The Missional Diagnostic Question

Advocates of “missional” church have been attempting to reframe how we think about church, specifically, and what “mission” means for each of us, more generally.

There are a couple of short answers to those questions, as the “missional” movement has framed it. Perhaps most importantly, they want to stress that it is God who is on mission in the world. When we are on mission, we are simply participating in what God was already up to.

But what does it look like to join God in God’s mission? How we answer that question will depend, to a large extent, on how we define God. What stories do we tell that enable us to grasp what it looks like when God is at work?

I would say that, in general, the missional movement has pushed us to imagine a God who is at work already in the world–and by world, I mean specifically the world beyond the walls of the church.

This means, in turn, that God is active in ways that extend God’s lovingkindness to all. This is the God who “causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” This is the God who calls us, in Christ, to bless our enemies so that we can be known as children of this kind of parent.

This leads me to a question that can take you near (if not always right to!) to the heart of whether or not your church community is being faithfully “missional.” It’s a question I posed to a new community that was starting to form a few months ago, and it’s a question a missionary friend of mine was using to encourage a church plant on the other side of the world in the past few weeks.

The question is this: “If this church disappeared, would our community miss it?”

That’s it. If we are on mission in such a way that we are loving our neighbors and seeking their good rather than our own, it will be a cause of grief for our community if our church shuts its doors. If we’re living to build the place, pack in as many as we can, then they won’t care.

In the latter case, have we been obeying the great command to love our neighbor as ourselves? Have we been agents of the God who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike?

4 thoughts on “The Missional Diagnostic Question”

  1. The saddest part of that question is the reality of the answer. Most Church groups and I use that lightly because I define the church as the people not the building by any means. The local group of Christians may gather at a particular building with a title or name on the building that distinguishes their fundamental beliefs.
    The Church are the members of the body of Christ. So if answering from that direction no doubt the world would know and feel the negative affects of the loss of christian love. We are experiencing that somewhat in this country daily as rights begin to replace truth and law.
    As far as planted local congregations are concerned the answer sadly would be unlikely that the closing or dis banning of any one congregation would be missed. And that is sad in itself. Even if different denominations have different beliefs it does not mean that we should not all be going about our fathers work with the same heart.

  2. That’s a hard question to answer. But I like it. It makes us watch how we treat others and the world around us. What is most important? That is the question that causes us to evaluate ourselves and our responses.

  3. Missional. What does it even mean nowadays? One can read over 1,000 pages from leading “missional” proponents and be challenged by the problems of extreme poverty, the worldwide sex trade, environmental concerns, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and the list goes on and on. Yet strangely absent from (most) of the conversation is the task of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth and planting churches amongst groups who have never heard of Jesus Christ. I find this bewildering. A serious conversation needs to happen between “missional thinkers” and “missionaries” (and the traditional societies of churches and agencies). How can the latter can be left out of the former’s definition of what it means to be “missional”? The surprising silence of (many) missional thinkers of taking the Gospel cross-culturally is threatening to rain on the whole missional parade.

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