Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Missional ≠ Missions

The missional movement of the past several years has been a great thing for the Church. It has replaced and emphasis on the Church’s role in the world. It has given Christians a better approach to doing the work demanded by the great commission. It has helped us realize just how out of touch we were and that that was not a good thing. It was born in large part out of the increased awareness and participation of churches in international missions efforts.

It is not the same thing as missions, though.

Missional is cross-cultural. It took missions principles of going into a different culture and finding ways to make the Gospel message come alive in that context. It was necessary (and still is) because the church-culture in the west has become so out of step with secular culture that it no longer communicates well. It is as if Christians living in western culture are in fact missionaries from another culture when they try to communicate with secular people in their own culture.

The difference is that, while they don’t communicate well with the local culture, it is still their culture. They live in their community. Missions in the traditional sense, has that distinct and difficult dimension. The task of missions is still to be missional, but there is the additional step of completely embracing and moving into a new context. And that is not just something that some missionaries chose to do as a life investment while others do it “part-time” in short term endeavors. It is an essential element of bringing the Gospel into new cultural settings. There may be room for shorter engagements, but someone has to make the full commitment.

Missional living is something every Christian should be practicing wherever they live. Missions is a different calling, given to a few, that remains a necessary element in the great commission. Not everyone is called to do it, and not everyone should directly do it either. The concern here is that a good thing—increased missional awareness and participation, could lead to a bad thing—increased amateur missions and decreased treasuring of specialization and calling.

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