I wrote my first response to Rick Meigs’ call for this SynchroBlog a week ago: What is Missional? or A Little More Missional Shampoo. (Exuberance and an inability to read a calendar saw me publish a week early.)
The Missional Long View
Early this year, Imbi and I spent a number of weeks in the UK shooting a documentary on Fresh Expressions – the mission-shaped church movement that is significantly impacting the Verdant Green Isle. One of the things that struck us was the long view of the people. Theirs wasn’t a “just add hot water and stir” approach to “growing the church”. They had a real understanding that re-establishing the church in a post-Christian nation might well be a Hebrews 11 experience.
We spent a number of days with Pete and Kath Atkins in Lincolnshire. (We could have easily spent weeks with them – gracious hosts that they are.) Pete drove us around the area, introducing us to the new life of the church that is being planted in the towns and villages of rural England. He also shared the incredible Christian history of the region – the reality that expressions of the church have existed in Lincolnshire since the 2nd Century. And that sense of history informs the FX approach to mission-shaped church. They recognize their place in the continuum of time.
Those of us brought up in North America normally often lack a sense of history. We live in the immediate. We expect instant gratification. Fast food, fast cars, high-speed everything – we want to get to the future, now. Our approach to the kingdom reflects this. That is to get as many people to accept a “ticket to heaven” as quickly as possible using the most modern Methods-Time Measurement techniques. If putting on a show will get them to accept that ticket quicker, then dammit, we’ll rival Las Vegas in the shows we put on. It’s all about the efficiencies of delivering services that convince people to accept their tickets.
A missional understanding of the church places us within a historical context. It removes the ticket to heaven pressure that the Western Evangelical Church has placed upon itself. Missional people recognize that God is on the move in our villages, towns and cities. We need to engage with Him in what He’s doing. Rather than building big box church warehouses that “vacuum cleaner up all the surrounding Christians” (to paraphrase Al Roxburgh @ the end of the video, Three Churches and a New Age Mall) and calling that the Church, we are to be the leaven that permeates our neighborhoods with the lived out good news of Jesus Christ.
This is not a two-year, three-year, five-year or even ten-year plan. This is a lifetime’s engagement with the communities where we have been strategically placed by the hand of God. We may see a great awakening that happens in our very midst – or we may be like David Livingston and Hudson Taylor – who never got to see the incredible harvest that came from the seeds they planted. But our call is to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus as we live amongst the people who are our neighbors. I believe that is what missional is.
Please check out my first response to the What is Missional? SynchroBlog. Also read the posts from these fine writers:
Cobus Van Wyngaard