Friday, January 22, 2010

What does it mean to be missional?

The missional concept is somewhat a phenomenon in the church planting context. Recently Ed Stetzer mentioned the "missional tree" formulated by Leadership Journal. Yet the concept itself remains fuzzy. What does it mean to be "missional"?

There is a growing trend to name as missional anything that has a social or cultural orientation and that specifically does not involve anything that has traditionally been termed evangelistic. For example, what did your church or youth group do on its last mission trip? Clean up a neighborhood? Build a house in a third-world country? Conduct educational activities in an inner-city church?

Here's the rub: there is a growing sense that to serve the world is good, it's PC (politically correct). To convert the world is bad, it displays our Christian prejudice and inflexibility.

This is not a new phenomenon in recent Christian history. C. Peter Wagner* recognized that the definition of mission has been debated for the past one hundred years. The debate revolves around the poles of the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28; Matt 22:39) and the evangelistic mandate (Gen. 3:9; Mt. 28:19). The strong rise in our social consciousness, of our responsibility to both the creation and the social and physical condition of our fellow people, is bringing the cultural mandate again into prominence in our Christian thinking.

That brings us again to our question: what does it mean to be missional?

My missions training at Fuller Theological Seminary included the classic formulations of Presence (do good), Proclamation (tell why) and Persuasion (make disciples). 

Here's my simple answer: SPEAK JESUS! You can turn almost any activity into mission activity when you are willing to open your mouth, confess your belief in Jesus and engage others in conversations about "righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come" (Acts 24:25).

*"On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy," Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 3rd ed., pp. 531-540, 1999.

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