We’re continuing today with our series on what missional means and why it matters. Last blog we established that according to missional thinking:
1. God is on a mission (which flows out of the love intrinsic to His nature).
2. The church is a product and expression of God’s mission and exists for that mission.
The question then that naturally follows is, “If we accept those points what are the implications?”
While we can go in many directions here, I think there are three answers that take priority. In this blog I will tackle the first of those points, which is Point #3:
3. We don’t get to determine the mission, God does.
This is both the obvious answer and the “easier said than done” answer. If the church exists for God’s mission then God should dictate what that mission is. Duh. But, you might ask, by what means does a community of disciples know what God’s mission is?
In the history of Christianity there has been much dissension (and insanity) over this point. Some people will say just scripture. Some will say scripture and tradition. Others will want to add reason or experience or Christian philosophy to that mix. For my own money, scripture, interpreted in community, should lead the way, but with ample help from Christian tradition and history. But, that’s not the only valid opinion. (Note: Later in this series I will briefly unpack how missional movement leaders define God’s mission, and my own opinion as well. But for now I just want to focus on the big picture logic of the missional movement.)
However you come to your answer of what God’s mission is, the CRITICAL PIECE is then asking these hard questions:
1. Have we really put in the time to consider what God’s mission is, the scope of that mission, and our place in it?
2. Can we articulate that mission and our place in it?
Then we can move on to another difficult set of questions:
- Are we focused on our place in God’s mission, or being successful?
- Are we focused on our place in God’s mission, or advancing (or protecting) our institution or organization?
- Are we focused on our place in God’s mission, or on pleasing our community?
None of those three things are inherently bad, but they often usurp the place in our center that should be taken by God’s mission. Far too many Christian communities make decisions based on "being successful" (as their culture defines it, usually budgets and buildings and size in the US), on simply continuing to exist, or by making sure the people involved in their community are happy with them. When these questions displace the focus on God's mission there's a problem, and the missional movement has been a prophetic voice regarding this problem. The truth is, every community has places where it compromises, and every community also ebbs and flows between faithfulness to God’s mission and forgetting God’s mission. The point here isn’t to condemn or to judge; the point is to call for repentance for all of us and to challenge us to consider these questions seriously.
Book Suggestion: The Open Secret, by Leslie Newbigin