June 11, 2017

Why Is 'Missional' Important?

I took a course in seminary in which the professor used the adjective "missional" ad nauseum. He spoke of missional prayers, missional meetings. missional conversations. It was maddening! The tern was so often used that it lost any meaning whatsoever and became simply a joke to those of us in his class, "Is that your missional t-shirt?"

This is the trouble with communities. We use language to give our groups meaning and distinction. At our worst, we glom on to terms in order to feel included or a part of something that matters. In doing so we run the risk of diluting the meaning. The Christian community is not immune to this and the adjective "missional" has fallen prey to such.

I confess that my fear of continuing to write about this is that I will fall into a similar pattern and I desperately hope this is not the case. I care as much as I do about this because I believe this term has deep meaning and theological ramifications. It is not a placeholder for "evangelical" or "hip" or "emergent" or a "church without a building." It's something more than that.

A few months ago, I needed a break from writing here. I am coming back to blogging mostly to continue reflecting on this term "missional" and what it means for this particular point in the history of the Church, particularly in the west. Of course, the term really is meaningless unless it results in something; a behavior, an action, something. My hope is to move from theory to something useful about this term as quickly as possible. In the end, the term itself doesn't matter to me as much as what it does about how we behave.

And we need a change of behavior.

Across the U.S. we are confused about what it actually means to be Christian. This weekend, some Christians marched in opposition to Muslims in America. This month, many Christians will march in support of the LGBTQ community. Some Christians oppose capital punishment. Some abortion. Some think Trump's presidency is ordained by God. Other Christians believe he's the anti-Christ.

A watching world would have no clear idea of what it is God was up to in the world if they were to look at western Christians alone.

I have no illusions that one term will solve the great ethical and moral debates of our day. But in reading the theologians that coined the term, I was sent down a reading rabbit trail that changed my way of practice. So, I'm hopeful that a conversation about this idea of "missional" might help some of us find our way.

I started this by offering that "missional" is first, and foremost, intended to imply that God has a mission which we are invited to participate in. It isn't our mission. It's God's. This followed with a quick sweep of Church history and how we have often co-opted God's mission through colonialism and consumerism. I ended by offering that our way back to the heart of God's mission starts through reading Scripture differently.

In my next post we'll get back to trying on a missional hermeneutic.

It's good to be back!

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