Archive for March, 2007

Missional. What is that?

The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning –Emil Brunner

Immense changes are coming to the ministry of missions. Leslie Newbigin, after returning from a lifetime of work as a missionary in India, realized that his own home church had changed while he was away. His sending church in England, once thriving with life, had become largely vacant. His community had become a mission field. This has happened across Europe and North America. While missionaries have been commissioned to spread the gospel the world over, the western church has declined. In some places, there is no longer any vital expression of the Christian faith. The sad fact is that today more people attend a mosque in France and England than attend a Christian church.

Now for the shocking news. Church attendance in the United States dropping quickly. It is lower than since the gathering of attendance data began. There is a larger percentage of Christians in South America, Africa, and Asia than in the United States. In Africa and Asia a new church is formed every ten minutes. In the United States scores of churches are closing their doors each week. (Actually, the number is more than ten a day!)

So what has this done to missions? Newbigin looked at his home church and realized that while in the past they sent missionaries to other nations that it needed to become a mission. Instead of business (or church) as usual, it needed to employ the same mission thrust that the pioneer church in India did when he first went to the mission field. In other words, each church needs to see itself as a mission church. They needed to become missional. A working definition of a missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. The church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. The mission of God (to share the grace of Jesus with the world) flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that follows Jesus.

There was a time when Miami was part of the sub-culture of the “Christian” south and most of the people of Miami were part of a local church. The question in those days was: what church are you going to attend? But, today the city of Miami lies before us as a great mission field. Only a small fraction of the city participate in the life of the community of the people of God. You don’t have to travel across the globe to find unmet spiritual needs. They are right here. Our greatest challenge as God’s people is to share the mission of God right here. This doesn’t mean that we stop sending servants elsewhere. It means that we must do everything we can to live as members of the kingdom of God here.

We need to remember that our lives belong to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and we owe our allegiance to him alone. We will do whatever we can to serve him and live for him and his kingdom. Let us work together so bring his kingdom of grace and mercy to our city and to the world.