By George Bullard
What does it take to become a missional congregation? Not to co-opt the name and claim that is who you are, but to truly become a missional congregation. As a popular name or designation in many places, missional as a concept is being watered down.
First, let’s start with a definition. Another one won’t hurt, and it will also define the frame of these musings.
A missional congregation is one who, out of their worship of the triune God and their passion around fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment, seeks to make the world more loving and just through actions focused on spiritually transforming the lives of their neighbors and modeling the gathering of these neighbors into healthy mission outposts called congregations for the scattering of these same neighbors through their own missional efforts. [Wow! That’s a mouthful. Let’s try a short version.]
A missional congregation seeks to make the world more loving and just through spiritually transforming the lives of neighbors.
Neighbors are defined here in a full global and local context. It is not a geographical neighbor but a theological neighbor. It is not neighbors to be attracted, but neighbors with whom we can represent the incarnational presence of the triune God.
Missional congregations, while deeply caring for the needs of one another in its own congregation, are focused externally and seek to mobilize their congregations to be received, accepted, caught, embraced, and trusted by their neighbors. Missional congregations do not send missionaries and volunteers into their immediate or world context. Rather they invite people to be received by the neighbors for whom God has given them great passion.
Since many congregations claim the term missional for what they do, let’s break down the concept into three different types. First, push missional congregations are seeking to increase disciplemaking processes in their congregation to prepare people to go out into the mission field and express their gifts and passions to neighbors. [I suspect this is the approach taken by 80 percent of congregations claiming to be missional. That is just a hunch. I have no research to support it.]
Second, pull missional congregations are seeking to understand the neighbors to which they perceive God has called them, and then equip disciples within their congregation with the skills needed to be received by those neighbors.
Third, leap missional congregations are seeking to connect with emerging cultures that often cannot be geographically defined, and for whom there are few if any people fully prepared to reach these cutting edge target groups composed of neighbors who may feel disenfranchised by God and the Church, or may have a clear awareness of neither.
Push is primarily boxed. Pull is moving beyond the box. Leap is outside the box and has declared it irrelevant. If your congregation is seeking to become missional, it must at least be pull in its focus. Anything less is not yet missional.
What are your thoughts? What is the next thing you need to know about becoming a missional congregation?