Here are a few reflections after about four years of working on missional transformation. ”How does a church become a presence in the community?” This is a great question, and there are numerous options available. I believe most congregations are only at the beginnings of this process. Fortunately, we have been doing this for a while, and have made mistakes, tested ideas, and had success and failed a long the way. The most important aspect though is that we tried, and will continue to try. Here are a few reflections from breaking through the boxes that we create for evangelism. This four year journey has helped me as well as the church tremendously. You cannot reflection on missional activities unless you have done missional work. Instead of leaving this conversation in the area of theology, we were one of the few who experimented with this process, of course in a Bible matter.
Throughout this process, it become evident that the attractional model of evangelism is so prevalent in the church that to even think of a missional expression of outreach is a challenge to the thinking of an average Christian. Christians have a struggle about moving to a new map to do evangelism. To think outside of the box is a major difficulty. One author said “Therefore, we can agree that the world has changed and then just work harder to follow those preexisting maps.” We as the missional team struggled with creating new maps to guide us to the lost. Alan J. Roxburgh, Missional Map-Making (San Franciso: Jossey-Bass, 2010), 89. The team was strong in stepping forward to create missional-attractional, but pure missional expressions of outreach is difficult.
This goes back to the difficulty of attempting to work harder to be evangelistic instead of creating a new approach altogether. This was one of the transitions that never happened in this process. The various action research cycles dealt with improving an existing ministry instead of adding a new approach altogether. An established congregation struggles with this radical shift. There is a mesmerizing effect on church members. It creates a culture of conformity that requires docility and dull obedience from the members. It will stifle dissent and put a lid on innovation and creativity. As this author notes, “we rarely break free to do something genuinely innovative, adventurous, or something that just challenges the status quo.” Alan Hirsch, “Reawakening a Potent Missional Ethos in the Twenty-first Century Church,” Missiology 38 (January 2010): 5-6).
In the book, The Power of Habit, the author tells the story about Paul O’Neill, and the Alcoa aluminum company; how this leader turned this company around, and made it one of the best performing stocks through the 90’s. In fact, the market capitalization rose by 27 billion dollars. The author notes that this success was because of one seemingly innocuous idea. O’Neill desired to make Alcoa the safest company in America. This one simple idea stimulated tremendous change and growth, helping to reshape the organization from various silos to a company that quickly communicated through the chain of command. It was not just safety, but it was the rally point to change the entire culture of the company. It was my hope that the missional focus would help reshape the Castle Rock church into a more vibrant and healthy organization, and missional could be the rally point for this cultural shift. Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit (New York: Random House, 2012), Kindle Electronic Edition: Chapter 4, Location 1537.
The idea of measuring missional effectiveness is a confusing issue. On one hand, it seems tremendously difficult to measure the impact that someone is having for God. God is leading the missional work, and as Christians we are participating with him. As it has always been said in the church, “you never know what good you have done.” So is there a way to measure this vague component? The book Effectiveness by the Numbers” notes some measurements that a congregation can use to gain some insight into the impact of a congregation, but much of the advice in this text is geared more for a church growth perspective. There is a chapter that could be helpful in this process. The chapter deals with measuring the number of leaders in a congregation. Going back to the metaphor of the cruise ship and lifeboat leaders, a congregation could gain a picture of the impact through the number of missional leaders being trained and developed in the congregation. William R. Hoyt, Effectiveness by the Numbers (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007): 59-70.
- The Creativity Process in Preaching
- Can You Be “Church Growth” and “Missional”
- The Missional Reading
- Transition to Missional
- Missional Dissertation Reflection–Personal Change