Is "Going Missional" Dangerous?

By Bill Ludwig

March 4, 2011

Bill LudwigI recently read a blog written by a well-respected elder statesman in evangelical circles. The premise of his writing seemed, at least to me, to be that moving towards a “missional” expression of the church could potentially be a dangerous move.

I have to say that I agree with him… up to a point. It is inherently dangerous, but not in quite the same way as he characterizes it.

The author says this of people who are “buying into missional,” in his words:
Their commitment is to “bring the Kingdom of God into the community.” But, the success of those kingdom-building efforts does not seem to be evaluated on whether those who are exposed to “the Kingdom” are ever reached and assimilated into active membership and participation in a local church.

Furthermore, he seems to equate bringing the Kingdom of God into the community with a low view of church, inferring that people who are reached with the Gospel through tangible, incarnational, missional means are left feeling free to have a take-it-or-leave-it connection to “the church.”

It seems to me like our brother's position might be formed by the paradigm that says “church” as well as the Kingdom of God must occur in a formal structure with rules, regulations, and a well-defined sense of who belongs (members). The word nausea comes to mind when I try to imagine his message being communicated to emerging generations. Could it be that the world which formed this view simply doesn't exist any longer?

In the words of our brother Reggie McNeal
"The appropriate response to the emerging world is a rebooting of the mission, a radical obedience to an ancient command, a loss of self rather than self-preoccupation, concern about service and sacrifice rather than concern about style. The missional renewal of the North American church is essential to its future. I am convinced that most expressions of the institutional church in America will not survive the emerging world. If that sounds threatening to you, then you may be more in love with the church than you are with Jesus. You need to take this up with him".

As I stated before, I do believe that buying into missional can be dangerous. It is dangerous, in my opinion, because as a church moves towards becoming a more tangible expression of Christ’s kingdom come, she will invariably begin to question the tight grip she has had on the institutionalized mindset and practices that have maintained equilibrium or stability within her walls. I am a passionate lover of the Church as the bride of Jesus. I do, however, wonder if we have fallen in love with her so desperately that we can no longer even imagine the kingdom which she has been gifted, equipped and charged to usher in.

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I agree. I love the bride also. Its a serious paradigm shift, but I (and the bride) must shift from a "come to us to see the bride" mentality to a mind set of "take the bride" into the community to reach those who will never grace the church building with their presence. Dangerous,yes, but that's missional, that's God's heart.
Larry Hanson at 11:34am EDT - March 30, 2011
Our church was missional before missional was popular, of course so was Jesus, or actually Abraham for that matter. I largely agree with Bill, except that I become concerned, like the auther he mentions, as to whether we are using the right metrics when we are attempting to determine the effectiveness of our missional work.

I agree that being missional frequently requires the abandonment of traditional roles, structures, and paradigms. However, I am noting a certain uncertainty about what the end result of being missional is supposed to be. Even when we agree on what it means, we seem reluctant to measure its effectiveness, other than through anecdotal reports of individual progress, an important measurement to be sure, but not in my mind the most critical.

Being missional does and should have a "cup of water in Jesus name" component, where there is absolutely no expectation of direct return to the church. However, I beleive that the most effective measurement of whether a church is missional is one nobody sems to be measuring; one year discipleship.

One year discipleship is a simple metric that answers the question; "what percentage of the people we see come to Jesus through our ministry are active disciples in our church one year later?" We talk about conversions, baptisms, people reached, people served, average attendance, and a host of other metrics, but seem almost dismissive of the issue of discipleship.

Here's a great example: in the late 1980's Cheyenne hosted a Billy Graham Crusade. Ted Bell spoke for five nights and Billy Graham spoke on the last day. We involved hundreds of churches, thousands of volunteers, two years of planning, and over $250,000.00. We had over 50,000 people attend over those six days (that's ten percent of the entire state population). Quite a success at first glance.

HOWEVER, in those six days we had over 1,000 re-committments. OK, but not the point. We had 100 first time conversions. Praise the Lord, but still not the point. We had one person converted at the crusade still in a church actively one year later. ONE! ALl those resources for one growing disciple. I'm thankful for the 1,000, the 100, and yes the 1, but was it an effecient use of our Lord's resources?

The same hard questions need to be asked by any church as they pursue being missional, for the great commandment was not to make converts or meet needs, as vital as both of those things are (you heard that part, right?) but to make disciples, growing Jesus followers.

This is where I believe being missional can be dangerous, if we forget why we are being missional, and replace discipleship with some other measure of effectiveness.

Emery Hurd at 9:23pm EDT - April 18, 2011
Jesus preached in synagogues and from boats and from on top of mountains. Going into a building doesn't make you a better Christian. The Holy spirit now dwells in us and a house of prayer is wherever 2 or more gather in his name, because he promises to be with us,that doesn't even have to be in a building.
Amy Linder at 12:01pm EDT - May 23, 2011

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