During the process of introducing a congregation to missional thought, there are various levels of understanding that a congregation will go through in this process. The process takes the congregation from a basic understanding of what you are saying and doing to a deeper level of knowledge. This is a process that people will go through. The first time that missional is mentioned, people are going to wonder about the term and the meaning. But as one continues to move a congregation forward, the member will start to understand the purpose and meaning of being a missional church.
Here are the steps to understanding that an average congregation will go through.
1. Confusion. Of course this is the first step. What does “missional” even mean? Fortunately, I was not the first one to mention the term from the pulpit in the congregation, it was one of the deacons that was understanding the focus of the congregation. He used the term in a prayer. At first a congregation will simply wonder about the term, but it will not create too much anxiety. People will wonder, did he mean missions.
2. Evangelism. It does not take a congregation long to start to realize that missional has a evangelistic component. So the congregation hears this term in the evangelism area. It means to the church that it needs to be more evangelistic. This is not a difficult message for a church to hear, as it has heard this news for years. At this level, people see it as more attractional or ”linear sentness” in evangelistic expression.
3. Internal verses External. People start to see that this is a bigger shift than more evangelistic activity in the congregation. This is more of a heart shift. Instead of a congregation that is focused on providing the needs of the members, the members start to see the need to start to think about focusing on the needs of the community. This is where some of the tension starts to arise in a congregation. Not that members are opposed to being external, it is which one comes first. When something in the congregation is killed because it is internally focused, and replaced with something that is externally focused, tension rises.
4. Spiritual Formation. Missional is bigger than just evangelistic styles or methods, it is really at the root a spiritual maturity thing. It means that Christians must be spiritual mature enough to put themselves second and put the lost first. A congregation is moving from a consumer mindset to a service mindset.
5. Participation with God. This is the final level of understand that a congregation will gain. It is based on the idea that “First and foremost, God is a missionary.” It means that God does not just have a mission, but that His nature is mission. Once a congregation grows to this level of understand, there is little debate in the church because people just realize that this is the work of God. The church begins to be excited about following the Lord into the mission field.
I hope these steps or levels of understanding helps. It is wise to understand how a congregation will process this shift in a church. In the process of transition, it is wise to know where the people are in order to communicate better with them, and to know how the church is feeling.
- Understanding the Church’s Mission
- Missional Team Update
- The Missional Reading
- Can You Be “Church Growth” and “Missional”
- The Missional Story of Castle Rock