Friday, October 03, 2008

The Missional Church: Programs

In addition to "The Shaping of the Church" my wife requested that I regularly address issues related to the idea of the "missional" church. She requested this partly because the word, "missional" is not yet a fully recognized word and also because the concept of living as a missional church is a process that is going to take some time. So, here you go...

One major idea of the missional church is that we want to create communities where people are the "Church", meeting one another's needs and bringing the love and grace of Jesus to all they encounter. We want these communities to replace the usual routine of going to a building several times a week and expecting the paid people and super-volunteers to meet the needs of everyone and to tell people about the love and grace of Jesus. The exciting, yet difficult thing, about all of this is the fact that this means we cannot view our local church as a place that must meet all of our perceived needs. We can no longer expect the pastors to be perfect, to never give a bad sermon, to never sing out of key, to never hurt someone's feelings, to never say anything offensive, and to never go on vacation when one might encounter a crisis.

Following the missional style of church means that our smaller communities are the places where many of our needs are met and they are the places where the true power and goodness of the gospel of Jesus is lived out and seen by the watching world. If we play this out to all areas of our lives, this also means that the missional church is not a place built on "traditional" programs because in this type of church the programs must be an organic flow that comes from the rhythms of our daily lives.

Someone asked if we have a men's ministry and I responded, "Yes. It is the men in our church sharing life together and blessing the other men that they encounter in their everyday lives through our gracious living". One arm of our "Men's Ministry" might be a few guys from the church who love to play poker hosting a regular time with other guys in the community where they can play poker, enjoying some refreshing cold adult beverages, and model Jesus' values to one another.

What about Children's ministries? We do offer some things for kids during our large group gatherings but our real children's ministries happens in your own home and with the people that you are sharing life with. Just this week I had someone say that they needed to go to a larger church that can offer an exciting children's ministry and then one day when their children have left the house, they will look for a church that is "more crazy in the ways they follow Jesus". In other words, this person said that they wanted their children to learn to be consumers of church until one day the children will leave the house and then the family will try to not be consumers of church and then they will take their faith more seriously. It is disheartening to know that this is the perspective of most in our culture as we simply want to be satisfied by our churches so that we do not have to join in the difficult work of living the ways of Jesus.

In a missional church we are fighting against a culture that wants its needs met by the programs their churches run. That is why so many people get pissed off and leave when the music changes, the speaking series is too challenging, the new pastor wants to get back to basics, or when the children don't come home entertained. What we have created is a religion that is as consumer driven as the local mall (sometimes with even more options offered) while at the same time losing all sense of the uncomfortable, dangerous, life-changing message of Jesus.

At the missional church, you will not find a place that works to have the best music, flawless services, entertaining skits, and state of the art facilities. You will find men's and women's ministries that call the men and women to live the ways of Jesus in the community with other men and women. You will find Children's ministries that ask parents to follow scripture's advice to teach their children and model the image of God in everyday life. You will find youth ministries that include the youth in the life of the church as we model lasting principles of treating one another with grace and humility as we bear one another's burdens and love at all costs. You will find evangelism that happens as we join in our own culture's celebrations instead of creating our own "christian" alternatives that drive deeper wedges of separation. You will also find other "experienced" pastors standing at a distance telling everyone who will listen why this system won't work.

I know we are fighting against a culture that is as consumer driven as any place probably on this entire earth but what better place to follow the ways of a subversive revolutionary Savior? I really do not believe that when Jesus said he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, he was not referring to a church that has perfect models for attracting people and putting them through a "discipleship" program. When he said the gates of hell will not prevail against it I believe he meant it would be a church that creates disciples in the cracks of our society and in the very face of hell itself. This cannot be done in buildings that are designed to imitate culture while at the same time creating an obvious separation from real life and "spiritual" life. Missional means to go out. Discipleship means to create imitators of Jesus. This is the program that causes those gates to shudder.


LC3 said...
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LC3 said...
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Ryan said...

Kevin/ lc3. Good questions that are not easy to answer. I think the best answer is to be faithful with the job you are currently at because that is obviously where God has you at this moment. If you like the principles of the missional church, then you need to find ways to bring those principles into the context of your attractional church.
You don't want to just say that all programs are wrong and you will no longer do anything remotely "program driven" in your ministry. Ask how your program will help move students, leaders, and parents towards more missional living.

2. Do I like M. Frost books? Yes and No. I like them and think they have a lot of good stuff but they need to be examined critically. I only give free passes to Chesterton and Bill Bryson.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for preaching against the consumer-gospel. It needs to happen often from every pastor, in every way that they lead. I resonate with your angst. We are all born consumers AND legalists--we're free-loaders, but we want to work and perform enough so that we believe we deserve something--which leads back to consumerism.

Your blog post is inspiring.


Kevin said...
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Kevin said...

(This is what was deleted from above...I was logged into the wrong name.....thank you for picking up on that Ryan)

Hey Ryan,

Great Post.

I have been familiar with the "missional" church for some time now. And I am in love with the idea of being apart of the missional church. In fact I wish I belonged to a missional church. At the same time I feel very strongly about working with bringing the gospel to the youth of our community and world.

So then is the idea to be somebody within the "missional" church to use that passion and calling that I feel God has put on my heart to work with the youth through a missional setting?

And am I just feeding into the mall mentality by being a youth pastor in a program driven church.

Just wanted to throw those ideas/questions your way.

I am so sick of programs ("ministries"). Even in churches like the one I am at that are still meeting in a big building with a contemporary setting, we could still do better by focusing on our many programs through our small groups rather than having 8 ministries to meet each need or want.

For instance, Men's Ministry= Men in the church or even from a similar small group who are their to build each other up.

Anyways. I am constantly trying to figure out where youth ministry falls into all of this.

Thanks for the post


ps. Are you a fan of Michael Frost books?

Kevin said...

Thanks for you help there Ryan.

I think I was trying to get myself into trouble by posting with the wrong name ;)

Anyways....I knew how you felt about Chesterton, however I have not read anything by Bryson.....suggestions?

Oh, and is your "missional church" one that will stick in homes or would you ever meet in a larger setting?

I have recently read some of Viola's work on the home church and have mixed feelings on his thoughts. I think some of his ideas are great but some of his reasoning is not.