I am a fan of being missional. It is important to us to engage the lost and dying world. However, how that happens is and will continue to change in the coming years. People just aren’t drawn to all day church services and over the top comb overs anymore.
I am a big fan of Ed Stetzer. If you do not know who that is, he is a baptist that has build a core message to the church that we must be “intentional missional.” What this means to him is interesting to consider.
Being missional conveys the idea of living on a purposeful, Biblical mission. Mission is the reason the church exists and the church joins Jesus on mission. And, this mission is from everywhere to everywhere.
Simply put, he believes that the same ideals that we teach people to cross cultural missionary work, we should also use in our daily lives in the home mission as well. While I agree that there is much that can be said for being culturally relevant and a general desire to present the timeless gospel of hope to the people in a way they understand, I am not sure how we could do it.
Missional Pentecostalism vs Classic Pentecostalism
I am talking about culture we have had in our churches. I am not in no way encouraging or even considering that we need to change our doctrine (and Ed does not say that, either). The message will remain the same. As Pentecostals, we must always believe that Jesus saves, heals, delivers and fills up with Holy Spirit. Becoming missional must never be a discard for foundational truth.
However, there is some cultural things that we have in our churches. If we are honest, we have been pretty successful at developing a sub-culture in our churches and not quite as effective at being influences in the culture in which we live. Most people do not worry about how long their dresses are or how much makeup they are wearing today. The truth is our holiness standards have become a culture in and of themselves.
I realize that many would point to the appointment of John Ashcroft for the highest office in law enforcement saying “We are influencing popular culture.” However, the concept that we are to be missional is not really Kingdom Now theology. This is not to mention some type of mythical disconnection between those in office and those in the streets.
In my opinion, most of what we have done to build this sub-culture is based on legalism in the name of holiness. There is some things that we can’t back down on like abortion and co-habitation. I do not see or accept that being missional is a call to universalism either. This is not being seeker sensitive and letting everyone to live in open sin or trying to be the second coming of Joel Osteen. It is about living what is biblical and disregarding what is mere part of our sub-culture.
Missional driven over Program driven
If we are honest, we have turned our churches into programs for this and for that. Yes, we perfer the word “ministry” but for people on the outside looking in, the reality is still the same. We have this ministry and that ministry. I use to lead the street evangelism ministry every weekend. In reality, many of the people did not no evangelism besides when they came to do it during the “outreach.”
This is different than being missional. In this context, you just live in outreach mode and you don’t have a “set time” to turn on the ministry light switch. As you engage people, the gospel will naturally come forth. It is part of living together in the community that you live. It is not doing friendship evangelism but just being a friend and waiting for the evangelism to happen naturally. People need to hear about Jesus the Victor without feeling like they are the victim!
This is not a call to kill church programs but more to live the truth that should drive those programs. We say that worship is our lives, not songs but how often we really view going to the grocery store and building a relationship with the staff as worship? I am just as guilty as anyone else at not seeing the things of life as part of my worship to God and relational commitment. This is why we are not as effective as we want to be…especially with the middle class educational demographic of America.
Should churches be mission bases?
I personally believe and teach that missionaries should operate from a launching pad for the missionaries and a gathering place for the community known as mission bases. How does this work in the context of doing ministry in Kansas City or Chicago or Atlanta? The truth is this is mainly something for the developing world and not as much for middle class America.
My point is not everything we do in the Philippines or Fiji will apply when doing the great commission in urban United States. Part of being cultural relevant to the people is knowing that many things we do in Africa is not cultural to Denver. Depending where you are in the country, learning a new language is probably not as important as it would be going to Thailand.
You can read all these missionary books about how to be a missionary and think you just do that in your city. It is not quite that simple. You have to figure out which one of them will work and which ones will not. It is also important to understand that society expects from us as believers. Despite popular belief, the people we minister to do not expect preachers is jeans three sizes too small.
A church in America has far more functions that a mission base in Tonga would have. It is not less important but it is different. We need to make sure we can discern what is similar and what is not in our quest to be missional Pentecostals.