In The Missional Leader, Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk provide insight, analysis, and a model for bringing about missional transformation in an established congregation. They identify three “zones” in a congregation:

  • The emergent zone, where experimentation and innovation occur; 
  • The performative zone, where skilled performance is normative in a stable environment
  • The reactive zone, where performance level and morale is low, and discouragement and stress is high. 

Every congregation cycles through these stages, and the role of missional leaders is to help guide churches through these transitions. The emergent zone, however, is the desired zone due to its incredible creativity and potential for new expressions of mission.

Drawing upon Everett Rogers’ work, the authors give the following stages in a successful “Missional Change Model”:

  1. Knowledge (exposure to innovation)
  2. Persuasion (requires time to think and transition); 
  3. Decision (committing to an innovation);
  4. Experimentation and implementation; and
  5. Confirmation and reinforcement.

    I can testify that this was the change model that we used at my previous congregation in Liberty, Missouri, and God blessed this change.

At my current congregation, though we have affirmed that we desire to be a missional church, we are still in the knowledge and persuasion stages with some of the congregational subsets. By preaching, cycling through and teaching in our Bible classes, personal conversations, blogging, etc., we are seeking to move various sub-groups down the missional path. This multi-pronged approach allows time for the persuasion and decision stages to take place.


With other congregational subsets, we are in the experimentation and implementation stage. Having inherited and cultivated a permissive atmosphere for ministry, various members are coming up with their own outreach projects and ideas. Under the outreach umbrella, I have been able to help encourage, train up and facilitate the development of many outreach leaders and ministries, such as divorce recovery, Celebrate Recovery, ICU care basket ministries, ministry to the homeless, Habitat for Humanity, evangelistic Bible studies and small groups, outreach to young professionals, nursing homes, and more! And then there is a real, expanding core of people who solidly support this concept. Ministries which had been marginalized or barely known, such as the food pantry and clothes closet ministries, have been greatly expanded and lifted up as core marks of an authentic church that takes Matthew 20:28 (Christ as servant) and Matthew 25 seriously. God is at work amongst us, and I want to help facilitate this growth by providing training and funding and encouraging initiative.

God has much work to do to change our orientation from a church growth perspective to a kingdom growth perspective. Hopefully as the experimental “successes” occur, this will help to build coalescence around our mission of reach out to the world--seeking the lost, serving the community, and sharing the good news. Of course, there is always a risk with this top-down enforcement of putting on controls and institutionalizing the movement. We must avoid this by keeping the spirit of innovation and permissiveness alive. Only then will missional transformation continue on through every cycle of God’s people.

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