Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you”…As you go, “make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This is what Jesus expects of his church – in every context of life. The command is simple, but how to do what Jesus has commanded can be a little more complicated depending on your context. For example:
Try and imagine what it would be like to enter into a foreign culture and attempt to communicate the gospel…
We can learn much from a missionary named Lesslie Newbigin here. He spent much his life ministering in the pagan society of India. When he returned home to Britain after 30 years of service he realized that the culture of his own country had changed drastically since he left – it was now primarily a non-Christian society. But he realized that the church in Britain had not adapted to its new situation. This caused Newbigin to essentially ask himself, how would a missionary approach ministry in this cultural climate?
What about your church? What does its posture, its behavior, its practices, and activities communicate to the community it’s in? All of us want to understand the culture and community we are ministering in so that we can communicate the gospel with absolute clarity. To do this we need to ask ourselves the hard but needed questions. Who are we reaching? Are we primarily reaching people who are like us?
- Are we primarily reaching people who have a church background?
- Are we primarily reaching people who are already believers?
- Are we primarily reaching people who understand Christian subculture and taboos?
Sure, we need to reach these people. But what about the many people who live and work around you who are not like you?
- What about the people who don’t have a church background?
- What about the people who are unfamiliar with Christian beliefs?
- What about the people who don’t understand church subculture and behavioral taboos?
Don’t we believe that the gospel is a message for all people? In the recent past there was little difference between the language and morality inside and outside of the Church, because our culture was largely Christianized. So it was easy for someone to enter into, understand, and adjust to the church culture.
But this is no longer the case. Our world, our culture, our communities have changed in the past 10-20-30 years, and will continue to change. This calls us to consider how we seek to proclaim and reflect the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ to a culture that increasingly non-Christian. We may need to ask questions such as:
- Where am I going to live to reach people?
- How are we attempting to be a faithful presence where God has placed us?
- What types of ministry should we be investing our time and energy in?
- If our church family disappeared from our community, would they miss us?
- What long term relationships should we focus on and cultivate?
- What do we need to do to understand our culture, the dominant religions, and popular worldview?
- How can we think in a Christian way about the things people are facing in our culture and communities?
- How does God’s Word affirm some of the things we see in secular cultural?
- How does the Gospel transform some of the things we see in secular culture?
Being a missional church means we must think strategically while taking the message into our communities, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Consider the ministry patterns of the New Testament. It seems that these Christians taught primarily through dialogue, sayings, and stories. Sure, they taught in the synagogues, but they more often taught in homes, along the road, and while in fellowship with neighbors. Much of their evangelism and discipling was informal, but intentional. This kind of ministry requires committed relationships, quality time, and gospel intentionality.
What if the primary way people came to faith in Jesus Christ was through the day to day activities of the church scattered? What if we frequently heard of people who came to faith in Jesus while they encountered our church as a network of relationships rather than a building one enters? This would require a missional mindset. It would mean that we need to think as missionaries in order to intelligently and respectfully engage others for the sake of the gospel.
Many of our churches have always been committed to missions – globally and locally. Our challenge to be missional takes those strategies and places them in the hands of every church member and asks them to be a missionary where they are day to day. See, being missional is primarily a way of thinking about the church and how it relates to the world.
A missional church understands that the church does not just go on mission, or just send people out to do missions. Rather, the church is the mission of God into the world, to proclaim and reflect the gospel of Christ.
A missional church seeks to appropriately engage culture with understanding – by permeating it with equipped worshipers who’s lives are defined by the mission in all that they do. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you”…Church…As you go, make disciples, baptize, teach them to observe what Jesus has commanded.” Have a missional mentality.