Many Christian thinkers have reflecting on the world missional recently. Definitions differ, of course, but most would say that to be missional means that your are on mission with God. God is a missionary God, and He sends out a missionary people. Missional folks preach the Gospel by serving, blessing, and being involved in the community glocally. Some missional thinkers stress justice issues, where others stress the importance of evangelizing. Both perspectives are correct because both are part of God’s mission to reconcile all things under the authority of Jesus. Extreme missional thinkers are weak on stressing the importance of Gospel proclamation, where extreme Gospel proclamation folks are weak on stressing the importance on justice issues. The good thing is that both are actively trying to convey God’s redemptive story in this world. A balanced definition of missional, I think, is simple: Being missional means participating in God’s ministry of reconciliation out of gratitude for Jesus saving us and adopting us as his followers. Jesus is the King, so we must live like the King and adopt his Kingdom ethic. The missional movement is a missionary movement one way or another because the direction of movement is towards the unchurched. The goal is that others will come to know their need for a Savior-King too.
So now to the question: Are you missional?
Tim Keller quotes Alan Kreider who, “observes how the early church grew 40 percent per decade for nearly three centuries.” (Center Church, pg.284). Alan writes:
The early Christians did not engage in public preaching; it was too dangerous. There are practically no evangelists or missionaries who names we know… The early Christian had no mission boards. They did not write treatises about evangelism… After Nero’s persecution in the mid-first century, the churches in the Roman Empire closed their worship services to visitors. Deacons stood at the churches’ doors, serving as bouncers, checking to see that no unbaptized person, no ‘lying informer,’ could come in… And yet the church was growing. Officially it was a superstition. Prominent people scorned it. Neighbors discriminated against the Christians in countless petty ways… It was hard to be a Christian… And still the church grew. Why? (quote from Alan Kreider’s They Alone Know the Right Way to Life: The Early Church and Evangelism, pg. 169-70).
Keller reflects further:
“This striking way of laying out the early church’s social situation forces us to realize that the church must have grown because it was attractive. Kreider writes, ‘People were fascinated by it, drawn to it as to a magnet.’ He goes on to make a strong historical case that Christian’s lives- their concern for the weak and the poor, their integrity in the face of persecution, their economic sharing, their sacrificial love even for their enemies, and the high quality of their common life together- attracted nonbelievers to the gospel. Once nonbelievers were attracted to the community by the lives of Christians, they became open to talking about the gospel truths that were the source of this kind of life.” pg.285
Keller then reflects on our situation today:
“Why is there so little relational integrity among believers? The answer is largely - though not wholly- motivational. People who are in the blend-in mode often lack courage. They are (rightly) concerned about losing influence, being persecuted behind-the-scenes ways, or being penalized professionally. On the other hand, those who are in the bubble mode are unwilling to make the emotional, social or even financial and physical investment in the people around them.” pg. 285
I have had to do some serious soul searching in discovering my missional identity here in southwest Wake County. It takes time, effort, and intentionality. It takes being motivated in every single conversation. That’s hard to do because it is easy to check out. Our Culture of Comforts invites us to check out. The early church’s ability to attract others through all it went through is a powerful testimony to the Spirit’s power. Today we need to pray for the motivation to escape the comforts and bubbles in order to discover God’s intended purpose to draw people and His whole creation under the authority of His son.
Today, Heather, the boys, and I had lunch with missionaries in Cary who work for Trans World Radio. It was a pleasure to get to know these fellow Canucks! They showed us a powerful video that puts on display the glory of the Gospel that transcends culture. As you watch, pray that the Holy Spirit will use Romans 8 to move you in God’s direction of mission. Enjoy!
TWR: Speaking Hope to the World from TWR on Vimeo.