Brad Brisco’s summary of “what is missional?” is a good one, and I particularly like the five implications he closes with. I have summarized but also adapted some of this. I’ll close with some thoughts on the implications for a missional posture.
1. The Missional Church is about the missionary nature of [the Triune] God and His church.
2. The Missional Church is about the church being incarnational rather than attractional. John 1:14 in the Message: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
3. The Missional Church is about actively participating in the missio Dei, or mission of God. Many times we wrongly assume that the primary activity of God is in the church, rather than recognizing that God’s primary activity is in the world, and the church is God’s instrument sent into the world to participate in His redemptive mission. A missional church focuses all of its activities around its participation in God’s agenda for the world.
Moving from Sunday-centric to engage the neighbourhood
1. Start with Spiritual Formation
God calls the church to be a sent community of people who no longer live for themselves but instead live to participate with Him in His redemptive purposes. However, people will have neither the passion nor the strength to live as a counter cultural society for the sake of others if they are not transformed by the way of Jesus. If the church is to “go and be” then we must make certain that we are a Spirit formed community that has the spiritual capacity to impact the lives of others.
2. Cultivate a Missional Leadership Approach
Rethink church leadership models that have been accepted as the status quo. This will require a special emphasis on the apostolic function of church leadership, which was marginalized during the time of Christendom in favor of the pastor/teacher function.
This will involve creating an apostolic environment throughout the life of the church. The leader must encourage pioneering activity that pushes the church into new territory. However, because not all in the church will embrace such risk, the best approach will involve creating a sort of “R&D” or “skunk works” department in the church for those who are innovators and early adopters.
A culture of experimentation must be cultivated where attempting new initiatives is expected, even if they don’t all succeed. As pioneering activities bear fruit, and the stories of life change begin to bubble up within the church, an increasing number of people will begin to take notice and get involved.
3. Emphasize the Priesthood of All Believers
Every believer must fully understand how their vocation plays a central part in God’s redemptive Kingdom- every member is a missionary. Everyone is sent. This missionary activity will include not just being sent to far away places, but sent and commissioned to local work places, schools and neighborhoods.
4. Focus Attention on the Local Community
As individual members begin to see themselves as missionaries sent into their local context the congregation will begin to shift from a community-for-me mentality, to a me-for-the-community mentality. The church must begin to develop a theology of the city that sees the church as an agent of transformation for the good of the city (Jeremiah 29:7). This will involve exegeting each segment of the city to understand the local needs, identify with people, and discover unique opportunities for the church to share the good news of Jesus.
5. Don’t Do It Alone
Missional activity that leads to significant community transformation takes a lot of work and no church can afford to work alone. Missional efforts that endure create partnerships with other churches, ministries, and agencies that care about the community.
6. Create New Means of Measuring Success
The church must move beyond measuring success by the traditional indicators of attendance, buildings and cash. Instead we must create new scorecards to measure ministry effectiveness. These new scorecards will include measurements that point to the church’s impact on community transformation rather than measuring what is happening among church members inside the church walls. It is no longer about the number of people active in the church but instead the number of people active in the community, working for “the peace of the city.”
A missional church may ask how many hours has the church spent praying for community issues? How many hours have church members spent with unbelievers? How many of those unbelievers are making significant movement towards Jesus? How many community groups use the facilities of the church? How many people are healthier because of the clinic the church operates? How many people are in new jobs because of free job training offered by the church? What is the number of school children who are getting better grades because of after-school tutoring the church provides. Or how many times do community leaders call the church asking for advice?
7. Search for Third Places
In a post-Christendom culture where more and more people are less and less interested in activities of the church, it is increasingly important to connect with people in places of neutrality, or common “hang outs.” In the book, “The Great Good Place” Ray Oldenburg identifies these as “third places.” Our first place is the home; the second place is where we work and the place we spend the majority of our waking hours. But the third place is an informal setting where people relax and have the opportunity to know and be known by others.
Third places might include the local coffee shop, hair salon, restaurant, mall, or fitness center. These places of common ground must take a position of greater importance in the overall ministry of the church as individuals begin to recognize themselves as missionaries sent into the local context to serve. We must also rediscover hospitality. Biblical hospitality is much more than entertaining others in our homes: we must learn to welcome the stranger.
8. Use Stories to Renew Imagination
Instead of trying to define what it means to be missional, we can describe missional living through stories and images. We can capture the “missional imagination” by sharing what other faith communities are doing and illustrate what it looks like to connect with people in third places, cultivate rapport with local schools, and build relationships with neighbors. Moreover, we can reflect deeply on biblical images of mission, service and hospitality by spending time on passages such as Genesis 12:2, Isaiah 61:1-3, Matthew 5:43; 10:40; 22:39; 25:35 and Luke 10:25-37.
The greatest challenge facing the church in the West is the “re-conversion” of its own members. We need to be converted away from an internally focused, Constantinian mode of church and converted towards an externally focused, missional-incarnational movement that is a true reflection of the missionary God we follow.
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The first implication Brad draws for our posture is that we must start with spiritual formation. Why? He writes, “people will have neither the passion nor the strength to live as a counter cultural society for the sake of others if they are not transformed by the way of Jesus. If the church is to ‘go and be’ then we must make certain that we are a Spirit formed community that has the spiritual capacity to impact the lives of others.”
I think this is not commonly perceived, but to start with spiritual formation is bang on. We cannot give away what we don’t have.. and what we have to give away is who we are. This is why so many of us love Webber’s statement that the church in its way of being in the world IS an apologetic. We are people of “the way.”