In elementary school in California, everyone studies the Missions. I did it, and so have my daughters. When I was a kid, we built our Mission models our of sugar cubes, and you got sick making your Mission, because you ate more of the construction materials than you used. Now, you can build your Mission out of styrofoam; not very environmentally friendly. Even the mission of building Missions has changed. That's life, just about everything changes.
There is much buzz in church circles these days about what it really means to be "missional", and its not about sugar cubes versus styrofoam.
Last Sunday, my wife and I had the rare opportunity to just sit and talk for several hours after lunch with an old (ok, not really old) friend who is a pastor, and to swap ideas about the church, being a pastor, and what it might mean to embrace things missional. He has written a book about such things, even. The thoughts below are from Tod, my good friend. They help to illuminate this conversation.
Missional basically means...we, the church, see ourselves as an extension of God's mission in Christ to the world. Jesus said, "Just as the Father sent me, so I am sending you." To be missional is to see oneself as a "sent" person or community.
So, like the missions of California, we, a particular people in a particular place (in the case of my church, Hollywood) see ourselves as God's mission to a particular people (those surrounding our church) in a particular place. The difference between the "missions" of California and our "missional church" is that there is no "mother church" that sent us, but that we believe, like Paul himself, that we are "sent" by God through the Spirit's call in our setting to this particular place.
It pretty important to note that this is a shift historically and theologically backward toward the first century church from the model so many older mainline churches, including ours and other great 20th Century churches have had over the years. These once great, tall steeple churches, saw themselves not as "missions" but as "Mother Churches" who did the sending of "missionaries" to the "uttermost part of the world."
Its upside down from what our old church model was. Time to break out a new model.
So, we can frame up the discussion like this: Missional is: "We Minister Here". The three key questions to this discussion are then:
"Who is We?"
"What is Minister?"
"And, where is Here?"
So these are the kinds of questions, our church will need to embrace, struggle with, and work together to define in the weeks and months ahead.
I am excited for the journey, and for the conversation.