**RETRO POST** Originally posted last January 2009 with updates.**
There’s endless debate going on in the blogosphere about the missional church vs. the ‘attractional’ or conventional church. ‘Missional’ supporters bash modern attractional churches for their seeker sensitive ‘sit, be served, and consume’ approach to church. Conversely, attractional churches offer their rebuttal questioning the effectiveness of missional churches to extend the gospel.
Here’s the question: in today’s North America who’s right and who’s wrong? Is one (missional) just a fad? Is the other (conventional) on the decline with the advent of post-Christendom thus forcing us to change our models?
Whether we like it or not, there IS one thing we can agree: the world outside the church is carrying on pleasantly without us and are in no need to wait for us to catch up.
There is another change many of noticed. Attendance is dwindling and mounting expenses (like big building mortgages and salaries) aren’t being paid. Something has changed even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. No longer can a quick alter call or wicked band pad the numbers on any given Sunday.
Instead it now takes a TWO to SEVEN year journey with people as they battle through discipleship is an action that requires our profound attention. Building and re-building character is not an individual or spectator process.
So conventional churches can do two things: put on a better show with more ‘relevant’ attributes, or they can try to explore a different change.
But this isn’t (shouldn’t) be about bills and $$$. Ask yourself a simple question:
Is your church capable in its current model to address this need to enter into God’s mission to redeem humanity and usher in his Kingdom?
If not are you OK with that? Or do you suppose your CHRISTianity could have greater impact? I would opt for the latter in a big BIG way.
In comes the ‘missional’ paradigm where something subtle yet monumental changes. No longer do we acknowledge mission as a small ministry but rather the primary lens we filter our purpose through.
Rather than assuming the pastors and the missionaries ‘do mission’ missional church affirms EVERYONE to exist for the sake of missio Dei. And this isn’t an affirmation to join an outreach ministry our church program, but to leave on mission in the places you already exist: your neighborhood, your job, your run club, your kid’s soccer team.
On one hand the change could be subtle, the existing infrastructure in conventional churches can support this neighborhood/missional model (they just call them small groups). The catch is the power remains in the building and the clergy who retain authority over congregation thus stymieing the emergence of an organic discipleship movement.
But there’s more.
The top box is a modern perspective on how church postures itself to the world outside. There are no ‘one-size fits all’ church models, you can have a variety of different models, even attempts at missional church. Some are trying to catch up with the progressing culture, others seem to be reacting negatively to it (fundamentalism), but eventually you hit the end of your box and can’t progress until you exit. Think of all the expressions as the same mannequin just different jeans.
The circle perspective represents a post-Christendom view of church community along with the world it leads. We can see everything that makes up culture is on the outside (‘language’). You’re not labeled a pagan if you don’t go to church or say certain prayers. Rather we see that some are on a closer journey towards Christ (in the middle) compared to others.
Inside the circle is your city, culture, community, etc., and in one of the great and many paradoxes we live with everyday, we see the church community is NOT out of culture but leading it, yet not necessary a part of it. So not ‘of’ culture but simultaneously not ‘out of’ culture.
In my mind it’s crucial for a church to adopt the posture in the circle because what you do when you gather (at church) has direct implications on how your community adopts mission. You can’t affirm people to do ‘outreach’ in their communities when actions on Sunday’s are the complete opposite (constantly creating a polemic against non-Christians and only having pastors as participants in service.)
[A timely blog post by Brad Brisco discusses how leadership changes when you change models in: transitioning from traditional to missional.]
It’s safe to say that no single church is on the outside looking in. But that’s the safe thing to say.
I firmly believe God can work within any paradigm, and he does. But I also know the church is mandated to be the place where we are serious about connecting into God’s mission to redeem creation. The current church system in my mind is growing ineffective with this mandate.
With the advent of post-Christendom, the decline in discipleship and thus mature Christians in current systems, should force churches to think hard about whether the popular model that celebrates individualism and consumption propel the church to be leaders and catalysts in their communities as agents responsible to provide a glimpse of the ‘what is to come’ in God’s unfolding Kingdom on earth.
There’s more to be had in our faith and we need leaders to step up and risk it all for the sake of the Gospel.