Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Losing the Training Wheels

Or in other words, what I am thinking about today...

One of the things that I love about the blogosphere is finding others who have put into words thoughts and ideas that I am attempting to grasp. Today, I would like to pull together a few of those thoughts from others that are contributing to my understanding of being missional.

In processing Brother Maynard's extensive thoughts on being missional, one of the points that really struck me was the idea that being missional is an individual response. It is not something to be delegated. It is not a stylistic approach or an add-on program to the way we do church, even in emerging/missional churches.

Allow me to quote some of his phrases concerning this, and please refer back to his post Understanding Missional for the entire context of these quotes.

Individual missional response:

"To be truly missional though, a church would “send” everyone to live incarnationally."

"The missional imperative or universal mandate does not delegate well. Every believer is already among those to whom they are sent..."

"This individual response is for me an essential aspect of what it means to be missional."

"Since missional engagement is a personal response by a believer to the Missio Dei, any one believer can act missionally."

A corporate expression of mission:
"As such, any definition of missional which requires a program or a host organization is at odds with the ways in which I use the word."

"When the mandate is viewed as primarily a corporate one, delegation of its fulfillment is possible…"

"...the effort is delegated and paid for from the common church coffers. It becomes the duty of some to fill the coffers, and the duty of others to do the work with support from the coffers."

Along those lines, Bob Roberts, in his post What is Missional?, talks about the tendency to compartmentalize missions into organizational, programmatic activity.

"We didn’t mean to, but over the years we have compartmentlized missions–and it’s a huge mistake. It slows down and impedes the Great Commission. We’ve comparmentalized it as one of the many important things a church does. We’ve compartmentalized it organizationally and institutionally apart from the whole. The beauty of the Kingdom is it’s impossible to compartmentalize it. It’s the esssense of all of it. It’s the life, Kingdom in, which leads to personal transformation, and then the ministry, Kingdom out, which leads to community, family, and “other” transformation."

Alan Knox describes this tendency to compartmentalize and delegate in his post, Am I Against Church Programs? Again, it would be valuable to read these quotes in the context of the entire post.

"These programs and traditions, while probably started in order to help believers keep the commands of God, tend to replace the commands of God - either consciously or unconsciously - in the minds of the believers.

...furthermore, attendance or participation neither equates with obedience nor do they preclude the individual's responsibility."

Alan goes on to quote his friend Eric from Hammer and Nail:

"I think one reason people outside the church may not see a living faith within the church is that we often rely on church programs to accomplish the work the individuals should be doing...Programs, whether good or not so good, often lead people into shirking their personal responsibility to serve others by thinking that the church program will take care of it."

Sonja adds this in the comment thread of that post:

" many respects the church has become very like the state. We have come to rely on church programs to take care of things in much the way that we rely on state program to take care of things...individuals shirk their responsibility to "love their neighbor" by giving to the church and hoping the church will handle the messiness of it all."

To be clear, I am not suggesting an individualistic Christian walk. I am however saying that we each bear a personal responsibility in fulfilling the missional mandate. Being missional requires removing ourselves from the dualistic mentality of church activity versus missional activity. Missional living is a part of our everyday lifestyle rather than something we append, attend, or attach to our life in a progammatic way.


traveller said...

You have captured this idea very well with your own words and those of others.

When I finally figured this out a few years ago it transformed my thinking about the people around me. I began to see every individual as the bearer of God's image who I coul interact with in a way that would point them to Father, through Jesus. This affected my attitudes toward others, how I spoke with them and acted toward them. The interesting result is that I do not have to seek people out but they come to me to have spiritual conversations. Every day is a "mission trip".....with people I work with, the cashier at the grocery store, the person I sit next to on the plane......

This is so much simpler and more effective than a program....and it's incredibly fun!

Bob said...

What was that line from Pogo? "We went out to meet the enemy and they is us".

Our whole discussion of church in your previous post is germane here. When we separate individuals form the collective, it is easy to delegate (or abdicate our own) responsibility to this entity called "the church".

"They" is "us". Any criticism or responsibility given to the church is given at the same time to the individual and the collective.

Likewise, a program is just a formalized aspect of the larger fabric of life. When the beatitude of life is replaced by the formalized action. Our concern for the poor is replaced by our serving at the soup kitchen. The individual/finite action has replaced the collective/holistic attitude.

It isn't a decision. It's the Way.

Alan Knox said...


Thank you for the link. I like the way you put these different posts together.


Heather said...

Thanks, Grace - I've been meaning to blog more on missional, but maybe I can just link here instead, since you have captured most of what I had to say anyway!

The word "missional" seems like something simple, but it has HUGE ramifications attached to it. Being part of a program is easy. You do what you're told, if you want to innovate a little within the framework it is allowed, but your responsibility is over when the program is. It is much more difficult to have a whole life geared towards mission.

Take, for example, my outdoor eating area. That is now a missional space. I decorate it missionally. Not in that I put up posters declaring "Jesus Loves YOU" - that would not be at all missional to our people group. I put up tour posters of bands that we have been to see, since our people group are primarily music lovers. The posters are there to start conversation flowing. We have a BBQ there too - not just for us, but because it's a quick and easy way to entertain large groups of people. We hold dinner parties and other functions - not simply for our own enjoyment, but because they are good ways to cultivate conversation within our people group. We make a point to attend any functions, meals etc that they invite us to as well. It's incredible how many good conversations we have with them that wouldn't happen if we started a program that none of them would ever attend.

And that's just a tiny piece of life, because then there are the school mothers, my workmates, the organisation I volunteer with, the girl in the coffee shop - mission is everywhere and in everything. Where would the time be for these things if I wrapped myself up in church programs?

So what's the point of my rambling? Missional is Jesus. Missional is the entire New Testament. But it's so darned difficult and time-consuming that we prefer to make boxed programs to let us off the missional hook. I did for years, and I am so glad I jumped in the deep end, because the rewards are enormous.

grace said...

I love the way you explained this. When we see everyone as a bearer of God's image and recognize that we are all on a spiritual journey, then I believe that our interactions do become more natural and genuine.

I think that perhaps the issue is where we assign responsibility for mission, to the church or to the individual, and how we view the relationship between the two, as you said.

You are welcome. I appreciate your thoughts. It is always interesting to see the flow and connection of ideas across a spectrum of the blogosphere.

I think you should blog on missional. It is important to encourage one another in what this really looks like in our lives. Your examples blessed and inspired me. We need more voices saying, "come on, you can do it!"

Inheritor of Heaven said...

Thanks VERY MUCH for your last paragraph.