I recently attended the Verge conference in Austin, Texas, where the concept of missional ministry was addressed. While the concept is far from new, the resurgence of a missional focus has penetrated the minds and hearts of our national church culture. Why? It’s simple. It’s because this is the way Jesus did it. He went to the people who needed him most rather than waiting for them to come to Him. (Matt. 28:19)
Three major questions arise in the minds of today’s large churches. These questions are valid, but not impossible to overcome:
Doesn’t BIG break the missional model of growth?
The reality of the missional movement says just the opposite. Because they have a larger staff base and exposure to more training materials, a large church is equipped to send people out in greater numbers.
Just because a church has an attendance over, say, 5,000, it doesn’t mean the church isn’t focused outwardly. In fact, with the diversity that comes with such a large group of people, it is quite possible to have exponentially more impact when they are equipped and sent to impact their community.
But there’s reason for caution: Just because they’re large, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily doing this right. Sometimes they grow, but it’s a growth model that simply serves to make the worshiping attendee comfortable without ever taking the next step of maturing them and sending them out. The staff and lay leaders must have a heart to develop a missional culture and provide the resources necessary to make it possible.
Aren’t we just talking small groups? We already do this well.
Missional doesn’t always equal small groups, unless your small groups intentionally have a missional focus, where their purpose is to go (as a team of individuals) into their localized community to spread the Gospel. The great news is that, if you are doing small groups well, this means that you are staffed to be able to support, communicate and equip your groups with a missional focus. For some churches, however, this change in culture may be more challenging than one would think.
Today’s church small groups tend to be intimate settings with a connectedness that we as humans are wired to find comfortable and inviting. However, missional means getting out of your comfort zone and reaching people who didn’t seek you out first. Take heart. The intimacy of a previously established small group can be the type of encouragement and support needed when reaching out. The transition to a missional culture is absolutely possible.
My staff is already overwhelmed with on-campus activity. How do we support off-site ministry?
At a Missional Church Planting Conference in Louisville, Ed Stetzer made this statement: “God is a God who is on mission. He is a God who sends; He is a sender by nature. Isaiah was sent by God and for God. John the Baptist was sent to bear witness to the One who would come into the world. Sent is used in reference to Jesus more than 40 times.” (John17:18; I Cor. 9:22; Matt 9:37-38; Matt 10:7-14)
Therefore, if you trust that this is truth, then you can also trust that He will equip you with the people and the vision to make this a reality for your church. It is also safe to say that it quite possibly will shake your church to the core when you realize that the amount your church invests inwardly could—and quite frankly should—be redirected to outward missional growth.
While we were in Austin, we had the opportunity to drop in on the Austin Stone Community Church to observe an example of this model working in ways unimaginable. As you begin to ask the questions of how does it relate to you, we pray that God blesses you in your pursuit of living missional lives as depicted within the biblical church. We love hearing stories of how the body of Christ has been blessed through their commitment to share the Gospel. Drop us a comment on this blog or post on our Facebook page about how the Lord is working in your church.