Being Missional Must Include the Church as a whole, families, and individuals--not just programs

In the their new book, Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People, authors Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford write this:


"It is impossible to be a missional church if we fail to be missional people. Otherwise, missionality is reduced to sponsored programs that centralize the life of the body of Christ, institutionalizing and containing it in church systems and programs that view mission as something that happens 'over there' or at special events." 


The missional crowd, which I include myself in, is quick to decry "programs" as being the solution to being missional. To this I say there is a lot of truth. What is a program? I suppose that there is no official definition, but to me a program: 1) tends to be large; 2) therefore needing administration; 3) therefore often leading to a lack of relational connection; 4) often deemed to be more important than people (the program must go on); and 5) often kept on life support long after the original visionary and passionate people behind the original ministry have long since been gone. 


In reference to the above quote, the authors are pointing to a program also as something that happens artificially or outside of everyday life.


To this I would say that having something large and organized is not necessarily bad, though it is awfully easy to lose the relational connections in large programs. And since I believe that people come to Christ primarily through relationships, I am on the lookout for this problem. Our food pantry, for instance, if it continues to grow, will be in danger of losing the relational and prayer components to it as the long lines pressure us to spend less time with each person. Administration of this ministry could, however, be used to ensure that the relational component remains by scheduling enough people to be there to pray and spend individual time with people.


The corporate witness of the church through ministries is essential. Jesus said to his disciples, "You "plural" are the light of the world" (Mt. 5:!4).  It is necessary to overcome negative stereotypes about churches. It can provide concentration and a magnified effect. Because, for instance, our church collectively has adopted an elementary school, we are able to reach more people than if a single individual just served at the school. A few of the missional crowd has gone overboard and is almost against a corporate witness of the church, which is not a helpful (or biblical) attitude.


However, there is no doubt that both individuals and families must engage in daily mission. The Think Orange people rightly point out that children spend an average of 40 hours per week with a church, but over 3000 teachable hours a week with their families. If we do not train people to engage in mission then, then being missional can tend towards mere program.


And then, even beyond families is the individual responsibility and opportunity for mission. Most people, because of work, live most of their lives away from both collective church and their families. If we do not train people to be missional there, we again have lost huge opportunities to reach people for Christ.


What role do you see the church, families, and individuals as having in regards to being missional?

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Comment by James Nored on February 9, 2011 at 3:32pm
Ryan, God bless you for your work in church planting. Church planters need all of the love and support that we can give them. What fellowship and sponsoring church sent you?

As to the problem that you list here, I would suggest having a fellowship meal worked into your events or inviting those you are serving to a fellowship meal. By sharing meals together, conversation is fostered, barriers are broken down, and people become more comfortable with one another. Also, do the children have an opportunity to play together at these events? Kids naturally break down barriers, which can help the parents do so as well.
Comment by James Nored on February 9, 2011 at 3:28pm
Ann, good thoughts here. You say that "Missional life is not optional. It's a core passion of true Christianity. It's simply an overflow of God's love in us." If this is true--and I think that it is--why does it seem that most Christians live their lives without lost people on their minds? I often ask people about what unchurched people we can pray for to reach them for Christ, and I hear crickets. Is this your experience? How do we change this?
Comment by Ryan Lloyd on February 9, 2011 at 9:43am
James and Ann, I could not agree more on the conversation at hand.  I try to intentionally live missional with every step and breath I take in life.  However, I could use some advise if you want to share.  A sponsoring church sent me to plant a small congregation in the projects.  That was a year ago and continues to go well.  One way we did this was to get 15 volunteers from the sponsoring church to do events like: coat giveaways, school uniform giveaways, neighborhood bbq's, prayer walks and a childrens worship for one hour in a nearby field.  The events have generated a lot of energy and conversations for me to follow up on during the week.  Our volunteers have a heart for people, yet they are having trouble getting across the cultural barrier and deepening their friendships with those that live in the neighborhoods.  They are very willing to serve and do yet reluctant to spend quality time because they are on a "mission" to get the event accomplished.  I've tried talking to them and it has helped some but the "barrier" still remains.  The people on the block have become my family and when an event is over a handful have come to me and asked why the volunteers were so distant.  There is always the expected handshake, hi and short small talk, not much beyond either of you have any suggestions of how I could begin to move our volunteers into more of a missional and family mindset verses a "lets get the event accomplished" mindset?
Comment by Ann Dunagan on February 9, 2011 at 1:51am

Being missional, (or as I say, mission-minded) should be a foundation in how we live life. As Christians, we're all called to continually SHINE as lights and ambassadors for Jesus, wherever we are, and with-or-without a "program" to tell us what to do. As individuals and as families, it's simply living to glorify God, dreaming about expanding His kingdom, and obeying the promptings of the Lord. Missional life is not optional. It's a core passion of true Christianity.It's simply an overflow of God's love in us.

As Hudson Taylor said, "The Great Commission is not an option to consider, it is a command to obey."

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