Tag: missional ecclesiology

Transitioning to Missional Church (Pt 2)

See Part 1 of the series Transitioning to Missional Church.

In Part 1 of this series, we established the difference between a church with a mission and church as mission. A Missional Church is church as mission not church with a mission. Missional is its nature not just its vocation.

Why Mission is the Nature of the Church

Why is missional the nature of the church? Because it is the nature God. Mission is not only an action of God; it is an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. That’s what the term Missio Dei means “the Sent God.” God has always been on a mission for his glory, that self-glorifying mission breaks out into creation, thru the fall, in redemption unto New Creation. In particular, we see the missionary nature of God in his sentness. Father sends the Son, Son sends the Spirit, Spirit sends the Church. The church is cut from the cloth of the missionary God. We have a family resemblance. We have a missionary nature because we have a missionary Father.

In other words, mission is the breath of the missional church. Mission is not a tack-on to your life; it is your life. You exhale mission because you inhale gospel. The gospel flows through you, pulsing at various strengths but pulsing, in order to pump the blood of Jesus through the body of Christ so that it can exhale the hope of mission. This missional breath affects everything—how we check the mail, how we structure our week, how we relate to neighbors, how we do our work, how we read the Bible, where we live, how we live, how we make your everyday decisions. Missional is radical, like taking up your cross and following Jesus. Missional church is a gathering of cross-bearing, Jesus-following disciples who are committed to his mission.

Missional church requires nothing less than a rethinking of our identity and our practice, of who we are and what we do. Therefore, in order to effectively embrace the challenge of moving from church with a mission to church as mission, new ecclesiastical structures are absolutely essential. The old church structures support mission as a task but not as an identity. They promote mission as an event but not as disciple-making, reducing mission to an option for the elite not essential for everyone.

Challenges in Transitioning to Missional

One of the greatest challenges in transitioning to a true missional church is syncretistic missional ecclesiology (SME). Syncretistic Missional Ecclesiology is the fusion of missional church values with institutional church structures. Many churches that attempt to make this transition, try to insert missional values into non-missional church structures. Leadership, decision-making, community structures all remain somewhat the same, while the leaders beat the drum of mission. At best, this will create more mission works but will fail to make missional disciples.

The nature of missional church requires more than cosmetic adjustments to our inherited forms of church. Missional ecclesiology requires an entirely new way of thinking about church, from the bottom up. Church plants and established churches have failed to recognize this important point. As a result, they have blended institutional church with missional church. This syncretism is both theologically and practically defective.

  • Institutional mission relies on preaching, teaching, and writing to implement missional ecclesiology. Missional Church relies not only on a Sunday ministry of Word, but promotes a rest of week ministry of the word that is carried out by a speaking-the-truth-in-love community.
  • Institutional mission adopts a program of mission during a set season of the year to implement missional ecclesiology. Missional Church does not see mission as a tack-on to your life; it is your life. You inhale gospel and exhale mission through ordinary rhythms of life.
  • Institutional mission sees mission as the responsibility of a select group of people not the whole church including staff. Missional Church requires pastors and staff to live a missional life making disciples and redeeming social ill. It equips ordinary people to do ordinary things with gospel intentionality.

Introducing the Church

How we introduce the church to people has a lot to do with how they interpret church. We introduce the church poorly to people when we leave “church” out of our weekday conversations. We introduce the church poorly when we just tell people “how to get there” on a website. How we introduce people to the church, especially on Sundays, is important if we want to re-arrange their expectations around a gospel view of the church.

Here are a few ways we’ve done it. I’m not being dogmatic, just suggestive. I think this is important, but I also think you should introduce people both theologically and contextually. In other words, rearrange their view of the church around the gospel, but do it in language that is true to your vision and your context.

Introducing Church on Sundays

Over the past couple of years we’ve changed the way we introduce people to the church on a Sunday morning, but all in all we’ve had minor variations. We used to say stuff like:

If you’re visiting today, we’re so glad you came. We hope this is the last time you come to church, because this building isn’t the church. These people are.

Early on this certainly weeded out the consumer, but probably also ran off a few potential disciples. With time we softened our introduction to tell people that:

“The best way you can get to know the church is to visit a City Group, where the church is the church to one another and the city.”

This was more welcoming and still community affirming. It mixed more grace into the welcome. However, as we continued to reflect on this introduction, we still felt like it was, at times, intimidating for front door visitors. Why? Because we pushed City Groups so hard. You’re bound to feel out of place if you aren’t in one, especially since the majority of our church is. We wanted to relieve the person who unreligously visited out Sunday gatherings once every 4-5 weeks, while remaining true to our vision of the church.

So we went this this, roughly. People laugh every time they hear it (the bold part), but I can tell they love it. They tell me so.

Welcome to Austin City Life. My name is ____, and I am one of the Partners with our church. If you’re visiting, we�re really glad you found us. We would love to meet you, so hang around afterwards over coffee, join us for lunch, or fill out a visitor form on a lap top.

You should know up front that we are a very imperfect church. We will disappoint you, but we�ll do our best to point you to a perfect Savior. That�s the Gospel, and we believe it converts us to Christ, to Church and to Mission. It�s why we�re here, to be the church to one another and to the city. To be in the city and for the city, redemptively engaging peoples and cultures.

The best place to figure this all out is in our City Groups, gospel communities that serve one another and our city. You can check them out right here by hanging around afterward and chatting in the back, by our sign, or learn more online at austincitylife.org.

Introducing Church on Websites

Your introduction to the Church on Sundays should resonate with what you say on your website and, most importantly, your small group/missional community experience. We’ve changed our web wording to reflect our actual gathering, keeping the non-Christian in mind.

Sundays Gatherings are an important part of being the church at Austin City Life. Although we want to avoid the mistake of seeing Sunday as “the Church”, we believe it is important to gather every Sunday for worship, preaching, communion, and community.

On Sundays you’ll find an interesting juxtaposition of theological depth and cultural expression. We are in line with historic, orthodox Christianity, but express that Christian faith progressively, in a venue on Austin’s renown 6th Street.

What is Sunday Like?
We gather every Sunday at The Parish, one of the best music venues on 6th, where you’ll hear our musicians play rich, stirring, God-focused music, not as a performance but as an act of worship. You’ll also hear substantive gospel messages that regularly engage cultural issues. Best of all, you’ll get to meet a community gathered around Jesus that loves our city.

These people are like you in many ways. They are citizens, creatives, moms, dads, young marrieds, professionals, college students, and singles. They are Christian and not Christian. We are all imperfect people looking to a perfect Christ.

This certainly isn’t the last “word”, and introducing people to the church is so much more than what you say. But what you say also affects how you live.

How Not to Be a Missional Church Continues

Some of you may have read the beginning of this series, How Not to Be a Missional Church, on my blog. I’ve pushed the series to Resurgence, where it will be running all week, and will conclude with the Evangelism-Driven critique. Others of you are reading some of this for the first time. As each post goes up this week, I will post some further commentary for explanation and interaction.

Event-Driven Missional Church:

I am not saying events are bad, but that event-driven churches miss the mark of missional church. If we put all our eggs in the basket of out-reach events, in the name of mission, we have misunderstood the purpose and nature of the missional church. The missional church is a Jesus-centered community that redemptively engages peoples and cultures. It’s not a switch you turn on or off, a date on the calendar, or an item we tick off the list. Mission is our identity, because we have be rescued by a missionary God and placed in his missionary family.We live missionary lives, doing everyday things with gospel intentionality.

At Austin City Life, we do events. We baptize, we preach, we gather on Sundays, we do fund-raising garage sales for Operation Turkey, we clean apartments for homeless women and kids, we visit nursing homes, we do Teen Therapy Room Renovations. One difference, however, is that these missional events are typically linked to a greater community over time. They are done with non-Christians, for non-Christians, to address real needs in the context of a long-term relationship. I like to call them strategic social partnerships (in-house language), to convey the importance of missional churches/communities making a long-term social, cultural, and relational impact through gospel witness. Events aren’t bad, but when we mistake event for missional church we get off track. People will see it as just another program, which it is, unless we explain to them that mission is our identity, responsibility, gifting, and joy. (scroll through to our mission series for more)