scot McKnight

Missional.jpgAlan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren are onto something: in their new book called Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One (Allelon Missional Series) , they ask the big question:

Can your church be missional? 
[I will provide what I think is the central missional question below.]
But they know that there’s a major hitch: “If one wants to lay the missional over or add it to our known ways of being the church, we would answer … No!” Why? “This missional journey calls us out onto a new kind of river that none of us know how to navigate, because it challenges the core of our church imagination” (49). Becoming missional is not adding a new program to your already existing programs. Becoming missional is transformation from the inside out.


Then the authors list with brief descriptions a wide array of missional ventures in this world. What marks them: “They have opened themselves up and ventured out on an experimental journey into their neighborhoods to see what God is up to in this world” (53).

Here is what I [SMcK] think is the central missional question: while I must admit I like that “What is God up to?” question, I believe the missional people are asking folks in their own neighborhood another question first: “How can I help you?” The answers to that question will determine what “missional” means in that neighborhood.
So Roxburgh and Boren: “missional people should practice God’s life before a watching world” (54). It includes worship, preaching, communion, loving one another, social justice, caring for the poor, and sharing Jesus’ gospel. Thus: “All of God’s people are on mission to engage their surrounding neighborhoods, not just a few who are sent outside the church to do something called missions” (54).


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Chris

posted December 15, 2009 at 6:20 am


Scot,
Here’s a question. Where do the missional folks stand with respect to salvation? Are the missional folks working toward conversion? Does it matter for the missional folks? I find the missional idea that all of life is mission very appealing. The missional imagination seems to advocate the idea that caring for the poor has value in and of itself and that caring for the homeless is not simply another ‘way’ of reaching the lost.
Thanks for blogging on this book.



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RJS

posted December 15, 2009 at 7:40 am


Chris,
I don’t think caring for the poor – or anything else is simply another way to reach the lost. Rather caring for the poor and everything else is a way to enter into the mission of God – which will reach the lost.
But “missional” will only enter into the mission of God if it acknowledges and proclaims God’s actions and mission in the world. So as I see it this means that evangelism is an indispensable part of anything that is missional.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 15, 2009 at 7:46 am


Chris, RJS gets this right and I see this in this book, though the book is not a manual on evangelism or even on how evangelism fits into the missional imagination. There is no question that some have opted for “missional” because they don’t like “evangelism” or don’t want to do “evangelism.” Some have said “missional” is the way to evangelism, but don’t get to evangelism. But, missional in its fullest sense involves evangelism because God’s mission is to tell the Story of Jesus.



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Jim

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:13 am


One idea that has helped me in this regard is to think in terms of “blessing”, an idea I picked up from Reggie McNeal’s “Missional Rennaisance” but was able to enlarge through reading Klaus Westermann’s book on “Blessing “.
I have come to think that our missional call is to receive the blessing of God to be the blessing of God but have also come to see that blessing entails both that which “brings to life” in a fundamental creational sense (intending environments, acts and words that ‘enliven’) but also that which “brings to life” in the redemptive sense. (i.e. sensitive to Gen 1-3)
The central verse in this regard for me is Jesus’ words when he says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” When we can get on board with that, mission is seen as “enlivening” across the board.
When we truly bless others we enliven them whether at a physical level or a redemptive level and each can and should serve the other.
Not two things but one…



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Jim

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:14 am


my bad..should have said when we bless others GOD enlivens them…



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Bill Fredricks

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:15 am


There are churches that are outposts and ones that are clubhouses. There are churches who are part of their community and ones that don’t know their neighbors. There are churches with widows lists and ones that give love gifts to their own. There are churches that hold prayer meetings where the overwhelming concern is for “the lost” around them and there are those that find Aunt Bertha’s bunion more a subject of concern.
It’s a heart thing, we need to get God’s heart; individually and as churches Though he cares about the things of lesser importance, he really cares about the widows, orphans, and otherwise helpless in our midst much more. Being missional is all about gaining God’s heart and vision and, of course, doing something about it.
So churches can an should be missional.



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John

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:15 am


If “How can I help you?” is the question, I think we’re in some trouble unless we refine it a bit. That seems to me to be a question about needs, which I’ve found are endless and I would guess largely unfulfill-able by most local congregations. Seems that there has to be a place for God re-defining our needs. Also, it seems to fall back into the paradigm that the missional church is trying to escape. The church is not about providing for everyone’s needs and desires when they arrive at the church door with an array of programs like a 5 star restaurant. In contrast, my understanding of the missional church is that we invite folks to join us on the journey of discerning and engaging in God’s mission. Further, I’ve generally found that what the neighborhood cares about is generally quite different from the things Jesus cares about–the last, the least and the lost. That takes conversion and transformation, the kind of thing the other posters are alluding to.
My apologies if the comment is scrambled. I think that THE QUESTION is an important thing to work on, but I’m guessing that there is not one, but many, and that context and gifts and sense of calling, among other things,xnzhn7 will have an impact on how that question is phrased.
Keep up the great dialogue on missional, Scot. I’m hoping to take it more fully into the UMC over the next year. We are in nursery school on the missional church.



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Jim

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:19 am


i agree with John @ 7. I have a friend who says that the mission of the church is not to meet people’s needs as much as it is to help them understand what their legitimate needs are.
But then, I do think: “How can we help?” is a good opener.



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RJS

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:28 am


Jim,
Of course the mission of the church – and part of God’s mission in the world is to help people understand their legitimate needs. But isn’t the mission of the church to meet these needs?



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Bill Fredricks

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:36 am


One thing that I might add, being missional is not a formula for church growth. It will attract some Christians but scare off others. Most of the people in your community will accept your care but keep doing the things that are already plugged into their busy lives.
It takes time for the community to trust you … years. So being missional is a long term commitment. Once the church has “seen” the community around them, there will be no going back to the former state of blissfully ignoring them.



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Patrick

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:53 am


Bill #6 It’s a heart thing, we need to get God’s heart; individually and as churches
I’m with you. If the mission of God flows from his love for the world, then this should be the case for churches too. If love is the motivation for mission it helps get us past seeing care for others as part of some bigger strategy or separating the social and spiritual. Love is love, is has no strings and hidden agendas. I’m wondering out loud here, but sometimes do we get so tied up with strategy, theory and desired outcomes – that subtly can become all about “our” church’s growth – that we lose sight Scripture’s prime motivation for mission is love for people made in God’s image? And to throw out a wild generalisation (!), are guys more prone to getting wrapped up in theory / strategy while women invest more in relationships? I ask because I’ve seen women ministering to women in ways that is profoundly relational and deeply missional, yet men seem to find this much harder?



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Ryan Bell

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:59 am


After seven or eight years working on this I would say that a question that has been even more important is this: “How can you [world] help us [church]?”
As long as we’re in the helping mode we keep coming to our communities with all the answers in a paternalistic way. If we’re going to discover “what God is up to” I think we’re going to have to lay down control of the conversations and relationships and be open to having our eyes opened by the other; being served and welcomed by the other. I think this was what Darrell Guder meant by “the continuing conversion of the church.”
This has been vitally important in my experience. We could not be a missional church if our primary question was “how can we help you?”



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Allen

posted December 15, 2009 at 10:09 am


I’m learning as a pastor that some questions are for me and not for the people to whom I minister. Those questions serve to focus my work among them. “How can we help?” seems to be that kind of question. While I think we need to actually ask our neighbors that question, we need to really listen to them with ears that are keenly aware of God’s story. In other words, we need to use Kingdom wisdom as we address our neighbors needs. That’s why I say the question may be best used as internal question. We listen to the answers that our neighbors give and then we pray “How can we (as God’s people) help?” Peter and John’s “silver and gold have I none. But what I do have, I give to you” is an example of what I’m talking about.



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Bill Fredricks

posted December 15, 2009 at 10:34 am


Ryan, I found that when the church neighbors start giving back, that it’s then that you are either part or becoming an accepted part of the community. When it happens, it’s a blessing that reaches to the roots of your being. Something like what Moses would have felt if he had been permitted to enter the Promised Land. It takes a while for this to happen; back to the trust building through endurance and patience.



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RJS

posted December 15, 2009 at 10:45 am


Ryan,
Yes and no – asking “What can we do to help you” requires being open to listen and engage. It certainly means being open to what we can be taught. But it does not mean asking as the fundamental question – how can you help us – it seems to me that this question leads to a sell-out. Although perhaps you can explain why it doesn’t.
On the other hand – and openness to learn and engage rather than an attitude of always having all the answers is part of my point in the post on missional campus ministry. I don’t think that Beckwith and Moreland’s Christian Worldview Series will have a significant impact because it is decidedly not missional. The first book Education for Human Flourishing is firmly anchored in the “we have all the answers” evangelical ghetto mode of interaction.



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T

posted December 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm


Scot, your question “How can I help you” and the following discussion reminds me of so much from the Vineyard’s training on praying for folks w/ and through the Spirit. First, we do need to ask people what’s going on and actually listen. But simultaneously we need to be asking God the same question and “look for what the Father is doing.” We need to be listening for the Spirit’s guidance as we hear the person.
Some people/churches try to answer and act upon the question of “What is the Father is doing?” purely vertically and never interact with the world right around them to get insight (more of a tendency on the right). Others tend to answer and act upon the question purely horizontally (more of a tendency on the left). But if mission is patterned after Christ, we can and must interact with the folks right around us to find out where it hurts but do so while asking (and expecting) leadership and power from God as to what he is doing in those places.



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Tim Hallman

posted December 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm


T #16 makes a helpful insight that I have found to be true in the work our church has been doing in our neighborhood. Listening to the person with us and to the Spirit at the same time is crucial if we are going to hear what the problem really is and what the next step the Spirit wants us to take – as an individual or as a community of believers. By asking how we can help, we are opening up ourselves to what God wants to do through us to help meet that need; it’s a way for us to be the answer to the prayer.
Generally we will know what the problems are if we study social history, or watch the news. But listening to the specific problems as an act of love, as God’s ears to that person, makes for a very missional moment.



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Jim Martin

posted December 15, 2009 at 10:20 pm


I really like this discussion and think it is an important one. I also think you are correct regarding this central missional question. I also like the way you stressed that the answer to that question determines what missional means in that neighborhood. After all, to live as a missional people in a place does not mean that we bring a one-size-fits-all kind of ministry. Rather, ministry is contextual and asking such questions of the people in that place is a reminder of this. Thanks for a good post.



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