Posted by: Jeff Warren | March 22, 2007

Missional Musings

More Missional Musings…  A conversation about what God is up to in the world.

By Jeff Warren-2/2/-07 

There is much talk about being “missional” these days.  Some suggest that the buzz was created by Brian McClaren who used the word in his book, “Generous Orthodoxy” (subtitled, “Why I am a missional, evangelical, etc…).  Surely the word was around before 2004, but regardless of where it originated, it’s a worthy discussion.  What does it mean to be missional- as a church or as an individual?  Even Wikipedia has joined the mix.  It defines “missional” as As commonly used today, the word describes the way in which Christians do all their activities, rather than identifying any one particular activity.  To be missional is to align one’s life with the redemptive mission of Jesus in the world.   The concept is rooted in the alignment of every believer and every church with Jesus’ mission in the world, just as Jesus knew His mission and aligned Himself with that mission.   A missional church aligns all of the program, function, and activities of the church around the redemptive mission of God in the world.(Man, that’s pretty good stuff).Contrary to the opinion of many (most?) American church-goers, Jesus did not come to establish an institution, club, or political party.  He said He came (and I quote) “to seek and to save that which is lost” (Matthew 19:10) -really, no more, no less.  I was in a conversation today with a dear friend in ministry who’s in a very large and influential church in North Carolina.  He said his church recently announced (through the elders) that they were not seeking to be a church for post-moderns.  Isn’t that another way of saying we are not a church seeking to reach this culture?  Notice, I said, “this culture”, not “emerging culture”.  Post-modernity is hardly “emerging” as it’s been here for years.  In fact, signs of postmodern thought began to emerge in the 20s and clearly began to be defined following WWII.  Its impact and influence has already permeated my generation.  It seems that only “church people” seem to think that it is “emerging” or “on the way”, in the form of secularism.  Whatever is emerging is post-post-modern.  What many Christians don’t understand is that, first of all, post-modernity is not the enemy (anymore than modernity was to the former generation), it’s simply what it is- the culture we live in, the air we breathe; or at least, where most of us “live and move and have our being”.  Secondly, Jesus did not ask us to choose which generation we might want to reach.   So, what does it really mean to be missional?  Simply put, it’s living on mission with Jesus.  It’s joining Him in what He’s up to in the world.  Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost.  The person on mission with Jesus is up to the same thing Jesus is.  He or she sees God at work every day and joins Him in what He’s doing.  The missional person sees the world the way God does: primarily as the context within which we engage others in His redemptive plan.  Missional people see others the way God does: every human soul is valuable and every person desiring to live forgiven can actually find that life in Jesus.Of course, all of this starts when we fully embrace the grace of Christ.  Once I realize that He has not only forgiven me but has made me the “righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21), I can live forgiven.  Only then can I really lead others to live forgiven.  This is at the heart of missional living.  Most believers have not appropriated this most critical truth and, as a result, the church- the expression of God and His grace in the world- is not communicating the true Message of Jesus. Oh, we’re sending out a message alright, I’m just not sure it’s His.  This week I heard Rob Bell (via the Nooma film, “Bullhorn”), ask the question: “Why is it that so few have become the voice for so many?”  That question has haunted me since because I think it cuts to the heart of what’s wrong with the evangelization of the West (and the rest of the world for that matter).  The guy with the bullhorn is the only one heard.Unfortunately, as Erwin McManus has noted, “Jesus has been lost in a religion that bears His name”.  We’ve become too “civilized”, too sanitized.  We need to find our way out of civilization and back to the “barbarian way”.  Anyone who wants to live missional must become a barbarian.  This takes much courage among civilized believers because barbarians make civilized people nervous.  In fact, if the truth be known, civilized people don’t like them.  Their very lives challenge the civilized to, at least, get out of their comfort zone and, at most, abandon much of what they thought Christianity was in the first place. As we have become more civilized the church has become more institutionalized.  Joey White (our North Campus Pastor) and I were talking yesterday, and he noted that post moderns want to give their lives to a cause, not an institution.  He’s right, but is that really a “post-modern” thing?  Isn’t that a “missional” thing; a Jesus thing?  I think so.  It resonates with post moderns because it resonates with the human soul.  You and I want to be a part of something bigger in the world, something that matters.  And what Jesus is about in the world matters most.  Once understood, who wouldn’t be drawn to that? Together, we (at FBC McKinney and friends in the missional community) are learning what it means to be on mission with Christ.  One learning is that we need to shift our orientation.  The church does not simply have a “missions ministry” or a “missions pastor” or simply go on “mission trips” (though critical as we’ll discuss later); the church is missions.  The church is on mission.  We don’t just do missions, we are the mission.  The need for the church to recognize that the church is “mission” itself rather than “mission orientated” has been adequately discussed by Bishop Hwa Yung in his book, Mangoes or Bananas?, long before the word “missional” appeared.  His comments on theology and culture are worth reading.My long-time friend, Tim Conder, author and guest columnist for LeadershipJournal.net, asked in his article, Missional Buzz, whether there is such a thing as a “missional church”.  To answer his own question, Tim offers some characteristics of a “missional church”:
(1) Missional communities try to align themselves holistically with God’s theme of redemption.
(2) Programming and finances are directed outward.
(3) Missional communities are discontent with spiritual formation as primarily cognitive assent.
(4) Embracing the ethnic and social diversities of local communities is becoming a moral expectation.
(5) Missional communities are not only ardent listeners for the earmarks of God’s redemptive work in our world, these communities are passionate activists when they find the pathways and trajectories of God’s redemptive presence.
If these five marks define a missional church, I’m in.  If our church would be defined as “missional” by possessing these characteristics, then let’s seek (‘til our last dying breath!) to be missional.  I think you would agree.  We have, for too long, thought that missions is something the church does as people grow in Christ and reach some kind of spiritually elite status.  It seems to me that challenging and engaging people in missions at the front end of the community is as much a form of evangelism as it is anything.  Think about it, are we seeking to win people to Jesus so they can accept a certain set of truths or join a particular institution?  Again, isn’t it more about joining the movement of Christ and what He’s up to in the world?  Didn’t Jesus say that following Him means that we join Him in His mission?  If a lost person first sees what God is up to in the world (through us) wouldn’t they want to join in?  They might respond, “I’m not sure I believe in God, but I can’t explain you.”  Or, “I don’t know about Jesus but I believe in what you’re doing to help others.”  Didn’t Jesus Himself say, in John 10:38, “If you don’t believe in me, you can at least believe in the things you see me doing?”  People might say, “If Jesus is somehow behind the motivation for people to give themselves away like this, I’m in”, or at least, “I’m now open to checking this out.”  Could it be that mission involvement can serve as the front door, not the side door or the back door (or perhaps a more apt analogy- the window most simply look through but never pass through)?That leads me to another thought: We now live in the most exciting time in church history for the missional believer, for one reason: the airplane.  I know it’s not the most spiritual answer but we can now join other believers around the world in what God is doing.  And we can really join them, not just send money to a few who might.  We realize that God’s work is global and what we’re doing locally (wherever that may be) is simply part of the Big Story of God’s redemptive work in the world.  Long-time pastor in London and emerging church leader, Bryan Dolye, calls involvement in partnership missions a “fast-track” toward spiritual formation and missional living.  It’s true.  How many people do you know who, though well-intentioned, went to Sunday School or some Bible study for years and then went on a ten-day mission trip and were never the same again.  The light finally came on.  What happened?  They were able to see the world as God does and join Him in His mission in it.  They began to see their every daily lives from His perspective.Join me in this “stream of consciousness” dialogue.  I’m just a catalyst in this experiment- a short blog.  I just wanted to start the conversation.  Big or small, join in.         

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