You have probably heard the term missional or the phrases missional church and missional Christian. They seem to be used to distinguish between the church as it typically has been expressed in the last sixty years or so, and the preferred (some would say emerging) way of thinking about church in a culture which is unfamiliar with the customs and vocabulary of most church goers; especially those within evangelical and mainline groups. If you are like me you may have scratched your head and wondered why the obvious is so often missed in the conversation about mission and church.
The church IS mission. Christians ARE missionaries. Only, we seem to have lost our way. It is not merely an evangelical issue, as so many disaffected evangelicals have attempted to paint the situation, much to the delight of a few of the more liberal mainline groups. It is not merely a mainline issue, as so many evangelicals have tried to express, much to the admiration of their some of their vocal and primarily conservative adherents. No, it goes much deeper than that, in my estimation.
With the advent of the automobile, we have invented suburban communities and large suburban ways of doing life. These include the likes of Walmart superstores, megachurches, large chain athletic clubs, large regional high schools, large malls full of hundreds of vendors and entertainment options, multiplex theaters, large chains of small specialty shops such as starbucks, 7-eleven, branded tire stores, payday loan vendors, and so on.
Entertainment centers are no longer community-based places of meeting. They are technological marvels set within individual homes. People commute to places where they can meet with others who share common interests through affiliations groups, whereas once they might have related to their local neighbors. Churches large and small have primarily commuter attendees. Percentages of attendees from within one or two blocks of a local church are fairly low in many cases.
The result of all of this is that the church becomes a training, rescue and healing center. But it often has minimal impact on its local neighborhood. To be fair, there are many examples of churches, both evangelical and mainline, which buck this dynamic. They are engaged with their communities. They understand that to be the church is to be missional. Mission is not an addon algorithm designed to fulfill evangelistic or social justic metrics in order to make church people feel good. It is a way of life and is best expressed through the church community.
Here are some take-aways from this post to which I hope my readers will give serious consideration. As followers of Jesus we are missionaries. By choosing to accept the free gift of salvation, we also take on the responsibility of becoming the ambassadors of Christ, both in terms of message and action. Mission is not simply something that happens thousands of miles distant on foreign soil, although that certainly falls within our responsibility. Mission is our lifeblood as we obey God’s command to love Him and to love others. It cannot be explained away by deciding it is not in our gift mix according to a gifts inventory. It cannot be excused by saying we do not have time, money, talent, or desire. The sooner the church and its people understands this, the better.
Imagine what will happen if Christians of all kinds of stripes would wake up to the fact that we are God’s ordained missionaries right now in the brief time we have. Imagine. Imagine the way it will impact the mundane conversations and interactions of their seemingly ordinary days. Think about how it will influence their responses to adversity. Consider how it will witness to Christ’s transforming power as we all come into obedience of his command to love one another. Think about it, church. The stakes are high. The time is limited. You have been chosen. Right where you are. Now, go.