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Two BIG Misconceptions about Missional
by Brandon Hatmaker on November 24th, 2012

I'm thankful to be a part of the church today. Honestly, I haven't always felt that way. Not long ago my frustrations with the church overwhelmed my hope for the church. That's not a good thing... and I've since realized it shouldn't even be a "thing" because there is ALWAYS hope for the church.

One of the things I've enjoyed observing is what's been labeled as the Modern Missional Movement. Church leaders are not only asking the questions we've avoided for years.. It seems we're finally asking the right questions and with the right motives. We're finally putting an equal amount of thought into what a church can and should be to the unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched of America. As with many "movements" of faith, initially we swung a little too far to the other side of the pendulum, but over the last few years we've begun to see a very healthy conversation and perspective on both a gathered and scattered church. One that values both proclamation and incarnation.

One of the things that has brought health to this conversation is the increased discussion about missional discipleship. Writings like Mike Breen's blog "Why the Missional Movement will Fail" have certainly helped open our eyes, and the shift towards missional as a part of making disciples has been a very healthy and necessary thing.

While there are a handful of things bringing health to this conversation, there are two blazingly obvious areas that I feel still threaten our understanding of Missional... and potentially expose a lack of understanding for what Missional means.
1. Missional is not just a modified or modernized form of Evangelism:

Missional isn't your grandpa's evangelism. I know that was a gross overstatement. Some of our "God fearing" grandpa's could teach Alan Hirsch how to live on mission. But there was a day when the majority of outreach was limited to an evening out with the deacons going door-to-door hoping for a "divine moment" to present the gospel to a stranger. This might possibly have been someone who visited the church that morning and happened to fill out a visitor card and quite often just a surprised neighbor. 
Today, "visitation" and other evangelism efforts seem to have given way to other strategies that are super creative and innovative. Pastors and church leaders have certainly learned to speak the language of our culture. But the question is: to which culture are we speaking?

Here's what I mean by that: I recently had a friend send me a pic of a facebook group called "Missional Wear". This is a very creative group that makes Christian t-shirts and accessories designed to create conversation. Honestly, their stuff is really good. Way better than the "His Pain. Your Gain." shirt I wore in college. And who wouldn't want a beer glass with a picture of Charles Spurgeon on it?

But I would argue that it's not Missional.

Missional is a posture. It's a way of life. It requires being present and making true friendships. Missional doesn't get in a hurry. Honestly, Christian t-shirts and "tracts" might actually get in the way of missional. Missional doesn't assume someone wants to talk with a total stranger about faith. In fact, Missional might be a little suspicious if they did.

Now, hear me out... first of all, their product is really awesome (Best I've seen). And there can be MUCH fruit from wearing it, owning it, and leading with it. I'm not arguing that. What I am arguing is that this type of thing is more a form of direct evangelism than it is a missional posture. It's a different thing.
Second, and I'll keep this one short... 

2) Missional is not a Child Sponsorship or international Mission Trip:

I'm writing this in the airport as I'm about to board a plane to Uganda for the next 10 days. I'm looking forward to my time on the ground there. I'll be able to see first hand what I've only heard about. I'll get to train pastors. I'll get to speak to thousands of Ugandan Christians. I'll get to visit some of the true heroes of faith who are literally pouring their lives out to the true "least of these".
But what I'm doing is not missional. It's biblical. It's necessary. And it's certainly a PART of being missional (Personally I don't believe you can truly engage culture and ignore the needs of culture). But going on a mission trip, sponsoring a child overseas,  even pouring yourselves out for a community renewal project in your city does not fully encompass the idea of Missional.

I had a conversation with a pastor not that long ago talking about taking a trip to help children displaced from their homes in Haiti. He's words: "This is gonna really be missional."

I'm not sure that it is.

I don't want to confuse the issue. In fact, the reason I've written this post is to add clarity (and maybe offer a little redirection). One of the most important things we can do is expand our understanding of what a missional posture can and should involve, not capture it or reduce it to form or function. Missions is a part of Missional. Evangelism is a part of Missional. But by themselves, too often fall short of communicating a holistic Gospel that saves, transforms, and renews.

Thoughts?


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2 Comments

Sarah Farish - November 24th, 2012 at 4:39 PM
Thanks for this thought-provoking and perhaps perspective-changing post. I think is a discussion starter for sure. I look forward to "follow-up"...if you decide to delve a little deeper into defining Missional. (If you already have, I apologize. I'm new to your blog.)
Ken Winton - December 6th, 2012 at 3:20 PM
Brandon, this is a great description and discussion about Missional. And I agree - there's always hope for the Church, because of our great God! His hope never disappoints and the Bride of Christ belongs to Him.
I love your closing sentence about the "holistic Gospel which saves, transforms and renews". This is the very essence of Jesus and when we express those things when sharing the Gospel, we are remembering who He says we are and who He really is!
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