The Missional Church and International Missions

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For the last few years the word "missional" has been used and abused a great deal. As with any buzzword there are varieties of meaning attached to it and sometimes people talk past each other because each has different connotations in mind when saying "missional." For some the contrast is the word "attractional." An attractional church tries to get people in the door of the congregation by offering programs and services that draw people into the activities and life of the congregation. By contrast, a missional church sees that its members must go where the people are and connect to them there, rather than thinking that the primary interactions are going to be in existing events or programs of the church.

For some it seems that the focus on being missional in the local setting pulls away from international missions, which seems to be part of a traditional church model. Or, it may allow for international ministry only of the short-term variety in which members personally go, connecting with others where they are. Is supporting an international missionary with prayer, care and financial gifts just a cop-out, a way of saying you are about extending the Gospel without really investing yourself? Or, are there ways to do international missions that fit with the missional church ethos?

What do you think?  

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Steve:  Our brains must be on the same wavelength.  I have been thinking about some of these exact same things lately.  Perhaps another word to include would be "global"  how does a local church or a small group within the local church or even and individual as part of the global body of Christ find their fit.  We are so connected in our day and age but still very disconnected from walking and working together as one body.  In my humble opinion being missional means seeing the great commission not as given to me or my small group or my congregation but given to "the church" of which I am a part, meaning that global church.  How does each memeber of that body do its part to fulfill that one mission?  A missional follower of Jesus needs to serve within the entire body.  That means supporting and encouraging brothers and sisters who have dedicated their lives to serving in another context.  It also means supporting and encouraging brother and sister followers next door and around the world ans together we engage in the one mission.  One of the things we need to do as leaders is help people connect with others in the global church.

Well that's my thoughts.

George

   A timely post as our church is examining this very issue. What exactly does a 'missional' church look like? Is it the one with the bulletin board in the basement with a map of the world and some stick pins? It's great to support missionaries with prayer and a check, but does that make one missional? Our church, besides supporting some missionaries around the globe and recently sending a member, is looking to get more of our congregation 'involved'. Ours is a relatively small church (approx 100 members) and we are psyched to have a young woman from our pews serving long term in Columbia, but what of the other 99%? What if we could get 50% (and not just 1%) out there reaching the unchurched right here in our own backyard. Then maybe we could rightfully claim to be a missional church. And while we're at it, maybe we'll blow the dust off that bulletin board & bring it upstairs! .....Kevin

Participant

You are right in stating that the word "missional" is understood in a variety of ways.  When I think of the word "missional" I think about Acts 1:8 and I also think about the engagement of laity.  Acts 1:8 relates that we will be witnesses in our Jerusalems, and in all our Judeas and Samarias, and to the ends of the earth.  The conjunction that connects each of these locations is "and."  In other words, being a witness only in our Jerusalem is insufficient.  The Great Commission commands us to make disciples of all nations.  Being missional, therefore, involves being witnesses locally, nearby, and far away.

 

Moreover, a missional church, to me, is one which engages the body in mission.  A church that sends many missionaries is not necessarily a missional church.  To support "clergy" or "professional" missionaries in being a witness to the world is very good, but not an excuse for lack of engagement of every member in the call to be spirit-filled witnesses in the contexts in which God places them.   A church that equips and engages as many members as possible in the task of mission (locally, nearby and far away) is a missional church.

I love the word "missional" and the many good cocepts related to it.  But when "missional" is used in contrast to "attractional" or "established," we create artificial barriers and limits.  We don't have to be one or the other.  We must be "missional,"  but if we are the aroma of Christ, we are also "attractional" to those who seek.  And if God blesses and the ministry is sustained over time, then it will become "established."  Is that not also of God?  

These and other terms are helpful when they are used in concert together as a collection of descriptors of a church.  But when they become labels, they serve to divide and cause hurt and pride.   I have grown weary of the sometimes-not-so-subtle references to my congregation as an example of an "established" church.  We have been around for over 100 years so, yes! -- God has established us--and God has caused our ministry to stick and grow.  But that doesn't mean we aren't missional too.  By Joel Hogan's definition above, we are very missional and by the Spirit's power and direction, we hope to continue to become more and more missional. 

New church plants are assumed to be "missional."  But there is no guarantee that newness or novelty will result in effective mission.  And. . . don't these churches also want to become "established" in their neighborhoods as places of true community and transformation?  Let's encourage new churches (and all of our churches) to be both, not either.