Missional is the current rage in contemporary churches in North America. The smallest organic inner city church thinks they’re missional because that best describes their posture in the community. Even the biggest boxed evangelical churches are even using the nomenclature by including it somewhere in a planning document.
Many churches are trying to make some form of transition from ‘seeker sensitive’ to ‘missional’. Some would think this is an impossible switch.
Not so fast, I’ve seen it work, once.
The one church that’s successfully transitioned from a ‘sit and consume’ to a ‘go and incarnate’ model did so (and are still doing so) after two+ years of investment. 25% of the congregants were lost as deadweight (they wanted to sit and consume so they were permitted to make a choice to find more comfortable grounds.) The remaining 75% stayed, learned, grew, and started to transform their communities. Long story short, opportunity after opportunity arose that propelled the church as leaders in the community.
The transition worked here, but is it replicable (and is there an accompanying book and study guide)?
No study guide as of yet, but one of the key items that gave this particular church HUGE success was the way it was lead.
This was a Chinese church. Actually parts of it still are. English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. In this case, the English pastor was not responsible to face the elders nor explain himself to the other more rigid congregations. The lead pastor, overseeing all three, was the point person for this engagement.
As such, there was far more leeway to attempt great change (on the English side).
This is key. In some ways the English pastor had a buffer zone between him and the elders board, and the larger more affluent Chinese congregations.
If he was left alone to transition just the English side (or heaven forbid all three), and simultaneously face off with elders and others who didn’t want change, success may have not been so easy (not that it was).
How many pastors try as they might to lead their congregations (set in their ways) towards a posture that’s giving rather than settling?
How many of those pastors give up after 2-3 years because they’ve met so much resistance from within that they’ve exhausted their spirituality and bodies?
I’d say most.
If you’re looking to lead change within your congregation the first thing you need to do is find advocates at the highest levels. Many churches still exist in a hierarchical structure, thus, to successfully lead a 2-3 year transition you’re going to want key leaders on board prior to launching.
Of course, someone will be smart and will state that by changing the hearts of the people (congregation) you can illicit change.
That may be true, but generally churches aren’t driven by the people, most are alarmingly Pharisaic in their operation. And if something does in fact crop up from the masses then it’s released to start something new rather than changing the established community.
Find your advocates, and if you can find your buffers–people who will stand between you and the inevitable flow of continuous bad news. It will keep you sane and free you up to do what you really like to do: go and be the hands and feet of Christ in your community.