Monday, January 2, 2012

How We Misunderstand "Missional Community"

Today, I picked up The Sky is Falling by Alan Roxburgh and reread the introduction. There you will find two paragraphs that summarize the call to be missional as well as any I've read. I quote them here because they help us think about what it means to live in missional community.

"Throughout Western societies, especially in North America, there has occurred a fundamental shift in the understanding and practice of the Christian story. It is no longer about God and what God is about in the world; it is about how God serves and meets human needs and desires. It is about how the individual self can find its own purposes and fulfillment. More specifically, our churches have become spiritual food courts for the personal, private, inner needs of expressive individuals. The result is a debased, compromised, derivative form of Christianity that is not the gospel of the Bible at all. The biblical narrative is about God's mission in, through, and for the sake of the world and how God has called human beings to be part of God's reaching out to that world for God's purpose of saving it in love. The focus of attention should be what God wants to accomplish and how we can be part of God's mission, not how God helps us accomplish our own agendas.

"This is why the way we conduct church is such an essential part of the missional conversation. God intended the local church to be a sign, witness and foretaste of where God is inviting all creation to Himself through Jesus Christ. The ways of the church are to be a contrast to the ways of the world—it is intended to be strikingly different from the immediate society around it. The church is to be formed around beliefs and practices discovered through interaction with scripture and not primarily derived from the particular culture in which is it found, although it must also be embodied in translatable forms within a culture. We are to be in the world, but not of it—we are to give it meaning and purpose, not pull our meaning and purposes from it."

There is so much packed into these two paragraphs that they deserve some commentary. The first thing that we need to say is that almost every church leader will agree with the second paragraph, but the first paragraph is hard for many to swallow. As a result, we interpret the "sign, witness and foretaste" language through the paradigm of the gospel of meeting people's needs and desires. Too often, it is assumed that this is what the church is supposed to do. And because the church has done it for so long, it's hard to break that imagination. So we create programs and small groups that are nothing but options in the "spiritual food court." Now it is popular to call one of these options "missional communities." But we are slapping "missional" on top of a "gospel that meets our personal needs instead of embracing what God is up to in the world.

1 comment:

Michael C. Mack said...

Amen and amen! Love his analogy of churches becoming "spiritual food courts..." Thanks for sharing this, Scott.