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missional thinking“The church exists to go into the cultures and nations of the earth and live sacrificially for the good of others.”

Mission is all about going. It is following the Lord of the Harvest into the fields, becoming the answer to His (and our own) prayers, “Send more workers into the fields” (Matthew 9:37-38).

America The Mission Field

Do you realize that you live in a mission field? Don’t be distracted by how many church buildings are in your town — you live in a post-Christian culture.

To my friends here in the US, this includes you too! A wide variety of people have commented on this.

Ed Stetzer and David Putnam wrote: “North America is often not seen as a mission field, or it is seen as a ‘reached’ field only in need of an evangelism strategy. We tend to think that true missional engagement is not necessary in our paganized, secularized, spiritualized North American culture.”

Eddie Gibbs and Ian Coffey talk about missionary engagement, which they define as occurring when “the church recognizes not only its distinctive identity in the gospel but also its calling within a specific culture.” They write that the church must be rooted in God’s plan to heal and restore creation, only being able to do so when the church accepts Christ’s commission to go in mission.

We are all rapidly coming to the conclusion that attendance at Sunday services alone won’t produce disciples, however good the programs on offer. With enormous experience in church planting, Neil Cole writes that the church has to rediscover what it means to go with the Gospel — to “where life happens and where culture is formed – restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, parks, locker rooms and neighborhoods.”

We are not to simply accept and baptize the culture to which we go, but rather to understand, affirm where we can, offer a better way where we can’t, and demonstrate that to become a Christian someone does not have to leave his or her original culture, language, and ethnic identity behind.

In our culture: affirm where we can, offer a better way where we can’t - Click To Tweet

Moving Into Missional Thinking

For the church, this requires a significant movement in thinking, as well as practice.

Stetzer and Putnam summarize some of the critical steps into missional thinking:

• From programs to processes
• From demographics to discernment
• From models to missions
• From attractional to incarnational
• From uniformity to diversity
• From professional to passionate
• From seating to sending
• From decisions to disciples
• From additional to exponential
• From monuments to movements

Reggie McNeal describes this process in terms of three shifts, in thinking and behavior:

• From internal to external in terms of ministry focus
• From program development to people development in terms of core activity
• From church-based to Kingdom-based in terms of leadership agenda

What is interesting about these lists is that they help us rethink what it is we are using as our metrics of evaluation and success. What you measure is what you reproduce, and what you count is what you value. Before you dive into starting missional communities or more intentional discipling structures, you must make the underlying shift into missional thinking. If you don’t, all you do is start some new programs and neuter the genuine impact of following Jesus into the mission field.

What you measure is what you reproduce, and what you count is what you value – Click To Tweet

Of course, just because someone calls what he or she does “missional” does not mean it is! Alan Hirsch rightly states that “the word ‘missional’ over the years has tended to become very fluid as it was quickly co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they themselves were doing, be they missional or not. It is often used as a substitute for seeker-sensitive, cell-group church, or other church growth concepts, thus obscuring its original meaning.”

There is hard work involved in doing the underlying thinking through of your paradigm of church, and thus becoming very intentional in evolving your DNA. As you gain clarity, so you are able to bring into play the values that will build a culture that is supportive of all sorts of creative missional endeavors.

But, don’t skip the thinking!


Your Response:

Who can you meet with to develop your missional thinking?

Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences.

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