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?

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