Thursday, March 17, 2011

Missional: a Need not a Norm

In church planting and church leadership circles today, Missional is the current buzz-word. Basically, it is the idea that the Church in western culture today has to adopt the approach and methodology of cross-cultural missions in its everyday life in order to reach a secular culture that has become so far separated from the church culture that communication has become nearly impossible.

For pioneer work in cross-cultural settings, Missional has always been (or at least should have always been) the normal approach. At its heart, Missional simply means learning another culture so completely that the Gospel message can be communicated into the culture in a way that makes sense to the hearer. This has become a necessary approach for the church to communicate with the very neighborhoods in which they live because the church culture has become frozen in a cultural bubble—isolated in a ghetto of its own making. Without cross-cultural methods, they could never hope to reach their own cities.

However, Missional methods for most churches are just a current need. They should not become the norm. For them to be the permanent norm, it would imply that churches and new church plants would remain in a permanent cultural vacuum. This is not the desired outcome. The product of the current Missional drive (and incidentally of any cross-cultural effort) should be communities that incarnate the Gospel in the culture where they live. Once the church stops being culturally isolated it will be the church that Jesus intended it to be. The very picture of the church as the body of Christ implies incarnational communities that live the Gospel out in a culturally meaningful way.

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