I want to get a conversation going that I hope will eventually change the face of First Baptist Church. The question I would like to pose to get the conversation going is this, “What does missional look like in Metropolis?” Now before you answer that question I think you need to understand a couple of things.
First, what does the word missional mean? The term missional has come into vogue over the last several years. At first I thought this was just a fad and basically ignored it. But slowly, as I read more and more about how this word was being used, I began to experience a change of heart to the point that now I am a full-fledged, cool-aid drinking advocate of this word. In its most basic form the word missional is simply the adjective form of the noun mission. Simply put, “a missional church functions as a missionary in its community.” (Ed Stetzer, Comeback Churches, 4) Stetzer goes on to say that, “Missional churches do what missionaries do, regardless of context. They can parachute drop into a village in India or go into a metropolitan U.S. city and be missional. If they do what missionaries do- study and learn language, become part of culture, proclaim the Good News, be the presence of Christ, and contextualize biblical life and church for that culture- they are missional churches.” (Stetzer, 4) In simple terms then, a missional church views itself as being on mission with God in its local community.
Second, why has this term come into vogue lately in the church? Most pastors and missiologists alike would agree that starting about a decade ago the tried and true methods of growing churches began to lose their effectiveness. Something had changed in the culture and the programs and strategies that once produced growth were now showing signs of losing their appeal. Just in case you’re wondering this is about the time that First Baptist reached a plateau in our attendance and where we essentially remain today. What was essentially happening was that the church stopped being able to relate to the world it was trying to reach. Basically, the prevailing culture of the church became so different from that of the world we were trying to reach that we lost the ability to communicate effectively. Stetzer observes that, “It’s ironic that most evangelical churches are filled with people who live very much like the world but look different from it. It should be exactly the opposite. We should look similar to those in our community but act differently. Study after study has shown that North American evangelicals engage in the same lifestyles and sins as the unchurched. Yet, their church preferences are quite different that the world. In other words, we look different to the world, yet live that came as the world.” (Stetzer, 6) This observation may be why so many in our culture view the church as hypocritical and irrelevant to their lives. The missional church attempts to return the church to its original mission of proclaiming the gospel in culture by intentionally sending its members into the community as missionaries and making decisions based upon effectiveness in carrying out the mission rather than preference.
So now let me explain the conversation that I hope to get started here on the blog. Obviously, if we are going to become a missional church we will need to examine how we are going about the mission of God here in our community. What I would like to hear is a conversation about how to go about being missional in our city. In other words, being missional means that we do not go out and copy what someone else is doing. What works in Nashville, St. Louis, Atlanta or Seatlle is not likely to work here. Metropolis has its own unique and special culture. How do we go about proclaiming the gospel in a manner that is relevant to our community? Maybe, another way to look at this issue is, what are we doing now that hinders our effectiveness in reaching our community? In other words, are there things we are comfortable with that are out-of-touch with our culture and actually hinder us from effectively carrying out the mission?