From Fad to Phenomenon

By Mark A. Taylor

Is “missional” just a fad? Will church leaders and seminar speakers still be talking about “missional” a decade from now?

06_CSCover3_JNWe can hope the answer to both questions is no. As churches everywhere begin to believe the missional approach is basic, natural, necessary, and biblical, the need to define and discuss it may fade away. Maybe someday church leaders everywhere will see “missional”—just like “evangelistic” or “loving” or “Christ-centered”—as central to the very definition of church.

Matt Smay and Alan Hirsch express some concern about overuse and misuse of the word. Just like “externally focused” or “purpose driven” not long ago, church leaders may claim the “missional” label because it seems new or important without understanding the paradigm shift today’s missional advocates are describing.

But our writers seem more committed to Bible basics than trendy methods. Greg Nettle asks, “How did first-century Christians make disciples who make disciples?”

Chris Hahn at Southland Christian Church says, “We don’t leave Jesus on the sidelines, and we’re clear about our desire to lead people through belief, repentance, baptism, and involvement in a local church.”

Jonathan Williams sees his congregation’s approach as an effort to join God “in his mission to reconcile each neighbor back to the creator.”

Chris Travis hearkens back to Acts 2 as the driving example for his new church’s mission.

Jon Ferguson reminds us of the biblical model “blessed to be a blessing.”

And Steve Sams says Christians must dispel a mind-set that defines church as a place to go.

Many of us have grown up believing we must keep trying to “do church” better. It’s difficult for us to realize that our programs or performances, no matter how attractive, won’t interest a large part of our population. It’s easy for us to forget that the first church flourished and grew simply through intentional relationships, clear presentation of the facts about Jesus, and the witness of transformed lives. Today’s missional leaders are calling for all of us to employ that same strategy to reach unchurched people around us.

Speaking at the Exponential Conference this April, Wayne Cordeiro said, “Leaders can teach what they know, but they will only reproduce who they are.” That sounds like an echo of Paul who wrote the Philippians, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (4:9, emphasis added).

Today’s missional leaders challenge every Christian to imitate Christ with a mission to demonstrate God’s love and truth to every neighbor and coworker. Where that happens we’ll see Christian faith move from the sidelines to the center of communities and culture. And “missional” will have grown from fad to a phenomenon.

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