Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Happened to the Meaning of Missional?

Organic, simple, house churches are increasing in number*. In America, this is largely due to church attenders leaving traditional churches and migrating to a more organic or simple form of church. I average a phone call a week from someone who has been hurt by a church or church leader or is weary or disgruntled with conventional church. Some simply desire a change and believe the Spirit is leading them to explore options.

Most organic churches, like conventional churches, are not seeing an increase in the number of people who choose to follow Christ. Many churches today, organic and conventional, realize this and are attempting to become "missional" in their quest to reach these people. For many churches, "missional" means organizing service-oriented projects for their church--which helps them feel mission oriented. But are they? I believe that understanding what it means to be "missional" has been lost and distorted. Regaining that mindset is necessary in order to see the church's influence increase in dynamic ways.

Service projects are helpful and good. They show the heart of Jesus and can be a healthy expression of ones faith, but they are not the heart of being missional. Service projects are often single ministry experiences that generally do not have the context to develop relationships and miss the opportunity to meet the need of the soul. Service projects are usually offered to strangers where there is very little if any one-to-one connecting to the people who were helped. Even when conversations between people on the missional team and those being served occur, follow through is often rare or ends up being done by church staff. God certainly does use this type of service to show His love to the world. But the question must be asked: is it a good example of what it means to be "missional"?

Pondering this question, I searched the book of Acts 1-6 to see what a missional life looked like to the very first Christians. If you don't have time to look at all of the Scriptures below or if you simply like summaries here is an overview of what I learned: Believers were surrendered to Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and intentionally loved and invited people to have life with Jesus. Missional must include engaged conversations that point people to their need of Jesus Christ. In my estimation, this has often been lost in the contemporary concept of being missional. It certainly includes service to people, but must also include conversations and relationships where Jesus works in the soul of the listeners to draw them to Himself. In my study of Acts 1-6, missional is entwined with the spoken gospel.

Here are some gems I gleaned from the first followers of Jesus regarding being missional in Acts 1-6:

Acts 1:2 The Twelve were 'ordered' by Jesus through the Holy Spirit for all believers to be focused on helping others become like Jesus (disciples). Acts 1:1-2 should be tied to Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:8.

Acts 1:8 Jesus gives every believer the Holy Spirit so that every follower of Christ will have the power necessary to tell of who Jesus is and what He has done for them.

Acts 2:1-13 The Holy Spirit filled the 120 (Acts 1:15) from the upper room so they all spoke in tongues (2:14) which was speaking of the mighty deeds of God (2:11).

Acts 2:14-36 Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) and spoke a message which lead to 3,000 people placing faith in Jesus Christ where they then lived out their faith radically.

Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John saw a lame man healed immediately which caused a revival (9-10). They spoke to this man born lame about Jesus the Nazerene.

Acts 3:11-26 Peter spoke another message of Jesus to the people who were amazed at the healing of the man born lame.

Acts 4:1-12 Peter and John were questioned by the Jewish leaders about this healing. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 8) and spoke another message about Jesus and that salvation only comes through Christ.

Acts 4:19-20 Peter and John were warned to stop speaking about Jesus but responded with, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Acts 4:31 After a prayer meeting where boldness to speak for Jesus was requested, all of the people where "...filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness."

Acts 5:1-16 This is the story of Ananias and Sapphira which lead to a revival where "...multitudes of men and women were constantly added to their number."

Acts 5:17-21 Peter and John were placed in prison where an angel of the Lord freed them with this command, "Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this life." They obeyed, "Upon hearing this they entered the temple about daybreak and began to teach." (5:21).

Acts 5:28-29 The Jewish religious leaders spoke to them again stating, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name...", but Peter answered saying, "We must obey God rather than men."

Acts 5:42 The result of all of these things above was, "...every day in the temple and house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

Acts 6:7 "The word of the Lord kept on spreading, and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great number of priests were becoming obedient to the faith." When missional means telling the truth about Jesus, all levels of society will be affected, even religious leaders.

When we think of being missional, it must center around being in the midst of those not yet connected to Jesus and speaking the gospel of Jesus to them as the Holy Spirit leads. There is no being missional without the telling of the good news of Jesus Christ. Go and be missional!

I would love to your thoughts on this topic. Leave a comment below and let's chat!