I find myself restless these days. Here I am walking a road that looks to be deserted, filled with relics of something long gone; filled with memories and traditions that have expired their ‘use by’ date and only a few seem to see it too. I am in Seminary, soon to be ordained as a Pastor, seeking to serve a community among a decreasing list of possibilities. While my trust is boldly and soundly in God, my eyes are open to what is reality and the reality I see is shadowed with dying congregations midst others held back by yesteryear’s memories.
Recently I read, once again, how churches and their communities need to become ‘missional’ in order to serve God’s people into the 21st Century (and beyond). Essentially, the call is for the ‘church’ to rethink itself. I don’t think church’s know what this is and most who claim to are more adaptive than missional.
Before I go on, perhaps, I should establish a few definitions, at least, as I seem them today:
Missional: Responding to the communities’ needs with meaningful resources and solutions that enable the community to discover, grow and heal in their journey towards God. It seeks to journey alongside others where they are at with what they need so that they may live abundantly.
Adaptive: Taking what is currently done and reconfiguring it in order for it to hopefully become useful to those currently outside of it. It seeks to solve its own problems while journeying alongside those it already has in order to retain them (while attract a few new others) along the way…
Having a business background, where I used my skills and talents to help businesses grow and be competitive within their industry midst their ever-changing market dynamics; I can readily say… from what I see…churches by and large don’t understand. Their desire is much more about carrying forward a legacy, holding onto traditions than it is willing to dismantle or recreate.
Perhaps its the whole…. “living behind the culture, not in it” debate that perpetuates the church’s inability to respond to the world around it. After all, church theoretically is supposed to be the moral voice, right?” Perhaps this is a different question….so lets resume..
To start a new worship style (covering a new day in a new way in order to reach a different audience) is not missional; that’s adaptive. Adaptive is internally focused while Missional is externally focused. Adaptive looks inside to see what needs a new slab of paint, how well are we creating ‘welcome’, how varied and good is the music, is the message delivered well and relevant and, is the bible study fun? Missional does not think of these concerns but of filling the hole they find along the way. To be truly missional would be in response to, not in receipt of.
I guess if I were to correlate missional and adaptive to the world of business (which I think I understand more than church) I would say Adaptive is what the American auto manufacturers are doing in retooling and re-engineering a number of their designs to be competitive in their chosen markets, whereas, Apple is Missional in its response to and leading the market with product innovations at the horizon of need and in response to the culture within which it operates. Perhaps then, missional is an entrepreneurial response to the community of need than it is providing another way to get the same thing done?
Further, and I think for some, there is the belief that if a program is adopted they then become missional. I have heard of churches that have developed outreach programs or on-going clubs or activities and then think they are now missional.
This comment then leads me to an ongoing question that I have been thinking about for the past couple of years…. “When is something missional versus when is something a program”? Where does the distinction reside? If I begin an ongoing poker game or food pantry in my church community and am able to attract a couple of new people; does this now make me missional? I do not believe so but I have heard of some who have done these kinds of things and now believe themselves to be missional.
Ultimately perhaps the distinction is in which leads which. Does the program (or activity) lead the church community or does the outside community (outside need) lead the program or activity?
What do you say? I recognize these are thoughts riddled with current viewpoints, in a state of flux. Thanks for reading 🙂