Home > Uncategorized > Becoming a Missional Church, Part I

Becoming a Missional Church, Part I

January 16th, 2015

by Dave Anderson

Last year our West Campus offered an ACE class on “Our Worshipping World.” This past Saturday, our K-group leaders heard a challenge from Dan on the Art of Neighboring (knowing and loving our actual neighbors holistically i.e. serving them physically, relationally and spiritually). Last Sunday at our East Campus, we began a discussion on Tim Keller’s, The Reason for God to equip us to engage spiritual questions. We also invited everyone to consider hosting a “mixer” Super Bowl Party as one tangible step toward practicing hospitality toward our neighbors. Why this “neighbor love” theme? Why now?

In “evangelistic” churches, evangelism is one ministry among many (populated by a few zealous  lay people). In 1950’s America, this church model “worked” because churches could assume that work colleagues and neighbors attended some church: the only question was which denominational “flavor.” They may not have believed the Gospel, but they at least assumed a Christian worldview was plausible, even preferable to others—and exposure to Christian teachings would be beneficial. Churches could take for granted that Gospel concepts such as sin, heaven, hell, and a personal God would be widely held. Churches could assume that, compelled to attend some church, the community would find their steeple. Church planters I’ve spoken with who planted churches in the 70s and 80s could mail scores of invitations to locals, assuming “if our building is attractive, sign visible, and programs staffed, a steady stream will pour into the church and stay put.

Today’s church planters discover those assumptions are no longer valid. Churches adopting a “wait and wish” approach to their neighborhoods are declining. A met budget may mask the ineffectiveness for a season, but a godly zeal for the Gospel that started the church in its earliest years, lays dormant now–contributing to the church’s slow decay.

America is once again a mission field; postmodernism has arrived. All “paths” are seen as equally valid, all choices, are merely taste and preference. Tolerance, open-mindedness and inclusion are the functional Holy Trinity of postmodern America. Many churches still want to believe that as long as we run programs, staff ministries and fund mechanisms for ‘targeting’ our neighbors (i.e. direct mail, newspaper ads, and phone book listings), our neighbors eventually will stumble up to our steeple. Early success allowed churches the luxury of believing that impersonal mechanisms could carry out an entire church’s mission to its community; members needn’t actually see themselves as missionaries.

What will it take for Crossroads to move from an evangelistic church to a Missional church as our neighborhoods slowly drift towards post-Christian? What might it mean for Crossroads to move from a church with “outreach events” to a church as a missions-post in an increasingly secular society?

Defining a Normal Christian Life Biblically: Am I really living what I claim to believe?” Within each of us there exists a disconnect (read: hypocrisy) between what we claim to believe on Sunday and how we actually live on Monday. Thankfully Jesus treats us not as our sins deserve but according to His mercy! However, if we then define “normal Christian living” not according to the Bible, but according to 2014’s experience, we are in trouble. We can then dismiss all the enthusiasm and zeal of the early church as being “back in the old days, when God was really doing something, and Christians got naively excited about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.” From the Bible’s definition of a “normal Christian life” risk-taking for the Gospel lay out the heart of Christian discipleship. But in our re-definition of “normal” we suspect God is no longer actively involved in this world with great power so we no longer take risks (like earlier Christians did) for the gospel. We gather on Sunday for hymns and preaching that we functionally don’t believe. It is the first task of a missional church to call into question the re-definitions of Christianity, gospel and discipleship that easily hijack our hearts.

Training Encouraged for Everyone (Required for Leaders): Missional churches train their members in how to share the gospel. In 1950s America, monologue evangelism, such as “Evangelism Explosion”, was effective. It assumed our neighbors believed in heaven and hell and a knowable God. Today most doubt the reliability of the Bible, and question the reality of heaven and hell. Therefore, dialogue evangelism such as “3D Evangelism”,  “Our Worshipping World” and “Reason for God” groups are more effective, as we build bridges of hospitality to provide ‘pastoral care’ to spiritually-curious people. Rather than viewing evangelism training as optional “extra-credit” training for a few super-leaders, missional churches will view this equipping as “basic training” for everyone (and especially important for emerging leaders).

Please opt into the training we’re offering, and consider taking a step of faith in 2015 by hosting a Super Bowl Party to love your neighbors. Regardless of who wins the game, you are helping Crossroads become more effective ambassadors for Christ as you move out in missional love to your neighbors!

*If you’d like to host a Super Bowl party to love your neighbors (i.e. unchurched friends) but would appreciate “seed” funds to help you host a great Super Bowl party, Crossroads will reimburse 50% of your outreach party costs (up to $30) to help you cover snacks and drinks. Please email the office (crossroadsmaplewood@gmail.com) by January 28th for approval or with questions on the outreach funds offered.

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  1. Cindy Fischer
    January 16th, 2015 at 22:22 | #1

    Thorough explanation of why past modes of outreach are ineffective today. Thanks,

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