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Tuesday, November 07, 2006
What to expect in a missional church
As a current planter/pastor of a missional church, I have discovered that there are definate differences between missional churches and typical contemporary churches. But often people showing up at our church don't expect those differences, and so are upset that our church isnt giving them what they want. It has been a struggle at times - especially to hold onto the value of serving and blessing others when people show up wanting to just be blessed and fed personally. Dave Fitch, another missional church pastor in the Chicago area, has just posted some great thoughts about what to expect in a missional church over at Reclaiming the Mission.

What are your thoughts? Do those things really describe missional churches?

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posted by Julie at 10:33 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/07/2006 09:42:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Julie: To be honest, I have never heard of a "missional church" before. The closest that I've come to anything I would have thought of by that name is the Free Episcopal Church but they don't have traditional worship services. They are all "chaplains" and have various ministries like hospice, gerontology, etc.

    Anyway, I was wondering how this differs from what might be called the "emergent church"?

    In my own mind, I have come to think of church more and more as simply the Body of Christ. It is not something we "do" on Sundays. It is what we are 24/7. Worship is one of many disciplines practiced by the Body and can be expressed both individually and corporately. (you and I have discussed the importance of community in the past)

    I really liked Finch's description of the relationships of his own faith community. This is what I have been dreaming of for a very long time.

  • At 11/08/2006 11:23:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    I've heard the term, but I wasn't exactly sure what it missional church was all about.

    Now I know. :)

  • At 11/08/2006 11:36:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I like the "what not to expect list." I mean sure, saying it doesn't mean people won't still unconsciously bring those expectations - weren't most of us warned that marriage and parenting would be harder than we thought? We just didn't know how much more challening from an experiential perspective. I think Jesus explicitly told people to count the cost before entering into discipleship, so maybe we should too!

  • At 11/08/2006 11:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Hi there,

    I highly recommend "Emerging Churches" by Bolger and Gibbs. Nancy's comment alludes to one of the megathemes present in UK and US "Emerging" (or emergent, depending on the authority) bodies. I read the book and it was very eye-opening. Very basically, the take-home message I got out of it was that it's possible to re-imagine what "church" can or should be, and that the core elements are loving God, walking with Jesus, and existing in a community of faith. With respect to this paradigm, structure can be flexible and can take any form that is appropriate for the community. I used to conceptualize a weekly "small group" meeting as an adjunct to "real" worship which occurs on Sundays only, but now I am of the 24/7 persuasion reflected by Nancy, such that the center of fellowship is really a small local gathering, and the larger corporate gathering is available and nice, but almost "mildly" superfluous. Another emerging premise that resonates with me is the concept that God is already working in the world, and it is our choice to be involved in God's ministry how we are led. I think this provides a good resolution to the somewhat more fundamentalist view of "God" versus "world" that really on an individual level seems to boil down to an "us vs. them" dynamic. The concept of being filled so you can do outreach is made obsolete by a post-modern sensibility that God is omnipresent, in our own lives and in the greater world.

  • At 11/08/2006 11:46:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Good thoughts Medium guy. I would also add that in some cases, a Christian's attunement to the Holy Spirit and conscious cooperation with "upside down kingdom" can become the hands and feet where God is already present in the world but perhaps at times waiting for us to embody God's kingdom in a Jesus-centered way. So in other words, God being already in the world, and yes aleady working, but also calling us to be a light and place of extraordinary love and trust amidst the chaos and beatings of life. "They will know we are Christians by our love."

  • At 11/08/2006 01:36:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I have said before that the church I attend is transitioning into this. I think many of the descriptions are right on. Many people who left our church we complaining about many things: "not being spiritually fed", music differences, "not biblically sound", etc. (their perceptions). Many of the things Dave mentions, are what we are focused on. He is right that it is not easy. We lost over 500 people and have become a small church of maybe 150 right now. I'll tell you however, my sense is that the majority of people that are left are very passionate about becoming "missional". For me personally, thinking more "missionally" and less about "me" has completely changed my outlook!

  • At 11/08/2006 02:48:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Michele L,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. That's really cool and inspiring that your church was willing to become smaller in numbers to become more true to God's calling.

  • At 11/08/2006 05:43:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks Jemila,
    It has been a really hard road for those leading us in our journey. I am proud of them and admire their courage to move this direction. I am flattered that I have been asked to be staff. As a matter of fact, the entire staff flipped recently except for our pastors. The great thing is we have an awesome staff that came together fairly quickly. I look forward to moving forward with all of them.

  • At 11/09/2006 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Michele L, how would you describe your role/calling in your church?

    Julie, can you tell me a bit more about what your church experience is like day to day?

  • At 11/10/2006 09:30:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    I have been teamed with a friend of mine to "oversee" our kids programs from nursery age to 5th grade. Actually, we have been a team working with the preschool program for a while.
    The structure has changed. We don't have 1 head "pastor" (not even sure they want to be called that, now that I think of it). We have smaller teams that are a part of 1 large team. Right now it seems everything is "2 by 2" LOL. We obviously still have "someone to answer to", but honestly, I really feel respected as being a part of the "team". I really see those "bosses" as friends. They really don't feel like "bosses". We have "weekend speakers" and right now we have 5 of them. Our staff has flexibility and really doesn't work from the church during the week. Almost all of the staff has other jobs (I think they want to break the money dependance within the church thing). We are using blogs, and are working our our web site, in order to keep connected. Even though I am the "kids" person, I still feel I have a voice in what is happening, sharing thoughts, feelings etc. Ex. We are creating "stations" for advent, and our team was asked to create one. Our theme is Anticipate. At first I thought, "I am not creative, what the hell are we supposed to do?", but after kicking it around with a couple people, it doesn't seem so intimidating. It is nice to be included in the process, as that really isn't directly connected to the kids ministry. They could just be pawning something off on us, LOL, but I will take it as we ARE a part the team! I don't think I could have worked at a church before, but this is one situation I have been excited about, and feel my transition this year was preparing me for something wonderful to come!

  • At 11/10/2006 06:38:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Wow Michele,

    The whole idea and way you guys are working it out sounds inspiration... a little complicated trying to picture how it all works out in the abstract -- wish I could visit and just experience it for myself! :)

  • At 11/11/2006 03:32:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Probably not the best descriptions, but it does get away from some traditional ways of "doing" church, ie. the senior pastor over all etc. At first I didn't know if the idea of "job sharing" would work well, but so far, I am realizing that a lot goes on in the "church". I have a great friend to share that with, and we work well together! I also think this hopefully relieves the "pastor" some. Church people can be very needy (LOL I Know! I have been one!) This allows for more support, and other people who can help.

  • At 11/12/2006 04:01:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Sorry - just jumping back into this conversation (it has been a crazy week...).

    I know a few people have mentioned some of this stuff already, but to address a few questions...

    Missional churches seek to see God's kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven". So caring for the poor, the oppressed, the suffering, and the needy is a huge value. These churches believe that we are blessed not for ourselves, but so that we can be a blessing to others.

    While such a focus is not new to most mainline churches, its a huge shift in thinking for a lot of evangelicals. It isn't equal with Emergent or the Emerging Church, but is often a huge part of it. As Scot McKnight wrote about recently, there are many streams leading to Lake Emergent. The missional stream is avery popular way for people to enter and be attracted to the emerging conversation (even if they don't agree with other aspects of it). Like my mom seems to think that emerging basically is only about the missional stuff annd since I really don't want to get in theological debates with her, I don't challenge that notion. So most emerging folks are missional, but not all missional people are fully emerging.

    As for my church day to day. We really value relationships and learning from each other. We don't have sermons, we have discussion times. Our focus is outward - it isn't about our needs or feeling good individually. We try to findways to bless our community and those around us. We've run two large scale food drives for our local food pantry, are helping start a clinic in Haiti, sponsered a local forum on faith and the immigration issue, sponsered our local town fair, and are looking for more ways to connect. And its gotten us in trouble. Some people are scared by what they see - discussion and digging deeper than the standard easy answers isn't comfortable to some people. We aren't growing fast because we put more effort into caring for others and being authentic than by attracting people through a show. But of course our overseerers are currently threatening to cut our funding (our salary) unless we get a building and get more butts in it by Dec 31st (all the while telling us our vision is great...). So I don't know where this is leading us, but we want to stick by our values.

  • At 11/13/2006 07:30:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Julie: I wish I didn't live about 3 hours from you because I'd know exactly where I would be connecting as I left my faith community here. What you describe is pretty much exactly what a very close friend and I have been talking about, dreaming of for a few years now. I guess it is good to know we don't exactly need to "reinvent the wheel" and yet, it seems, we do need to see what God is doing right here.

  • At 11/13/2006 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Just to add to what Julie said, we have asked our community "What are their passions?" . We are creating a community center of sorts. We would like to take passions and offer them back to the community. We have connected with a interfaith HIV group. We plan to sponsor what is called PAZ cafe. We would hold luncheons for people living with HIV. These are held so that they can interact, hear speakers, have a lunch (in a hygiene safe environment), and receive supplies that are not covered by food stamps etc. We have also talked about getting involved with issues in our area like Pay Day loan businesses. In our area these places can charge up to 500%. We would like to take a stand because of the finacial rape of the poor in our area. We are working on holding some lunches, gathering & worship times etc. with a local "black" church. We are a predominately "white" church and want to encourage racial reconciliation. We have also discussed the possibility of having a farmers market, a microbrewery, diner, etc. taking tangible items and making them available for those in our community. These ideas are in the early stages, but I know we are moving along. I agree with Julie. I would say that if we had to have a "title" we would rather be known as a "missional" church moreso than an "emerging" church, however, many of us connect strongly with "emerging thought".

  • At 2/11/2007 06:49:00 PM, Blogger Laura Beth

    Hi all,
    I know that this is an old blog, but I am new and I just wanted to comment. My husband and I are planting a emergent/missional church in Lawrence, KS and one of the things that we have been doing to address the plights in our community is to take in families/ singles who are just struggling. We have a program which is basically a short term (2-18 month) program. I know that it is a challenge, Julie, to know who to help sometimes because there seems to be people who just want a hand out and don't have any intention to give back. But when I look at Jesus he was not discriminatory in which poor and broken he helped. He healed all 10 lepers, and only 1 returned to give him praise. Traditional church boards don't like a 10% appriciation rate on "benevolence". But Jesus didn't ask us to figure out who was going to use the $20 for alchohol, he just told us to give and not just pray for people.
    We are also working with a couple to eventually build an orphanage in the Phillipians. We are also working to do some great fundraisers for some women's orgainzations and for some enviornmental organizations. We are trying to refocus on the art community as well. I would say that it is always a challenge but all we can do is what Christ calls us to do: nothing more and especially nothing less.


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