Before I get started, I want to give the basic definition of the word missional that I will be using in this blog. Missional simply means every member of a local church body living as missionaries in their geography. The members of a missional church understand that they are no longer part of their geography, even though they may live there. They view their surroundings through a biblical lense of Chist-like values. They are able to distinguish what parts of their surrounding geography needs Christ and are able to discover a practical way to meet that need in a culturally relevant way.
The church has many practices, sacraments, and traditions, but not all of which are missional in nature. In this blog post, I hope to share with you 7 common practices of the misional church.
1) Target Driven
When most contemporary churches think of “target driven,” they usually associate the idea with reaching a specific group of people- boomers, busters, millennials, or postmoderns to name a few. However, that is not the idea that missional church embraces. This idea is that local congregations are positioned in specific geographies for the specific purpose of every man, woman, and child within that geography having the opportunity to see, hear, and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of the churches in a geography thinking inwardly about themselves, they begin with an outward approach that embraces the idea that “the church in a geography exists for that geography.” Thus, the concept of “circles of accountability” are embraced by missional churches. This is the idea of the specific churches in any given locality taking ownership of their surrounding geography in such a way that they engage mission within it by using all of their God given energy and resources.
2) Interdependant Leadership
The overarching metaphor for the Church in the New Testament is that of a body. There are other metaphors for the Church, but the concept of a body seems to be the most prevalent. This body already has a head- Jesus Christ. Since the position of head is already taken, it is important that all followers of Jesus take their place in the body in an interdependent manner.
Leadership is more properly associated with function that with the individual themselves. Ephesians 4 notes the leadership functions that should be operating in the church to see it come to full maturity (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher). The people fulfilling these functions work together in a place to empower people to engage the mission in the given geography.
3) Measurable Values
The Church is a spiritual enterprise, not an organization of members. Therefore, it must be led and populated by spiritually maturing people. If the goal of a congregation is to mobilize people for mission, then it is extremely important that these same people be maturing in their faith. Mobilizing spiritually stagnant people will NOT produce much missional progress. A congregation should be committed to measuring and nurturing some “outcomes” of spiritual maturity so that the heart of people is formed more into the likeness of Christ, and therefore, by default, formed more into the mission of Christ for their geography and the world.
These basic “outcomes” of spiritual maturity are:
- A deepening intimacy with God through Jesus Christ.
- An understanding of personal stories of salvation, with the culturally relevant ability to share that story with others.
- The identification and use of the Holy Spirit’s gift’s to the believer.
- Living in life with others in a way that bears the fingerprints of God, through biblical community and accountability.
4) Laterally Postured
In missional churches, the emphasis is not on the building of earthly empires, but on the expansion of God’s Kingdom over a geography. So, while God will grow local congregations larger, He will also initiate the multiplication of many new congregations as well. One look at the book of Acts reminds us that church planting is not a principle to be learned, but an assumption of an activity that is already taking place. As the gospel is proclaimed and demonstrated in an area, there will be people that need to be formed into local communities of faith, so that they can grow spiritually and engage their individual activity in the mission of God.
5) People Empowerment
The Apostle Paul’s treatment of the nature and purpose of the Church, in his letter to the Ephesians, gives the reader a very clear understanding of the job of church leadership- the empowerment or equipping of people. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells the church to understand that whatever God is going to do in their given geography, and the world, He wants to accomplish through all of His people, not just a select few. We are all part of Christ’s body and it is God’s desire that all of His people be mobilized in His mission to reconcile the world.
6) Partnerships with other Churches
The way that the local congregation at Antioch related to the congregation is Jerusalem should be the normal expression of a mission church (Acts 11-15). Unity, according to Paul in Ephesians 4, is not something that we must work to create between congregations, but rather is what we are to preserve! The idea is that unity already exists between congregations who embrace Jesus as Lord, and therefore, must move from just saying that they are unified to acting like it as well. The missional church works alongside other churches to fulfill the mission no matter any small differences, as long as Christ is the unifying factor.
7) Intentionally Focused Somewhere else in the World
Telescopes make what is far away and general seem very close-up and specific. That is what missional churches do in their desire to impact the world- they distribute their resources, abilities, and personnel to work toward mission in a specific global geography. Rather than the old paradigm of giving a few extra dollars into as many places as possible and thus dissolving the impact, the missional church engages in meaningful, specific, long term joint ventures in global regions to serve in mission in that geography as well as their own locality.