This article was published in the First Christian Church Courier, our church’s monthly newsletter.
There is a new movement afoot. I’ve noticed a push in many Christian circles to become “missional.” Our own Christian Church in Kentucky is encouraging us to think and become missional, and recently First Christian Church participated in a missionally-oriented process of discernment called “Surfing the Edge.” But like all new movements, it’s not really that new. The idea of being a “sent” church with a mission to enact in the surrounding community is not terribly ground-breaking. What’s new in this movement is, as I see it, two-fold: 1) identifying the problem confronting churches as “inwardness” (too much focus on staffing, programs, etc) and not enough focus on reaching out to the community like missionaries in an unfamiliar land, and 2) the collection of metaphors suggesting how to reorient the church and it’s self-understanding (organism, not organization; ordinary, not ordained; incarnational, not attractional; etc). The accent on reaching out as a living, here-and-now, everybody-can-do-it, Jesus-loving mission is the new way of repackaging and reframing how church should truly, faithfully work.
And I’m down with that. I believe it is vitally important to take a long, hard look at our church structure, our ministry work, and what is directing it. In fact, First Christian Church is already tasting some of the fruits of our own “missional efforts.” Three action teams (alternative worship, focus on children, and communication) have a chance to greatly impact how we do church together, either by enlivening programs and ministries that already exist, or by establishing something new in the life of our church. For example, the focus on children group is finding new ways to connect our church to the children of this community who need food, clothing, and materials for school. We hope to make feeding hungry children from our community part of our joint VBS venture this summer.
As wonderful as these efforts are, I’m not sure we need to get too attached to this “missional” language. It feels a little too trendy. And beyond my own snarky resistance to the latest lingo, like emergent Christianity and the missional church, is a deep conviction that we don’t need the accumulation of additional modifiers. We just need to be more truly, faithfully ourselves. In other words, we don’t need to be “missional,” we need to be the church. Churches can’t help but have a mission—missions that (should) guide all decisions, programming, staffing, training, educating, planning, and outreach. Maybe our mission statements have been poorly articulated or maybe we’ve not really lived them out well in how we function as a church. But we have always been “missional”; that’s just what it is to be God’s church.
So instead of dressing up church with the newest lingo, I simply offer us who we claim to be, so we might try to live that out in all that we do (from mission trips to board meetings, from Sunday School to the Lord’s Supper):
FCC Mission Statement:
Our Mission as Disciples of Christ is to share God’s love with all people, by developing our spirits, creating ministries that will improve lives, and becoming a hub for all in the community who are working to help people.
FCC Vision Statement:
Our Vision is to be a Disciples of Christ congregation that embraces our community and world with God’s love by being open to all, serving as a leader for positive change in our community, and expressing a vibrant faith that blesses others as well as ourselves, as a presence for Christ.
Are we doing this mission? Are we living this vision?