Shortly after I became a follower of Jesus, I became captivated by Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus assigned His followers the mission of taking the gospel to all nations, to make disciples and baptize them. Within six months of my conversion, I wanted to leave the military and become a pastor. I was full of enthusiasm. However, my pastor then shared with me 1 Corinthian 7:20; which the Apostle Paul counsels his readers that they “should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” While the message was clear to me that I should remain in the military and be Christ’s ambassador to my fellow military community members, it was not what I thought I should be doing. My zeal for the Lord was growing, and I just wanted to do what my pastor was doing. Fortunately, I was married to a practical lady from Saskatchewan who saw the wisdom of my pastor’s counsel and encouraged me to press on with my military career.
During my career, my enthusiasm for the Lord, His gospel and His mission did not diminish. My work environment was my mission field; my colleagues and our work were the subject of my prayers. Today, I am still on the mission of bringing the gospel to the military community at home and abroad.
I would like to share something I have been reading recently. It is an article written by Alan Hirsh and published in Christianity Today/Leadership Journal in 2008. In this article Alan writes about the perspective that if you are a Christian, then your calling is to be a missionary where the Lord has called you. At the end of this article are a few questions that are useful for either reflection on your own or with your fellowship group. Please give this a read and let me know your thoughts.
“A proper understanding of missional begins with recovering a missionary understanding of God. By His very nature, God is a “sent one” who takes the initiative to redeem His creation. This doctrine, known as missio Dei—the sending of God—is causing many to redefine their understanding of the church. Because we are the “sent” people of God, the church is the instrument of God’s mission in the world. As things stand, many people see it the other way around. They believe mission is an instrument of the church; a means by which the church is grown. Although we frequently say, “the church has a mission,” according to missional theology a more correct statement would be “the mission has a church.”
Many churches have mission statements or talk about the importance of mission, but where truly missional churches differ is in their posture toward the world. A missional community sees the mission as both its originating impulse and its organizing principle. A missional community is patterned after what God has done in Jesus Christ. In the incarnation God sent His Son. Similarly, to be missional means to be sent into the world; we do not expect people to come to us. This posture differentiates a missional church from an attractional church.
The attractional model, which has dominated the church in the West, seeks to reach out to the culture and draw people into the church—what I call outreach and in-grab. But this model only works where no significant cultural shift is required when moving from outside to inside the church. And as Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, the attractional model has lost its effectiveness.
The West resembles a cross-cultural missionary context in which attractional church models are self-defeating. The process of extracting people from the culture and assimilating them into the church diminishes their ability to speak to those outside. People cease to be missional and instead leave that work to the clergy.
A missional theology is not content with mission being a church-based work. Rather, it applies to the whole life of every believer. Every disciple is to be an agent of the kingdom of God, and every disciple is to carry the mission of God into every sphere of life. We are all missionaries sent into a non-Christian culture.
Missional represents a significant shift in the way we think about the church. As the people of a missionary God, we should engage the world as He does—by going out rather than just reaching out. To obstruct this movement is to block God’s purposes in and through his people. When the church is on mission, it is the true church.
The following is an excerpt taken from the book: “Planting missional churches” by Ed Stetzer.
God is a missionary God in this culture and in every culture. His nature does not change with location (or time). Therefore, a missionary posture should be the normal expression of the church at all times and places. The church needs to realize that mission is its fundamental identity. A non-missional church misrepresents the true nature of the church. The Great Commission institutionalizes mission as the raison d’être, the controlling norm of the church. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of His body is to live a missionary experience in the world. There is no doubt that this was how the earliest Christians understood their calling.
Missionary identity is rooted in the triune and “sending” God. The fact that Jesus was the “sent one” is the most fundamental identification of Jesus. Because of our identity in Christ, we (believers) are to continue the mission of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of that mission: the Holy Spirit is the power of that mission: the church is the instrument of that mission, and the culture is the context in which that mission occurs.” Reflect on these two quotes by Branson (p 67)
Our commitment to intercultural life is rooted here: God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) embodies and initiates love that embraces differences and crosses boundaries and calls us to a gospel of reconciliation and love.
Matters of boundary crossing, encountering cultural differences and dealing with issues of inclusion and prejudice are always present in the stories of the missional expansion of the church. (P51)
Questions for consideration and discussion
- Does a missional church differ from an attractional church? In what ways?
- How would you describe your church? Missional or Attractional. What are some indicators to support your choice?
- What is the relationship between being missional and intentionally intercultural?