Pastor's Blog

Missional Church: as easy as falling off a wall?

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” [1]

What do we mean by missional?

It’s one of those words whose definition can appear so broad that’s it’s hard to know what it’s really all about. Looking behind the word for a moment it can be hard to understand, (to tie down as it were), what God’s particular intentionality is, let alone knowing exactly how and where we join in. In the search for a concrete picture we are left uncomfortably close to trying to nail jelly to a wall with a sledgehammer, using six inch nails. [Please don’t try it at home without a plastic sheet for the mess and a First Aid box for your fingers].

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give it a try. A number of significant books have been written on the subject and “missional discipleship” forms the core of what many of us understand to be the something of the “soul” of the contemporary church. I’ll begin by referencing an article from Churchleader.[2]

I’m starting here partly because it’s an interesting take on the question and also because there’s actually a quite a bit I disagree with – in terms of scope, definition and some of the perceptions of the author. There’s significant confusion between what we once knew (or referred to) as the mission of the church and the inherent nature of what it means to be a church.

In Driscoll’s words:

A missional church must strategize how to carry out the mission to today’s increasingly non-Christian culture.

This is his list of the characteristics of a missional church

  • it’s biblical
  • it practices and preaches repentance
  • it enters and engages with culture
  • it contextualizes the Gospel but doesn’t compromise it
  • it follows the example of Jesus
  • it welcomes all: it is not geared towards one group or family “type”
  • it’s a training church: hospitality, theology and apologetics are all vital to enable practical, authentic expressions of faith
  • it’s led by the Spirit and demonstrates the gifts of the Spirit
  • it’s countercultural: citizenship is in God’s Kingdom, not the world
  • it multiplies
  • it’s messy: it deals with people and (by definition) their lives and experiences

Point 5 is my addition/clarification to point 4. Following Jesus’ example is far more than contextualisation and avoiding compromise.

This is a word on the subject but far from the last word – particularly given the contextual nature of what it means to be someone living out their faith wherever they may be.

More will follow from the practical examples I’m looking at but what do you think? What characterises a church that God would be pleased with?

[1]  Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson), Through the Looking-Glass, p. 205 (1934)
[2] http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/164455-mark-driscoll-10-marks-missional-church.html. Accessed 24th September 2016.

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