5 missional do overs
There was a mission conference a couple of years ago. The speaker was a high-profile church strategist specializing in vision casting, mission clarification, values assessment, and the other administrative functions in the church world. He said a good church mission statement had to pass the coffee cup and t-shirt tests. What he meant was that the mission statement would need to be precise enough to print on a coffee cup or t-shirt. As a result church members could more easily memorize it and quote it. One of the guys riding with us said he hoped their mission statement would pass the Acts 1:8 test. We all grinned.
That was about the time the word "missional" was inserted into the church dictionary. It's not a new term or concept. But, at the turn of the century there was a shift away from the traditional terms "missionary" and "mission". They were terms typically assigned to the missionary specialists serving in remote places overseas and their work among the populations there. Google the term "missional" and in .59 seconds you'll access 757,000 possibilities for study. The new definition has exploded into hundreds of great books and articles about who the missionaries really are. Here's a Wikipedia short take---
In Christianity, missional living is the adoption of the posture, thinking, behaviors,
and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message.
There are dozens of other definitions which vary only slightly. The strong uptake is that the missional movement understands mission as the assignment of every Christian.
Looking back, there are some mission goofs I would do over. Every church I led supported the Cooperative Program of the SBC with 10%+ of undesignated receipts, the state conventions at various levels, and the local associations as well. There were special offerings at Easter and Christmas, plus state convention offerings, and summer misson trips. Each of them would have been considered "missionary" in the traditional sense. But, there are several missional do overs I would move up on the priority list if I could go back.
1. Teach that money in the offering plate is not the fullness of mission. Many churches, the ones I pastored included, view mission as something to be
accomplished by those called to serve in the mission agencies, either in the USA
or abroad. As a result, many congregation fulfill their missionary assignment by
gathering funds for those who have been sent. Being a sending church is
important, but not the final expression of mission. So, I would teach more
strongly that providing funding is not the fulfillment of the great commission.
2. Avoid buzz words and trends. Shoot, suddenly everybody was on the missional
band wagon and discussing the dynamics of the missional church. I met pastors
and church staff taking courses on being missional while still having no active
mission process in their church. Mission isn't about words. I would avoid the
words and emphasize the mission.
3. Emphasize the boundaries of the mission field. Some churches post signs at
the door or the exits of the church property: you are entering the mission field.
Most of us wouldn't admit it but our primary mission is often on the church
property, within the walls of the church. Everything must be done to reinforce the
biblical ideal that the mission field is out there, beyond the walls.
This is critical in those areas where the communities surrounding the church
experience changing demographics. Many churches will skip over a changing,
adjacent community because the socio-economic or racial make-up is different
than what comprises the church membership. It is a serious avoidance of the
Great Commission. Churches must accomplish mission to the people closest to
4. Keep local demographics in front of the congregation. Data is available on just
about every category of local demographics we can imagine. It is important that
the church family is aware of shifting demographics so they can provide mission
to the people living close by. The other day a mission strategist said, "Pastor, go
walk around the closest Wal-Mart Store to your church property. Make note of the
people you encounter there. If your congregation doesn't reflect the cultural
make up of that store, you are not accomplishing mission in your locale." What a
wake-up call for every church.
5. Make it personal. The lessons of thirty-five years are profound. One that I
learned from Reggie McNeal over and over again is that leadership is everything.
Far too often we're masters at talking the talk and fakers about walking the walk.
It was realized in my last pastorate through the Celebrate Recovery ministry, the
establishment of our community counseling center, and our long term
commitment to mission in Central Asia. They were costly commitments, to the
church and to me. They required us to step out of the box in many ways and to
be missonal at home and abroad. My personal involvement communicated
passion about them, and opened the hearts of others for their passions as well.
Lip service from the pulpit or in committee meetings is important, but not as
valuable as some sweat equity.
It's just an opinion. I don't have any research data to support it. But, much of the drift in our churches is mission fallout, what happens when the mission in unclear and therefore not a compelling factor in church life.
Jesus was clear about his mission.
And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving
them, but he said to them, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to
the other towns as well: for I was sent for this purpose."
Luke 4:42-43, ESV
He knew his mission. He stayed with it till it was finished. There is no do over.