If you’ve read any of my blog, you’ve encountered the word missional.
I admit, I’ve been writing under the assumption that most of you are familiar with the term, so I’ve not invested many sentences in defining or describing it. However, this post begins with the assumption that you’ve never heard the word missional before and have no clue what it involves.
In some circles, missional is code for unscriptural ecclesiology. Images of Rob Bell and emergent church theology flash into the minds of others. To others it’s just some new-fangled fad for hipsters who don’t like the way church is supposed to be done. But true missional is none of the above.
You can Google all sorts of definitions of missional, but the one that I’ve settled on is this: Missional is living as people who have been sent by Jesus to make disciples; it’s a reorientation of every area of life around the mission of making disciples.
You might be thinking, “Duh, I know as a believer I should be trying to make disciples. So what’s different about “being missional?”
The key distinctive in missional is in the idea of reorienting every area of your life around making disciples. That means that the mission of disciplemaking is not some add-on to everything else you’re doing. It’s not some optional extracurricular activity you schedule into your week. Missional means your life is centered around living as one who is sent by Jesus into everyday routines and rhythms to bring the good news of Jesus to bear on every relationship and circumstance. Check out this video of Paul Tripp talking about this view of mission. It can mean shifting some things around in your life so you can more intentionally be on mission, or it may just mean doing what you’re already doing, but with gospel intentionality.
Some Christians and churches think they’re being missional when they actually are not. You can’t just tack on the adjective missional to “church,” “small group,” “ministry,” or any other related word and presto!, you’re missional. If you’re doing what you’ve been doing with a tweak here and there and labeling it as missional, you’re still not missional.
A church sending a group to serve at a homeless shelter once a month is a great thing, but it’s not missional.
A small group leading a worship service in an assisted living once a quarter is lovely, but it’s not missional.
A church sending a team for a summer mission trip to Central America for ten days is awesome…but it’s still not missional.
Missional happens in the everyday, not in the every-once-in-awhile.
Now, if that church group reorients their lives to serving the homeless as part of their normal weekly rhythms, even some of them daring to relocate closer to where the homeless are, some members providing skills training, others leading a regular worship gathering, making prayer and gospel conversations a regular occurrence with the homeless, then that would be a missional thing.
Maybe that small group could adopt some of the assisted living residents who have no local family as grandparents. They could participate in weekly activities at the facility and volunteer on a regular basis. They could build relationships with the staff, particularly the caregiving staff (aides) in the facility and bless them by praying for them and showing appreciation for their work. The small group could coordinate with the facility to plan special events through the year. All this plus do a regular worship service for the residents. This is missional.
The group that takes the occasional annual mission trip could find a local migrant population they can begin to love on. Some in the group could attempt to learn their language. Host some events like a dinner where people make their favorite dishes from their home country. Provide resources to help them find jobs, help in getting a place to live, or filling out paperwork. Those with kids could meet parents in a park and have conversation while their kids play. Sounds missional to me.
Are you getting the idea? Do you see the distinction between just doing a ministry activity and living missionally? Missional living requires a reorientation, sometimes a radical reorientation, to join God on his mission among a people to make disciples. At the very least, missional is doing what you normally do, but with gospel intentionality. It is seeing all of your life as mission.
Another distinction that shows up in missional living is the frequency of contact and depth of relationship that occurs. It’s going from once a month, once a quarter, or once a year to practically everyday. It may not literally be every day, but it will work out to being more than once a week. Your lives and those you’re pouring into are rubbing together, being weaved together. Relationships become more like family. This happens not only with the people you’re loving and serving with the gospel, but with one another as you serve on mission together. And it’s a beautiful thing.
So, think about something you’re doing now as an act of ministry. How can you turn that from an occasional action into a missional lifestyle? What changes, if any, might you need to make in order to create margin (extra time/resources) so it can happen? How would you need to reorient your life in order to join God in his mission to that group of people, that neighborhood, that school, that population/segment of society? Now, the big question. Will you?