BY DAVE WELLS
I believe that the Holy Spirit is stirring up the hearts of leaders and believers in our Life Links family to rediscover that the essential calling of the church has to do with something called “Missio Dei” which means “mission of God”. “Missio Dei” stems from the Triune God: the Father sends the Son,the Father and the Son send the Spirit, and the Father and the Son and the Spirit send the church into the world.
When we study the Bible we discover that the God of the Bible is a sending God. For example He sent Noah with a message of salvation to a world under the judgment of a deluge. He sent Joseph into captivity and to Egypt’s royal court to preserve a remnant for His Name. He sent Moses to Pharaoh’s oppressive regime to demand the freedom of God’s people the Israelites. He sent Jonah to Ninevah in order to give the Assyrians the chance to escape judgment.
Day after day He persistently sent the prophets to warn His people in Old Testament times. In the fullness of time He sent His Son, Jesus that the world might be redeemed and the Son in turn sent His disciples. Thus Christian mission is an extension of the nature of a God who lives and cares enough to seek, to search, and to save, regardless of where that person is.
So a missional church is about doing God’s work in the world today. In this sense, the missional church isn’t a new emphasis, but is a renewed focus on what has been (or should have been) there all along. I don’t believe that a missional church just focuses on outreach to the exclusion of all else, for to do that would be to dry up spiritually and relationally. A missional church lives out the church’s 3-dimensional calling: to be upwardly focused on God in worship that is passionate; to be inwardly focused on community among believers that is demonstrated in relationships of love and compassion; and to be outwardly focused on a world that does not yet know God.
This is the balance that we are after as we focus on building New Testament Churches. But if being missional is the essence of being the church, why isn’t every church missional?
One reason is there is confusion among believers and the local church as to the purpose of the church. If you survey the average church you’d find that the members have a wide variety of disagreement on what are the purposes of a church. If you asked them why a church exists you would not get a clear consensus.
One national survey of church members asked the question, “What is the purpose of your church”? The survey revealed that 89% of the members of a typical church say “The purpose of the church is to take care of me, my family, and our needs.”Only 11% said “The purpose of the church is to win the world.” When they surveyed the pastors of those same churches they got the exact opposite results.
It is no wonder there is conflict and confusion in those churches. If there is not agreement on the churches’ purposes, there is going to be conflict on every detail that comes along.
Jesus defined the purpose of the church for us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” [Matt. 28:19]
A second reason derailing churches from being missional is churches measuring their success by the size of their church membership. There has been great pressure on leaders on building a church of considerable numbers in their respective community. This has produced all kinds of destructive attitudes in the Body of Christ. It burns out leaders and creates competition and discouragement within the Body of Christ. It produces pride and jealousy among leaders, believers and churches. When the emphasis is on bringing the world to the church, the church’s mission of going to the world can get lost.
Obviously, attracting people to the church is not wrong. In fact, it’s important not to view “missional” as the opposite of the term “attractional”. I think attractional is really a subset of missional. Churches ought to be attractional. After all, there is an attractive appeal to the mission.
A third reason is the self-preservation mindset of many leaders and congregations. When we try to encourage churches to send people out to plant new works and head to the mission field we see the angst on the faces of the people.
Questions arise like, “How can we give away these people? How will we replace what is lost?” It is a known statistic that the churches that give away, that take risks, that send out, and that sacrificially push their people out, create vacuums that God fills with even more.
Scripture says, “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.” [Prov 11:24 – 26]
The best missional church we see described in the Bible is the church at Antioch. It was one of the best churches described in the New Testament for several reasons but one of the things that characterized this church was that it was a sending church.
It sent out the two best leaders it had, Barnabus and Paul. Now obviously they would have loved it if Paul and Barnabus could have stayed forever! I think it is important to note that it was by sending them out that great increase came both to the church at Antioch and Paul and Barnabus personally.
I believe that it became one of the most fruitful and effective churches of the 1st century because of their missional heart. I believe that Paul and Barnabus raised their ministry and their lives to a whole new level when they set out to expand the kingdom. It was then that they were called apostles. I believe that they experienced an increase in power and authority as did the church.
There is incredible power released when we obey the prompting and direction of the Holy Spirit. I believe that God’s people want to go big! They’re tired of being the unsent church – weary of church services, sermons, in-house programs, and Bible studies that never push them to be the missional people God called them to be.
It is more comfortable driving on the side roads than the freeway but after awhile they can get pretty boring. We need to be the church and get out on the open road.