7 Practices of Missional Churches

 

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:

  1. A deepening intimacy with God through Jesus Christ.
  2. An understanding of personal stories of salvation, with the culturally relevant ability to share that story with others.
  3. The identification and use of the Holy Spirit’s gift’s to the believer.
  4. 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.

Conclusion

Please feel free to push back on any of the previous practices. To learn more about the missional church check out http://www.theinfinityalliance.com and http://www.Acts29network.org .

A God sized “thud” in a human sized heart [Updated]

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”

Shaking and weeping, I read these words in preparation to announcing my formal resignation. Sunday September 12th, 2010 will ring in my heart for years to come as the day my heart stood still.

I am writing this blog the day after the resignation to express my heart and passion for God’s Church, but also to clear up any misconceptions anyone may have as to why I decided to step down.

**[I openly confess that my current understanding of the following convictions are limited to my finite mind, and I may never fully understand the infinite plans of an all-knowing and all-powerful God. Therefore, the following is my current interpretation of God’s leading and may change or grow in understanding in the future.]**

A Quick Lesson

In the book of Ephesians around chapter 5, Paul is detailing pretty extensively the expectations held to those who claim the name of Christ- the Church. In what I believe is a pretty good summary statement, Paul says in verses 15-17, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

Let me explain what I mean by these words. I believe Paul is making his argument pretty clear, the pagans make decisions foolishly and are not careful in the way they live their lives. Now, if we were to take a quick look around us, I believe we could say that about much of our culture- people making life altering decisions on a whelm or while under some sort of influence. Paul is making his argument very clear here, as followers of an all-knowing God, we are to not live like our culture does. We bare the name of Christ, therefore are His representatives in the geography He has divinely placed us.

Paul exclaims, “Make the most of every opportunity and seek to understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

Rachel and I have had a similar verse posted on our refrigerator for several weeks, which reads, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

-Colosians 4:5-6

The Stirrings in a small Man

I believe these verses, among many others, have led to a supernatural stirring in my small human heart. I feel as if my small human heart has experience a single “thud” from the divinely gracious heart of God. Let me explain.

About a year ago, I was asked the question, “What does God want?” I know, it sounds like a simple question, but it is a question that has plagued my mind for over well over a year. It has been a question that has worked its way to the very depth of my soul. And this is a question, that I believe is extremely important for the Church today.

I believe the answer to this question is this, “God wants every man, woman, and child on the face of the planet to see, hear, and understand the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, without them having to come or go anywhere to meet Him.”

I realize that our vision as a local church is to be “Christians who are Actively Reaching Everyone,” and let me say, this is an excellent and Divinely inspired vision and goes along perfectly with my previous statement.

However, for me, this vision has not adequately fleshed itself out. Let me explain, when proposed with the question of God’s desires, I had to ask myself, “What would it look like in my life if God got what He wanted?” What I discovered was not what I believed God wanted at all!

The Heart of the Matter

Have you ever heard the old adage, “Where you’re heart is, your time will be also.” Well, for me that phrase proved everything. I took a hard long look at my schedule and discovered that my heart was not exhibiting the same time ratio as one that was reaching every man, woman, and child.

I noticed that the majority of my time was spent doing the opposite. I discovered that most of my time was being spent solely with other Christians. How am I supposed to reach a lost and dying world, if I keep spending the majority of my time with the saved and sanctified?

I’ve come to realize that this question is one that I must answer for myself; that this question is one that I, and I alone, will be held accountable for in eternity. This is a personal conviction and I do not wish to place it on anyone else, and therefore must change my life in accordance to this conviction.

I believe that God is at work in me; at work renewing my mind for the sake of the Gospel. Therefore ministry in the future must be fleshed out in a different way. Whatever this may look like, God will get the glory

I have come to believe that Christian ministry is not simply a working of the Church, but should be the very fiber of its being. And as a member of that Church, my responsibility is not to simply teach ministry, but to do ministry.

Clarifier

In saying these things, I in NO WAY seek to say that our local representation is not doing this very thing! In fact, I believe that we are actually trying our hardest to accomplish this very task. My concern is merely my own heart and the divine vision that has been placed in it!

Closing Remarks

Which brings me to the place of my resignation. I am definitely not stepping away from full-time church ministry. In fact, if anything, I’m stepping deeper into it.  My heart has always been Christ’s Bride and her mission, and will continue either until Christ’s return or my home going. Therefore, my resignation is so that Rachel and I can take the time needed to pursue this new vision that He has given and seek the absolute will of God for the future.

As for the near future, I honestly have no idea what God has in store for my wife and I, but I am expecting big things because I serve a big God. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God has been calling my human sized heart to a God sized heart’s task. I wish I knew what that task was, but God has yet to reveal it to us.

As I quoted earlier from Philippians, “Every time I thank of you, I give thanks to God… for you have been my partners in sharing the Good News of Christ.” Because of this, we will surely miss you all and will continue to send prayers up to God on your behalf. I thank you for all the love and support that you have given us in our first year of marriage. We feel that we have grown in our pursuit of God and in our love for each other through this experience.

In closing, we ask that you keep us in your prayers as we will be zealously seeking the face of God during this new season, and that God will bring continued confirmation. I also ask that you pray God send us in the direction of people who need to know Him, people who may have never had the opportunity to see, hear, or understand the message of an all-sufficient God who is passionately in pursuit for their souls.

sincerely,

Christopher E. Bell

A Joy for the City

I believe that the Bible teaches us something amazing: When the Gospel begins to change our lives, it WILL come out of our lives and affect others. When the Gospel takes root in your life, it has no choice but to spread into the lives of the people that are around you.

You cannot say that you hold to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not have it flow out of you into the lives of other people. Another way to put it: you cannot love God and not love others!

This is going to be the central thought for today’s post.

Jeremiah 29:4-10

Let me set up some context for you: the context of this is just after God has sent His people into exile in Babylon. This is what is telling them to do while they are there…

Vs. 4-7

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the welfare of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Notice what God is saying here! They have just been taken as a hostage by a foreign kingdom. Their families have been separated from them, their homes destroyed, their friends killed, their wives raped, their city destroyed, and belongings taken from them- and God is telling them to make a home their in Babylon. He even goes as far as to tell them to pray to the Lord for its behalf!

I want to hit on the word “welfare,” because it’s key to understanding the depth of this passage.

It’s the Hebrew word “shalom.” The word in the English means peace, but our word peace does not convey all of the meaning that Hebrew word carries with it.

The word in Hebrew carries with it this idea of peace, but God’s not just saying be at peace with these people, but the word carries with a more powerful meaning. It’s saying seek the peace and overall prosperity of the city. Seek the overall flourishing of the city.

God’s not telling them to not be mad at them not be mad at you, but I want you to go into this city and I want you to seek their welfare! Pray for their shalom, seek their shalom, seek universal flourishing.

This overall flourishing is this, not to simply go in and seek their spiritual flourishing, but seek their educational flourishing, their economic flourishing, cultural flourishing, their governmental flourishing, seek their overall flourishing!

Go into this city that I have sent you in and don’t decrease but increase. Pray for their overall welfare and seek the welfare of this city.

So what God is saying is “I want you to be a group of people that is for your city.”

Look at verse 10:

It says, “This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.”

So in other words, what God is saying here is, “I know you’re in a bad place right now, but for 70 years I want you to hang in there. I’m going to bring you home, but just do what I’m asking of you. Right now you’re in a pagan culture, in a pagan city, but while you’re there, I want you to seek their welfare.”

1 of 4 types of Churches

Truthfully, I think this impacts how we live today. I think we can be 1 of the 4 different kinds of churches in the United States today.

I think there are 4 different kinds of churches, and we are one of them, but which one are we and which one is God calling us to be.

1) Most churches fall into this category, which is a church that is simply in the city.

This means, you’re simply in your city. You’re there, you have a building, you hang out together, you love each other, you do some stuff together, maybe you even have some good community together, but your just a church that is in the city.

This church doesn’t really have any influence, it has no real effect on the city, it may be one of many, but the church is just there in the city.

2) The second, there aren’t as many of these, but there are some. In fact, I’ve worked in one, and it is actually a church that is against the city.

Have any of you been in a church that is against the city. It’s like “we’re good and their bad.”

Picture this in your head: It’s like the church people are looking down from atop a hill with a look of disgust because they think they are good and everyone else is bad- sinners!

3) The third, which is an increasing one, which is a church that is with the city.

This is the kind of church that looks so much like the city that you can’t even tell there is any difference. They look so much like the city that they’ve lost their saltiness. This church has bent so far towards the culture that they are no longer salt and light in it. They are no longer good for anything!

4) The final kind of church is a church that is for the city.

This church is not just in the city, definitely not against it, not with it, but is actually for it.

As the Gospel works in this church, the Gospel begins to come out of the church for the benefit of the city.

This church is a church that is seeking the benefit of the city in every aspect. It seeks to see the cities homelessness lessened, poverty lessened, and hate lessened. It seeks to see the cities financial status increased so that more people can be helped. It seeks to have the best education, so that people can learn and be equipped for the spread of the Gospel. It seeks to fight off personal sin and, with loving kindness, the sin in the lives of others defeated.

Moving on…

This concept is something that God has been working on in my life for some time now. God has been planting this thought and building upon it for a while now.

God has been laying this on my heart for a reason.

I’ve been thinking about the kind of pastor I want to be and the kind of group that I want to lead, and God has continually been bringing me back to this one thought- seek the “Shalom” of the city.

I don’t want to lead a ministry that is simply in the city or so much like it that there is no difference, but I want to be part of something that is solely Divine in nature. I want to be part of a ministry that is making a positive difference in the city that we live in.

Imagine

I want you to image for a minute what it would look like for a church to be for its city.

What would it look like to seek the joy of our city?

We served our city in every possible way. We sought their wellbeing.

Imagine that we served the homeless in our city selflessly.

Imagine if we gave back instead of indulging ourselves in the hard work of others.

Imagine if we actually loved the schools that God has placed around us and didn’t just seek to be at peace with them but sought their welfare!

Imagine, that we saw the needs of students in our schools and sought the Bible for the answers to their needs, then we prayed for God to help them, then we went to them and shared the Gospel to them in a way that was more than just words, but a completion of the word through good deed.

Imagine you saw a student who was struggling with their grades in a particular subject and decided to help them in their studies, so that they could see the love of God.

Imagine if you saw someone that was getting picked on and you not only befriended him, but took up for him.

Imagine if we treated authorities with respect instead of talking bad about them behind their backs.

Imagine if we saw someone with ratty clothes and you gave them some of yours, not your leftovers, but the new and unused.

Imagine if you saw someone who was unloved and you loved them the way Christ loved the church.

Imagine the difference that would make in our schools, in our community, in our city, and in ultimately in the world. Imagine the difference that would make in the life of that other person. Imagine the difference that would make in your life.

Now imagine, that if you were to leave for whatever reason, the homeless, the school systems, the teachers, the authorities, and local business owners actually grieved because you/we made such a difference in the city. That we sought after their welfare with such passion that when we were gone, our lack of presence would drastically noticed.

What would it look like to take responsibility for the city that God has placed us in? Spiritual responsibility? Social responsibility? Economical responsibility?

A question for you to answer:

Can you say that anyone in the city you live in, outside of your friends and family, would grieve if you were to leave because of the passion of your good work would be gone?

Can you say that you are making such the difference that if you were to leave, the city would notice?

Can you are doing what God called the early Jews to do? Are we as the Church seeking the welfare, the overall prosperity, of the cities that we live in?

Do people even know we are here? Do people even care?  If not, it’s not because we aren’y equipped or gifted enough, it’s because we just don’t care!

God has given us all the gifts that we could ever need! It’s our responsibility to use those gifts for His glory and the welfare of the geography that God has placed us in!

I am pleading with you, as if God were pleading through me, seek the shalom of your city!

When we see horrific things happen in the world around us, we often ask “Why does God not care?” But I can’t help but wonder if God’s not asking the same thing of us: “Why do you not care?”

Application

I believe that God let us continue here in this world of spiritual slavery for a purpose. He’s coming to get us, but while we are hear, He is calling to a task.

Are you willing to listen and obey?

If so, it’s time for us to start seeking the welfare of our city. That means long term dedication! That means hard work and persecution. That means a changed life that is being changed by the Gospel!