I like using the heading of this study primarily because it captures the essence of its purpose. This document is meant to give the reader an essential exposure to the “Basics” of the Missional mindset. As we begin, let’s get a couple of things EXTREMELY clear:
1. Being Missional (or “mission driven” OR having embedded/incarnated missional DNA) is NOT being involved, or adding, or even strategizing a PROGRAM for your faith community (aka “local church”). Rather being Missional (the word I will use and define further below) is a MINDSET or, if you prefer, a WORLDVIEW. What is a worldview? It is a framework of reference or “lens” through which everything in life is interpreted. In other words, don’t start off thinking you are going to do something new in your congregation as if you were adding a program. Being Missional messes with the core of your identity.
2. Being Missional is an “infection.” CS Lewis referred to a “good infection” in Mere Christianity as that process of transformation that is enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit in a Christ follower’s life. Living a “mission driven” lifestyle IS best equated with an infection. Again, it is not something to add to your life…it isn’t something like a spiritual discipline or something for which you should set aside 5 or 10 minutes a day. It is something that BECOMES your life. Once you get a taste of joining Jesus on His mission, that thrill and that outlook should never be anything but HOW you live your life. It infects how you see relationships and your life’s rhythm.
3. Being Missional is intended to do something in you – to move you from being an “absorber” to a “giver.” I don’t know if you have ever thought about this before but most church people grow up expecting to absorb or consume religious goods and services. We are trained to “receive.” Now, that’s not all bad because we all know how much we need to receive and thank God for His incredibly powerful grace and gifts. Even so, as one grows in the faith, there needs to be an essential shift in paradigms of a person’s life – we move from absorbing all the time to giving as a partner of what Jesus is doing everyday. Remember John 3:16? “God so loved that HE GAVE…” My point, do you love people as Jesus loves you? Then, how are you giving of that love? Missional living is GIVING LIVING.
4. Being Missional is something you can’t buy. You can’t find it in a book, a manual or a conference you attend. It is something you really can’t even LEARN until you UNLEARN other stuff. Friend, being Missional is a NEW WAY OF BEING A CHRIST FOLLOWER. It is a NEW WAY of being a Church. It is a NEW WAY of viewing what we do together as congregations in ministry. You wouldn’t believe how many assumptions we have made about what it means to be a Christian and a local congregation. Two thousand years of paradigms, definitions, teachings, and modeling have burned into our brain and heart ONE way of living and seeing what the Church is all about. I call it our “default.” We all have them in many areas of life. Our “default” position in terms of what it means to be a faith community is to “do church” as has been done for centuries. I mean, what’s wrong with that? Unfortunately, the world has changed. Some of the following study will cover some of the changes that have occurred within our context. The issue is this – we need to experience “fresh wine in new wineskins” (Jesus’ words, not mine) for a new age and a new population. Gone is the favored status of the Church in most of our communities. Gone is what most of us grew up with in terms of what it “means” to be a Christian in our world. The former assumptions aren’t serving us well in a post-modern, post-Christendom, pluralistic, and secularistic world. So, we need to look critically at how we have perpetuated our “default” and learn in new ways what the Bible and the Spirit is “saying to the churches” (again, the words of Jesus, not mine).
5. Being Missional isn’t something new. It is not novelty that we are striving after. In other words, this isn’t something we are talking about just because we are bored or have a short-attention span. I really don’t believe that we need anything NEW as followers of Jesus. In other words, God’s been pretty consistent with His love and grace. In fact, in the scriptures, we see example after example of what Jesus was actually talking about when He gave His followers the “Great commandment” (Mark 12:30) and the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18ff). It’s all there…we have simply FORGOTTEN how to live as Jesus taught us, His disciples, to live. That’s why I LOVE what my online friend Alan Hirsch says about thinking in this manner – these are “Forgotten Ways.” Think of it like this – we’ve taken the eye off the ball. We have been so busy keeping our institutions and religious practices afloat that our ship has sunk and we don’t even know it. It’s time for some clarity friends. Being and living Missional is biblical, theologically sound, missiologically consistent with Christian history, ecclesiastically efficient, and purposely faithful to the call of Jesus. It is essentially joining God is WHAT GOD IS ALREADY DOING. It’s looking in the right places, listening and watching for what the Spirit is doing. So, don’t think of being Missional as another “thing” your church has to do. I think I’ve read most every book on the subject and I still believe that being Missional isn’t so much about what you do…it is rather WHO YOU ARE!
6. Lastly, being Missional means that you are in for a journey. In other words, if you are looking for a quick answer to your congregation’s problems with decreased attendance or apathetic existence or “stuckness”, this conversation is not for you. In fact, if you “try” being Missional as if it were a quick fix, let me tell you plainly – IT WILL FAIL. In fact, you might end up causing MORE problems than you anticipate because MOST people won’t get it. It will take patience, loving conversation, an atmosphere of risk-taking, and a radical dependence on the Holy Spirit for this new DNA to emerge and thrive. Now, I like the word DNA for this reason – it demonstrates clearly how substantial and complete a shift or transformation needs to occur in order for Missional living and identity to be part of your congregation’s life. Think of it this way – a shift in DNA is that which changes a human being’s design into another life form. DNA is the rubric for existence. Any change has HUGE implications. That’s why Missional DNA is “subversive” DNA. As my new friend Greg Finke says, “God’s messing with you.” In other words, you will be playing with fire. Yet remember what “fire” does scripturally – it purifies and renews. That’s what this journey could and should do.