Tag: How NOT to be Missional

Ways to NOT be Missional – II

In continuation of the series, How NOT to be Missional, this post examines some of the defects in Evangelism-Driven Missional church.

Evangelism-driven Mission. These are churches that focus almost exclusively on evangelism. Their view of the gospel leads them to see social action as optional. For them, mission is synonymous with evangelism, and evangelism is highly programmatic. They focus on training individuals through Evangelism training programs, Apologetics, and use of evangelistic tracts. What’s wrong with individuals learning evangelistic presentations, memorizing apologetic defenses, and using tracts.

  • Evangelism-driven mission is often answer-based and heaven-centered. These churches training individuals and teams on “how to present the gospel” in a brief period of time. Typically, these programs, such as EE, are looking for the person being evangelized to offer a specific answer. For example, “If you died tonight and stood before God and he said: “Why should I let you into My Heaven?” what would you say?” Notice that the questions are answer-driven. The goal in this approach is to get someone to say the right answer, to believe the right facts, “Jesus died for my sins.” Lots of people in America can give this answer but show no true signs of faith. All they have is mere belief. Subsequently, the right answer baits them not with Christ, but with heaven. It is heaven-centered, not Christ-centered. In Evangelism-driven mission Christ is subordinated to the treasure of heaven, instead of heaven being subordinated to the treasure of Christ. The goal is heaven, not Jesus Christ. Answer-driven, Heaven-centered evangelism leads to nominalism and distorts the gospel. Evangelism-driven mission can undermine not advance the gospel.
  • Evangelism-driven mission can be defensive and fact oriented. Training in apologetics has its place; however, when our approach to non-Christians is driven by apologetics we very often reduce people to projects. Apologetic mission can foster too much defense and too much offense because they aim at the head to the exclusion of the heart. They aim at changing someone’s mind but not their lives. Just because someone agrees with our facts and embraces our logic doesn’t guarantee true conversion. We need to be prepared, not only to defend the faith, but to love the person intelligently. Most objections to the gospel have existential, personal roots. If we can get beyond the arguments to the idols of the heart, we can show just how tremendously superior and satisfying Jesus is to whatever they love, desire, and pursue most!
  • Evangelism-driven mission is often outdated and fails to contextualize. The Methods used are often pre-packaged and out-dated. Evangelistic programs falsely assume that our listeners still understand the meaning of  Sin, Christ, and Faith. But very often they  hear something very different, like Legalism, A Moral Teacher, and mere Belief. When we fail to express the gospel in context and vocabulary that our listeners can understand, we fail to share the gospel. Christ dated and contextualized himself to all kinds of people so that his message would make sense and connect with their deep needs for redemption. Using packaged illustrations and methods assumes a one-size-fits-all, but the Incarnation reminds us that the gospel is much more personal and dynamic.
  • Evangelism-driven mission is individualistic. This approach to mission trains individuals, not communities. It reduces the gospel to a conversation between two people, without focusing on embodying the gospel in communities. Statistics have show that individuals are consistently converted to communities before they are converted to doctrines. Our methods are often doctrine-driven and individualistic. Jesus prescribed a kind of communal evangelism in John 17, where our community is so redemptive and rich that it points people to Jesus. Paul called for a distinctive discipleship in churches that set the community of faith forth as an example, as salt, as light in their cities, attracting others to them. Individualistic evangelism doesn’t create community because it doesn’t convert people to the church. It aims at converting individuals to a set of answers and to heaven. Evangelism-driven mission has very little to do with the Jesus we love or the Church he died for.

Adapted from the talks Conversion to Christ and Conversion to Mission from LEAD ’09.

Ways to NOT Be a Missional Church

Missional church movement has spawned a slew of misunderstandings and misapplications of mission. Over the next few days I want to suggest three ways to not do mission: 1) Event-driven Mission 2) Evangelism-driven Mission 3) Social Action driven Mission. Let’s think about Event-driven together:

Event-driven Mission: These are the churches that, in the name of mission, throw bloc parties, do Easter Egg drops from helicopters, hand out water at intersections, do gas buy-downs, or even, as was recently suggested to me, do coffee buy-downs.What’s wrong this this approach to missional church?

  • Event-driven Mission is works-based. It begins on the wrong foot, the foot of action instead of the foot of identity. It makes mission out to be an act of man, not a participation in an attribute of God. Mission is something we are before its something we do. Event-driven approaches to mission turn mission into an event, something that is optional for the super-spiritual, something that gets us points with God, that gets him on our good side. But God can not be bribed by mission or anything else. Event-driven mission builds mission on works not grace.
  • Event-driven Mission is very often Consumerist: The event approach to being a missional church often appeals to consumerism, not to genuine social or spiritual needs? It aims at the consumer-in-want-of-stuff, not the sinner-in-need-of-grace. These attempts at mission appeal to the consumerist longing for a deal, instead of the sinner’s deep down longing for redemption. They try to buy people off. I’ll give you an Xbox if you come to my church. I’ll pay for your gas if you visit on a Sunday. I’ll rent a helicopter if you will consider becoming a Christian. If you have to pay people to come meet Christians, something is seriously wrong with your understanding of gospel and mission. Event-driven mission makes appeals based on idolatry not to grace.
  • It doesn’t work very well. In urban contexts, people can smell a bait and switch a mile away, and that is exactly when they left the church (if they were in it in the first place). If we want to reach non-Christians in a post-Christian context, then we will have to prove to them that they cannot be bought off, that we are a real community, and that we care about them enough to live next door to them, eat with them, work with them, suffer with them, rock out with them, go be with them. Event driven mission is a bait and switch.

Adapted from my talk The Gospel: Conversion to Mission from LEAD ’09.