Friday, January 12, 2007

Missional at the Core

The following description of a missional church is excerpted from Christianity Today's blog Out of Ur...

Missional at the core
In essence, missional churches seek to align their identity, activities, and hopes with God’s redemptive mission on earth. This is a tall order for churches that brim with cultural and programming expectations, resource abundance, iconic labels (like “evangelical” or “mainline” or “Pentecostal”), and visions of grand ambitions. The temptation is always to have a grand scheme to which we incessantly try to woo or invoke God’s presence rather see ourselves fitting into God’s agenda.

In contrast, the missional church is a corrective to or an outright rejection of commodified and cultural Christianity, steeped in institutionalism, individualism, and sentimentality.
Identifying missional churches can be difficult. Such churches are separated by identity and perspective as much as their visible forms. Nonetheless, there are some common commitments.

(1) Missional communities try to align themselves holistically with God’s theme of redemption. They resist the use of Christianity as an anesthetic to the pain of human needs and as an affirmation of the superiority of one culture’s way of life.This is lived out in several common practices.

(2) Programming and finances are directed outward. It’s easy for much of the church’s program and fiscal reflexes to become directed internally. Emphases on church growth or “building the body” are often presented as the mission (“A larger church means more space and opportunity for our community to encounter Christ,” is the overt message, when the real message to staff is, in fact, “Keep the saints happy and coming back.”).

To counter this temptation, missional communities may cut back on programming to leave space for breathing and living. Some ministries are relocated from the safe confines of the church into the community. Financial assets are viewed as both opportunity and burden. Some missional churches have made a pattern of giving away resources without control or strings attached to reduce congregants’ sense of entitlement.

(3) Missional communities are discontent with spiritual formation as primarily cognitive assent (“I believe this to be true”). Instead, formation is presented as a way of life, a rhythm of being, and a rule of values. It emphasizes faithful living during the week rather than gathering for worship at a weekend event. The sharp boundary between the sacred and secular is evaporating as missional fellowships seek to hear God’s voice in culture and creation.

(4) Embracing the ethnic and social diversities of local communities is becoming a moral expectation. (This is one aspect of God’s voice that I believe we have heard strongly from outside the confines of the church.)

(5) Finally, missional communities are not only ardent listeners for the earmarks of God’s redemptive work in our world, these communities are passionate activists when they find the pathways and trajectories of God’s redemptive presence. The work of justice, reconciliation, peace, and spiritual direction are becoming the dominant reflexes of missional communities.
In this spirit of activism, theological debates and historical sunderings are becoming marginalized.

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