Part 6: Missional Community
Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch have called the church to see that Christendom in the West has passed, and a new idolatrous paganism is reigning. Mission needs to involve challenging the idol of autonomous rationality. The church is to be a countercultural society and also work for cultural renewal. Mission involves more than evangelism and seeking individual salvation. The word missional is used in a great variety of ways today and there are a diversity of approaches to being missional, but there is also a shared understanding at the core. Missional churches recognize that we are in a post-Christendom age, that our churches have too often capitulated to culture (sometimes without even realizing it) when what is needed is challenging culture by contextualizing the gospel, that we are sent out to be a blessing to the world, and that we need to be a positive countercultural community.
There are three problems with the way that some churches approach being missional. Some are not comprehensive enough and equate evangelism with being missional—evangelism is critical in mission, but it is not the entirety of mission. Others make the mistake of tying a missional community to a particular church form, rather than recognizing that all kinds of churches of all kinds of shapes and sizes can be missional. The most serious problem in some missional groups is that they minimize the nature of sin, the wrath of God, and the need for faith in Christ’s atonement (instead they can overemphasize works or adopting a new lifestyle). No matter what the size of the missional community, there are six things they need to do: 1. Challenge society’s idols; 2. Contextualize and communicate understandably; 3. Train and equip people to do missions in every sphere of their lives; 4. Work for the common good as a counterculture; 5. Expect nonbelievers to be present and part of the group’s life and ministry, and; 6. Be united.
In the early church evangelism was done by everyone and the gospel spread because of these informal missionaries. There are many ways of ministering to others, but lay ministry happens organically (rather than being a church program), it is based on personal relationships, it brings Scripture and life together, and it is active. Lay ministry brings Christian faith into the world. Many people in our culture are led by a long process of mini-steps to finally committing to Jesus. Believers must act in relational integrity, being both like and unlike those around them. We need to intentionally engage our neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Pastors are vital in lay ministry—they need to teach and show people how to live out their faith, pray for others, and share the gospel. Many times we can share our faith if we have some honesty and courage, looking to help and be open. Pastors need to model personal godliness and lay out a rich theological foundation for evangelism. Lay ministry is enhanced when the church provides safe venues for thoughtful and sensitive outreach, too.