Thursday, January 13, 2011

Being Missional, or, It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine.

I am passionate about the missional church movement and am often asked to explain exactly what "being missional" means.

IT MEANS THE END TO LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT.

Okay, that's a bit dramatic.

But in a way, that might be accurate. The Rev. Ron Robinson and I have agreed that it's like taking the Matrix's Red Pill.  Once you have your "red pill" moment, you can no longer see church in the same way. No matter how much you want to go back to the way you used to conceive of church, you can't. "After this, there is no turning back ..."

I'm not getting less dramatic, am I?

Well, maybe because I can't. Because once you start seeing church in this different way, it causes you to do crazy things like move across the country and start holding church in a bar.  Or move to a run-down, dangerous area and start doing church by feeding and clothing the poor.  Or become the kind of minister who says, "It's not how many people come to our church services, but how many people our churches serve!,"regularly sending out requests to borrow a pickup, so you can deliver donated furniture to a program for the homeless.

Being missional is a wholly other way of conceiving and doing church. Missional is not about having a pretty mission statement up on your wall.

In terms of what it looks like, forget mission statement and think missionaries.  Think of a part of town you know -- and it could be your own -- that needs help.  Real help, not just being supportive of their spiritual journeys.

Now imagine that you have been sent there to change their lives.  By arranging for the hungry to get nutritious food, for the lonely to have someone who feels they matter.  So, you find some other people who feel similarly called.  Every week, in your own spheres of influence, you and these people go out into the world and try to make your little corner of it into the Beloved Community, where your mission is nothing less than helping each person in the community to find wholeness. You, this group of Called people, are the Church.

The Church is part of the Beloved Community, but it is not, in itself, the Beloved Community.  The Beloved Community is what you are making.  Members of the Beloved Community may never attend a worship service, but they are served by the Church.

Once a week, you and the Church gather, to strengthen your souls.  You sing, you hear an empowering message, you share how you are each doing justice, extending kindness, and walking humbly with your God, however you understand it be.

Fortified, then, you say goodbye to each other, and each of you goes forth for the week ... to strengthen the world.

And as much as you love your fellow Church members, your relationship is not the mission.  The Church members themselves are not the mission.  Each of you knows that. The only item not expendable is The Mission. 

And yet, you discover that as you help bring your little corner of the earth to wholeness, that you yourself are becoming more whole. More the person you were meant to be.

A missionary.

6 comments:

Rebecca said...

That's some pretty powerful stuff. Doing good for the community so the community can go out and do good for the world.

plaidshoes said...

I really like this and believe it, too. My kids go to an ELCA Lutheran school and my SIL is an ELCA Minister - they are really emphasizing the Missional church view. Now - how do you get people to continue the work once they leave the church walls? That is where I struggle.

goodwolve said...

This is such a foreign concept to my UU upbringing - sure we do stuff, but it seems like just a few doing the work. I just can't even picture what this looks like, but I am intrigued.

Br. Jay said...

This is fascinating. My mind is trying to grasp how this looks and how it works. Keep posting on this great stuff!

philontheprairie said...

Wonderful post! And while having a mission statement doesn't necessarily lead to being missional, being missional does require some sort of shared understanding of what a congregation's mission actually is.

Kristina said...

I am trying to wrap my brain around this, because I think you just told me that I'm a missionary. You were speaking to ME, right?

Because right now the work that I started doing because I want to bring the earth to wholeness does appear to be making me more whole. WOW. It is boggling my little mind. Thanks. :-)