Since reading the book Missional Church, I’ve thinking a lot about it and using the reflections and insights in our own BLC & Malaysian context. Missional Church is a concept and paradigm that’s worth the effort and thought, and personally more energy into how it can work.
I was somehow drawn to this old post by Ted Bednar on Missional Communities It’s good to be “tugged” back to what excited me to be part of the “resurrection project” through BLC (Bednars words in Bold followed by my responses, kind of trying to do a duet thing which I find helpful).
To me, the concept of being ‘missional’ seems like stating the obvious — that the church’s mission is to reconcile humanity with God. As it is currently used, a missional church seem more of a return to our biblical mission and a reaction against the church growth/mega church movement.
Looking back until today, I realize that this is very true for me personally and I didn’t just want to be a “professional” pastor doing business as usual. There’s a deep desire in me to connect with our Biblical mission and serve out of a stronger theological centre (as opposed to mere talk on methods and pragmatic concerns!)
In Next Wave magazine, Todd Hunter defined missional communities as, “a group of people who are highly intentional about truly obeying Jesus’ commands so as to increasingly be like him. The individuals pursuing this life-goal are in community. They live out their new, loving, powerful kingdom reality not as ‘Lone Ranger Christians’ (going about their work-a-day life isolated except for an hour on Sunday), but non-negotiably as a vital part of a group of Christ-followers.”
Indeed Todd Hunter personally was an important catalyst to keep me on the ground working through grass-root realities. In fact, BLC’s LiFE Groups are in some way my personal hope that this can work out. At times we get entangled with the “how-tos” (that’s just reality) , but fundamentally the “variety of methods” we try is our feeble attempt to live out what Todd talks about here. We need some perseverance and encouragement to keep going.
A missional community attempts to integrate an individual’s desire for spiritual formation and needs of the greater community. A missional church is focused on supporting an individual’s purpose in life for the greater purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.
This is where it’s tricky because of the “tension” of our consumeristic self with the genuine desire for formation and community. However, I think we have not deviated from this focus… now it’s the need to put more effort into making steps “visible” to help others along the way, and making “space” for this to happen.
Dr. Clark D. Cowden writes, “The missional church movement realizes that we are no longer chaplains to a Christian culture. We must be a missionary people in our own land. Every congregation needs to be cross-cultural missionaries to its community. We must move from the mindset that the church is a provider of religious services to Christian consumers to the shaper of an apostolic people on a mission to a fallen world.”
I think this is where Malaysia is different. Here I don’t think we have played the “chaplain” role (at least not like the west). Maybe. there was a time where we did to some small degree during the colonial period and when we were more involved in the education system. Right now, I don’t even know many schools that still have “chapel” (I’ve only spoken in one!) The fact is IMHO we’re still very much in the margins of almost everything, and our voice is sqeeky soft.
But, the challenge to be missionary people is even more valid for us. The danger of a consumer mindset is real. The church being a provider of religious services seems to be a prominent model (I may very well be wrong, I’m ready to be corrected by my fellow Malaysians in regard to this unrearched-intuitive hunch). I’m not too sure how much the “seeker-sensitive” movement (in terms of “seeker services” for example) has made an inroad to our churches but Rick Warren is popular! The “purpose-driven” church book played some role in our story as well. But may be those who emphasize the “supernatural” connects with our surrounding culture which is still very open to the unseen world and forces. The danger of us being open from “supernatural” to “superstition” (i.e. blind faith) is a reality IMHO in many Christians in our context.
A missional church seeks to incorporate its members into being part of a larger purpose, encouraging them as subversives, giving them tools to engage their culture, teaching them how to bridge and interact with culture, setting a biblical agenda for holy living, fostering spiritual formation, developing spiritual giftedness, encourage social action, and serving in community
A lot of work is needed here, right from the local church level to the national level. On a positive note, I think the soil for all this to happen is actually “fertile” and I think we are somehow trying in our own scattered ways. And yet, the inner and outer “demons” we face are subtle and damaging. For example just talking about our inner struggles, the lack of theological reflection and centering while we’re busy to get the job done or simply just trying harder. Thus, we’re just using a blunt saw trying to achieve our goal! And then, the trouble “insecure” & “abusive” leadership has been a growing concern to me lately after hearing one horror story after another (on the outside these leaders are supposed to be directive and visionary but actually a lot is done out of personal issues unattended). And when our ministry is not birthed out of healthy spiritual formation and health the tendency is just to dwell on technique and abilities, gifts and charisma …
Thus, the next paragraph on leadership is relevant.
Eddie Gibbs again says, “In postmodern society, church leaders … must be apostolic in that they are venturing into new territory as well as reclaiming lost ground to bring people to Christ and to multiply missional communities. The confidence, technique-based ability to manage the present and face the future have been replaced by the need to seek God’s wisdom and strength afresh for the novel and unanticipated challenges that face us in our ministries.” Missional communities simple seek leaders who think and act apostolically, rather than like a CEO.