I remember the first time I heard the word Missional. It was new and shiny like a brand new car. I loved the message behind it, calling people back to mission; living out Church as the body of Jesus. As men and women of faith in Jesus we have a particular mission in the world and unfortunately much of the mission has been lost over the years. We’ve instead concerned ourselves with right thinking, great music, growing larger congregations of people who gather together in one room to worship God. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of the aforementioned things. But in the midst of pursuing these things we have often knelt to a lesser god.
Our focus slipped from that of the first followers of Jesus to something different.
It is out of that place where the idea of the missional church was born. A group of individuals came together wanting to call The Church back to her roots. To become a people of mission who believe we have a responsibility to love others with our words and deeds, to take our focus from being inward, to living outward. To take note that we have a role to play in the Kingdom of God today. To study the life of Jesus as our model and then jump into life with a passionate desire to follow in His way. Good thoughts indeed. Thoughts with which I very much agree.
I believe as men and women of faith in Jesus we need to be on a mission. A mission to Love God, Love others and Love our selves. This is the mission of Jesus and it is very active.
Then something happened. I noticed people saying things like, “That is an attractional church and we’re a missional church,” or “we are a traditional church and they are a missional something or other,” sometimes you’d even hear people smugly saying, “I can’t believe what this or that church is doing, they are so lost, they aren’t a part of the missional church.” The fact is, missional has become a brand and a dividing mark and often a litmus test for individuals to see if someone is a true follower of Jesus or is a part of the “right way” to do church.
I must admit as a result, I’m getting tired of the word missional. I also have fear that the term missional will lead people to believe that the things at the heart of missional thinking are actually a fad, rather than a way. There is a difference.
Throughout history the church has gone through many phases. In my lifetime the church in the US and other places has sought to redefine itself continually. It is as though we all know there is something broken and so when we figure out what it might take to fix it, we teach a seminar, coin a term, write a book and change the way we do things. As a result we have experienced a lot of experimental expressions of church. (again I do not believe any of this is wrong, but it can be misguided. When our desire to get people in the doors of our church out weighs the desire to see lives changed by Jesus, we’ve lost something)
I fear that the once shiny, brand new car word, is loosing a bit of its shine and that people are becoming less impressed by its message. I fear that as we seek to redefine church with a new vocabulary and theology we become more interested in missional ideas, than Jesus ideas. (These can be one in the same, but there are subtle twists that can make the focus about being “missional” rather than being a “Christ follower” to the hearer.)
I wonder what would happen if we took the labels off of movements and simply referenced Jesus. How are we to live? Look at Jesus. How are we to love? Look at Jesus. Who holds the truth for those who follow Him. Jesus.
I believe the message of the missional church is calling people to follow after the way of Jesus, reconnecting the church with her bridegroom and first love. I believe that the heart of the missional movement is good. I simply fear that it will become a brand or label and that in a few years something new and shiny will come along and people will leave this way to follow that way (whatever way that way is). I also fear that we are creating a new pharisaical system, a way to judge whether people and churches are using the right vocabulary to teach about Jesus, make disciples and label itself.
I wonder what would happen if we simply followed His way and didn’t feel a need to brand it with anything other than His name, Jesus?
What do you think?
How do we keep the truths of a movement, without popularizing it to fad status?