Understanding the Missional Church

The link above contains a very concise explanation and history of the term “missional” from someone in my tribe, the EFCA.

Reactions? Is this assessment correct? What’s missing, if anything, from the author’s take on missional?

Personally, I’m thankful for the article and especially the following paragraph. “The missional conversation goes much deeper than strategy. In fact, most advocates of the missional church idea are opposed to programmatic or formulaic approaches. Rather, the core concern and motivation is a rediscovery of the biblical teaching of the Church as a missionary people.”

Amen and amen. Shout it from the rooftops. Too many people peg missional as strategy alone. It’s not. It’s an identity. I am missional because God is a missionary God. Through the redeeming work of Christ every believer is, de facto, a missionary like God himself and Christ his sent one. And what is this mission of ours? It’s the Holy Spirit directed spontaneous expansion of the Church among the nations, to the glory of God and the joy of His people.

I just wish more churches would contemplate the Bible’s theology of “sentness” instead of casually going about business as usual. Much is at stake. The fields are ripe for harvest. What we believe matters greatly and deeply affects how we express this cherished entity called the Church.

I believe the default posture of the believer (therefore the church too) is one of being centered on Christ and sent by him. If we lack sentness about our lives we just might lack the fullness of Jesus in our lives. Jesus on tap yields sentness. May Christ reign supreme so that his church lives sent!

Understanding the Missional Church

Cancer, A Theology of Suffering, and Missional Living

Our living on mission with Jesus shouldn’t grind to a halt due to illness or difficulty or pain. However, most of us do not have an adequate understanding of the sovereignty of God or a theology of suffering that is robust enough to see how our pain, weakness and brokenness can further the mission of Christ and God’s glory. Our bodies are jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). It is precisely those times of weakness and brokenness that God wants to use to shine the light of Christ to a world in need of light and hope. Those fissures and cracks in the jar, they’re meant to further the mission of Christ—if we would only let God work through us.

Below is the transcript of an email from my mother that I received last week. She’s granted me permission to share this note. Presently, she’s facing a second round of cancer. She believes, and I concur, her cancer is God’s gift to her right now for the benefit of others. She writes,

Dear Family,

I have just completed my first chemo treatment, but what made it an exceptionally good day was to be able to share about our Lord. He provides so many of these opportunities if only we just walk across the room. I  also want to express my deepest gratitude for everyone of you and especially your faithful prayers on my behalf. Thank you!  Upon receiving my current diagnosis I have soberly sought the Lord through self examination. My life is willingly open and laid bare before His word, open to His eyes, and open with whom I must give an account.

THIS IS WHAT I HAVE LEARNED. We can go a long time thinking that we are just fine, spiritually great, and spiritually healthy. We have become experts in self deception and projecting images of ourselves that are far from reality. But life continues to go on.  A little slumber a little sleep. When will we WAKE UP? That wake up call for me was the second diagnosis of cancer. I am so thankful that I can rest in God’s sovereignty that what He permits, He permits for a reason, and that reason is His design. How can I not embrace His perfect design for my life without wholehearted gratitude and devotion to Him?  No cross, no crown. This truth has totally anchored and sustained me and has given me a boldness and confidence in my spirit that I can go forward with great faith and expectation because He is in control. I am driven to His Word and like a skillful surgeon so His Word begins to cut to the bone.  

THIS IS WHAT I AM HEARING!  Do we belong to God?  Do we live to glorify Jesus?  Are we willing to be reproached for Christ’s glory?  Oh how I pray this is true for all of us.  I am confronted by Him and His standards not by my standards.  His motives not my hidden motives. As He exposes pride, complacency, selfishness, critical spirit, impatience, bitterness, unforgiveness, comparisonitis, procrastination, jealousy, greed, self-centeredness, he is exposing the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. These are deadly sins and cancers of the heart. How this must grieve a Holy God. Can we say like Paul that nothing good dwells in us. John Piper has said ” the aim of God in your cancer is to knock out the props from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on Him.” May God cut these sins out of our hearts. I don’t want to waste my cancer but I receive it as a gift that God will be glorified in this cancer.  

NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS! Heb.4:16. His word heals, restores, strengthens and forgives, therefore, we can come boldly with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive grace and  mercy to help in time of need. Hallelujah! I am learning to let the Word reign in my life so that God can reign in my life. Our Lord wants a penitent revived people for His own possession. May His name be highly exalted because He is infinitely worthy. Let us go forth in obedience and bring glory to His name.

God be praised
His Word believed
His name be trusted

Christ’s love to all,

Sue Hesse

Very few people I know have lived life with as great a passion for disciple-making as my mother. She eats, sleeps, and breathes making disciples who make disciples. Here’s the beautiful thing about my mother’s life right now. If she were perfectly healed this instant, that wouldn’t be the real miracle. What you’ve just read, the work God’s doing on the inside, that’s the real miracle. Without a doubt cancer has made my mother more missional than before. Please pray for her health like I do. But please know this, restored health is not my mother’s greatest desire. She’s already been promised restored health in Christ—it will happen either in this life or the next. That’s a given. Cancer cannot win. More importantly, pray that the transforming grace of Christ, which is so powerfully at work in my mother’s life right now, might be multiplied to others through her cancer. Pray that the divine odor of Christ would spread everywhere the fragrant knowledge of him.

Mom, I love you! Continue to live sent!

It seems we work very hard to insulate ourselves from the very world Jesus says we should be focused on. It seems we have created, without malicious design, a Christian bubble—an evangelical subculture—where Christians live surrounded only by other Christians, and as a result, there are few among the lost whom we get to know intimately. Christian experts tell us how to raise our kids, how to handle our finances, what music to buy, what movies to see, and which books to read. The bubble is complete. But God is on a mission outside the bubble.

Ed Stetzer & Philip Nation, Compelled by Love, p.33.

Musings on the Missional Manifesto, Part 5: The Church

Excellent post by Ed Stetzer. Thought I’d pass it along. This paragraph in particular caught my attention.

The church finds its significance as a body who is sent on a kingdom mission. Missionary congregations are communities that reflect the reality of the gospel of the kingdom in their life together and their life for their world. And, they are a body empowered by the Spirit and Word of the gospel, who have been given the keys of the kingdom and a promise from the King. The posture of these missionary congregations is “sentness.”

Musings on the Missional Manifesto, Part 5: The Church

We can fight to reestablish the church as a physical place where certain things happen. We can work harder to compete with society, to out-entertain and lure people in with as much pomp and circumstance as a church can afford. Or, we can become a church on a mission.

M. Scott Boren

What is Sentness?

Sentness is the Holy Spirit directed missionary impulse that propels a person on mission with Christ.

If one of our goals is to see every believer on mission with Jesus, sent as Jesus was sent, to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, how does that happen? From where does this missionary impulse come? What’s the starting point? Where does sentness come from?

The starting point for a sent life is the gospel. Period. The kind of gospel we uphold and champion will largely shape the kind of missional sentness we get as a by-product. As we seek to transition stale and dying churches to become missional churches and as we seek to plant new churches in this post-Christian context, the gospel must be the fuel driving those missional expressions. At an individual level the prophet Isaiah’s life illustrates this perfectly.

In Isaiah 6:8 Isaiah’s life takes on the posture of being sent.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”

“Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”

How did Isaiah arrive at this posture? He arrived there through a deep, inward transformation, a radical reorientation of his priorities, values, and ambitions fueled by the grace of God – the gospel.

This inward transformation occurred because Isaiah was undone by God’s holiness and majesty:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.

Woe to me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

His acute awareness of sin was met by God’s grace through a burning coal. With his guilt atoned for, his sin taken away, the overflow of grace in Isaiah’s life prompted him to respond to God’s question through a posture of obedient sentness. Isaiah became missional because of grace. Herein lies the sentness principle. The greater the internal gratitude, the greater the missionary impulse in a person’s life.

I applaud the many correctives the emerging missional movement is bringing to our churches right now. However, one concern I have is the transitioning of our churches to this posture of sentness without the necessary core strength to keep our people and churches in that posture.

We might be successful at changing a church culture by eliminating programs, freeing up our calendars to have more time with our neighbors, living in missional communities, and following the pattern of Luke 10. But if the gospel we trumpet doesn’t include an awareness of sin, the cross, and the miracle of grace, then our best missional efforts will result in a superficial sentness—a task based sentness and not a sentness based on grace. It won’t be the sentness experienced by Isaiah or the sentness described in 2 Corinthians 5:15 where people “no longer living for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

What is ‘Sentness’? It’s the Holy Spirit directed missionary impulse that comes about through the grace of Christ and propels a person on mission with Christ. May every believer experience the grace that sends, to the glory of the King.

God’s glory, our poverty; God’s grace, our sentness.

Live sent!