Friday, November 30, 2012

How can we change from a congregation based ministry to a community minded ministry?

Currently I am in the process of reading Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell L. Guder and have discovered some profound insights into the Church in our society.  The section that I have found to be intriguing addresses denominationalism of the Christian churches in America and also how our Church has changed to be more of a managed process than a spiritual center.  Many reasons have caused this to happen but the premise of the issue at hand it that our society has changed so drastically that even something as an integral facet of society as the Church could not keep up.

The early Church in America was very important to the building of the frontier and a basis for much of the social life in colonial villages.  This was one of the last times we can see that the “church” was “successful”.  Other events in the late 19th and 20th centuries increased membership of churches like the tent revivals and the return of soldiers from war. Although membership may have increased, the connection of church and modern society was slowly falling apart. By the 1960s, the acceptance of individualism had taken root and the connection between the average American and the church was separated by a large and deep canyon. This proverbial canyon has gotten larger as the years have gone on because individualism is growing stronger and the church is still doing the same activities.  

So how can the institution of the traditional church transform into a missional organization?  The church must change from wanting people to come into their Sunday services to a place that teaches people to be loving Christians in their daily lives. The church must also change from a set of certain people going to the same building every Sunday to a place that shares the ideals of a Christian based community in the places that we live.  This may sound like a teaching that currently takes place in many churches but is randomly applied to people’s lives.  

Churches should also work together in the communities to solve social issues and to address the needs of the people in that community.  When was the last time that you have heard of a group of churches, across denominational lines, come together and truly change a community? Now I may be a little young to answer this but I would venture that it hasn’t happened in quite some time.  A quick look around my town, I found about 12 churches in my town.  A couple of those have closed down and I wonder what the other churches are doing for the community.

We need to change; I need to change, you need to change, the system of our society must change.  We have to become the “city on a hill” seeking God through everything we do.  Missional Church also states that simply internalizing our faith and knowing salvation as a personal experience is only half of what the Gospel teaches.  Are we going to simply ignore half the reason why Jesus came to Earth? Our church structure is not set up to do both sides of Jesus’ ministry. For many years, we have focused on the self-centralization of the Gospel and how it pertains to us but what we are missing is the participatory side of salvation.  Living a life like Jesus and mirroring his ministry is a crucial part of our beliefs. We can think and believe anything that we want but if we don’t represent these ideas in our life and be Christians to our neighbors than it is for not.  A friend of mine once was asked the question “Which is more important discipleship or evangelism?” His response was simple: “How can a bird fly with only one wing.” We must present an equal balance in our lives with enough power or we will never get off the ground.

So back to the question at hand, how can we change?  My idea is complex and I can’t explain every detail because frankly I don’t know those problems/solutions at this time.

The only way to change people is either by a catastrophic event or a slow process.  Since the world is not going to end on December 21st, 2012, I will use a model for a slow process.  We have to start with what we have.  The leaders in the church and denominations that have been establishing themselves for nearly centuries are actually great tools to work with.  They have established programs and missions in our communities but they have not reached their full potential.  These efforts have not used resources allocated to the community but only the ones given to the congregation.  If the dozen or so churches and pastors in my community were to work together in a common mission, we could essentially transform our town into a Christian community.  We would have the ability to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, minister to those in times of trouble, worship and praise God together, love one another, and have a large support system of people that live life just as you do.

I understand that this model does not fit with the current society and not too many people would be happy if we flipped all of our churches and resources to a different function.  The process would literally mean a reversal of what has been undone over the last century. With the Holy Spirit working, this may take a generation or so.  Mindsets of the daily life as a resident of a town would need some reform and we can start by teaching our children these concepts.  This is not some crazy stance at making our kids Amish but merely changing the ideals we teach our children to become involved in community.

There are many organizations and councils in place that actually do some of this work but more than likely are just spinning their wheels.  I asked a pastor friend of mine if his community had something like a council of local pastors and his response was yes, but they never do anything.  It is a shame to see that we have a highly evolved system of communications and we can’t even get pastors in a community to work together.

I would like to challenge you as a believer, congregation member, and/or citizen of a certain area: Go ask your local pastor what they have done to work with other churches to better share Christ’s love in the community. Please, don’t settle for mediocrity and be a side-line believer.  Care about your neighbors and get involved in your church’s efforts to spread the love of Christ.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

What is wrong with church now?

I would like to start off by saying that the established church has done great things for our communities, country, and world and will continue to do so for many years. With that said, one extremely lacking aspect of the traditional Christian religion is teaching people to live a life as a follower of Jesus. Church attendees simply go through the motions of religion with no life altering experiences. We can learn about Jesus, go to Sunday school, and attend a Bible study but actually living a life like Jesus and portraying ourselves as true Christians in our communities are things we have failed to do.

To put this in perspective I will attempt to make a modern parallel: If I were to buy a Coca-cola t-shirt, purchase common stock of the Coke corporation, hit the “Like” button for the Facebook page of said company, and even go as far as purchasing the actual drink itself but never actually taking a drink of the beverage, why would I invest my time, money, and brand loyalty to something that I don’t really partake in? Going to church, tithing, and cooking for the quarterly spaghetti dinners are all motions that we go through with but our daily lives do not accurately reflect these weekend rituals. Through our time spent at church we are taught to love one another as we would want to be loved and to share your harvest with your neighbor but when we recluse back to our man/woman caves we forget the teachings from church and remain focused on ourselves.

Have a Coke, enjoy it, and while you are at it, grab me one too.  True ministry in our communities is what God is calling us to do and unless we “pop the top” and “take a big swig” we have not fulfilled our calling.  The modern church can only do so much to influence us as Christians to actively minister to others so we must take the initiative. The missional movement can only be achieved by believers and not the “church” as a whole. 

So how can the church change or improve to help people be missional? That is the ultimate question in modern ecclesiastical circles. [IMHO] I believe the church needs to start inside their own doors and be missional to the faithful parishioners, lay people, and worship leaders.  Once people in the church know what it is like to be accepted by a loving community of Christians, then they will be more apt to share that love with their neighbors.  This is not to say that individuals cannot go out on their own path and start ministries, but to have the support and resources of a larger congregation is why we have a church.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What does “missional” mean?

What does “missional” mean?

A mission in the literal sense is a person or group of people that goes to a region for a specific purpose.  In business, a mission is merely the goal of the operations of that organization.  During the days of exploration in the 16th to 19th centuries, a mission was a name for a church that was planted in a certain area to spread the Christian religion (usually of the Catholic faith).  Missions now in the religious realm are usually set plans for certain people to go to third world countries and spread the Gospel of Jesus. With these thoughts in mind, “missional” is a combination of these with some extra ideas that are Gospel inspired and have more of a community mindset.

When people hear of mission in a church setting they automatically think of sending people to a small island in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and attempting to convert native tribes into faithful believers.  This is an important part of the church’s foreign outreach ministry and certainly people are called by God to do this but “missional” is a term used in religion to define a community based ministry.  A great way to explain missional church is to say instead of bringing people into your church building, you are going into the community teaching people about Jesus which is essentially taking church to them.  

The term “church” should further be clarified as well.  Church is thought of as a building with a steeple where people go to services on Sunday and have weddings.  The biblical meaning of church has a different connotation to it altogether.  The church is described in scripture as a body of people that is called to teach others of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  No buildings, no steeples.  The modern church as it pertains to scripture is a body of people that are brought together through traditions, denominations, social obligations, and special programs.  Where is the Holy Spirit? Why is the community not the central point of the religion?

The missional church is then described as; a community of followers of Jesus Christ, fulfilling the Great Commission as they go out into their communities teaching them about the Good News found in the New Testament of the Bible, not defined by a physical location but extending a loving arm to all those in need, religion is not a convenience hobby but a way of living, using the parables of Jesus as your guide for life’s decisions, focusing your life on God’s Kingdom instead of your own self-gains, and refer to church as the welcoming body of believers that is rooted in their communities.

This idea is not intended on destroying the established church but is to change it once again.  A New Reformation is in order to withdraw ourselves from our traditions and realize the true calling as followers of Jesus.  The Missional Reformation is a necessary change that is needed in the American Christian churches and churches around the world.  In our entitlement era of society, America has been one of the worst offenders at not fulfilling our call to ministry. We have a great opportunity as Americans to use the great resources that have been provided for us to answer our calling.

One popular phrase that is thrown around in the missional ministry field is “gospel intentionality”.  This simply means to live a life with the intent of fulfilling the Great Commission. This, along with “missional”, is thrown around all too often and can be used by people and “churches” to attract new believers but should be held to a high regard.

Evangelism, street preaching, and door-to-door ministries should not be confused with “missional”.  Though these ideas can be utilized in many functions throughout the missional and traditional churches, they do not represent the core of the missional church.  Involving one’s self in the lives of your neighbors and actively engaging in the needs of your community through ministry is the root of the missional church.  Our mission is to get to know people and understanding their spiritual needs and teaching them that through Jesus Christ we have redemption, forgiveness, a comfort knowing that God is our rock and we can fully rely on Him.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Introduction to the Missional Church

In a 1998 book by Darrell L. Guder he explains that there has been a decline in dedication from Americans to the established church. He presents that the missional church is the new growing trend in the world and that the way church as we know it needs an overhaul as it pertains to ministry. Many concepts and models of ministry have recently been implemented with some success but it may be short-lived. The “contemporary” church is young, hip, and attractive to anyone under 50 in the US. These mega-churches have formed an entertaining and heartwarming church experience but nonetheless it is still the same church. Live bands, pastors in jeans, mobile apps, and small group studies are all well and good with intention but will not sustain a church for the ages.

The mission of the modern church is to “fill the pews on Sunday”. Everyone is expected to be at church on
Sunday and be involved in monthly dinners and holiday social events. Is this the model of worship that Jesus
wants? I will argue that Jesus’ never intended for anyone to just show up to church at 10:30 every Sunday when it was convenient for them. The fulfillment of the Great Commission is our true calling in God’s Kingdom. Jesus said “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them”. The word “go” is more than likely the key word in this passage. Go means to move or travel or proceed. In a ministry sense, go would mean to actually move into the community that surrounds you and not stay docile in the four walls of your church. The second part of the sentence says to “make disciples of all the nations”. Adding this part to the definition of “go” is saying to proceed into the community, teaching everybody of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The last part of the quoted text is “baptizing them”. This is crucial to the meaning of the commission. A baptism is a transforming and renewal of a person into a life with Christ.

Taking this understanding of the text, we can now form a mission statement that should be the root of all Christian ministries. “Travel into your communities and the world, educating everyone of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and baptizing them so that they may be washed of their sins and live eternally with God Almighty."

In weeks to come I will be posting interesting links about missional ministries and the like.  Also I will be placing weekly articles pertaining to the missional church.