Wednesday, August 24, 2011
What is Missional?
Many churches, mine included, have been doing new and different things and calling it missional. We have gone out recently and washed the fire trucks at a local fire station in an attempt to love on those in our community. Is this missional or is this just service? Is service missional? What about evangelism? Does evangelism (the proclamation of the gospel) have to be a part of the service in order for something to truly be missional? Perhaps it is an "either/or" thing. It is either service or it is missional. On the other hand, perhaps it is a "both/and" thing. It is service and missional at the same time. Can a church be doing a lot of community service while never really engaging in the mission of God?
Recently I read the book Christianity Rediscovered, by Vincent J. Donovan. Donovan was a priest who was a missionary to the Masai people of east Africa for nearly two decades. There was a Christian presence among the Masai for quite some time, however, very few, if any Masai people converted to Christ. The mission had a school and they had to pretty much beg the Masai people to allow their children to attend the school. Donovan found that while these children were receiving an education, which included biblical education, very few if any at all actually accepted Christ by the end of their schooling. They would finish their schooling and simply return to their villages. But the mission did not change what they were doing. Was that really mission? Donovan subsequently went out to the Masai people and simply gave them Jesus, with nothing else attached. No school, no special programs, nothing else. Over the years many Masai people came to Christ as a result. And when they did, it was an entire village at a time, not one person here or there. Also, if they rejected the message it was the whole village as well. Is there a lesson here for our churches today?
For Donovan the primary task of the missionary is evangelism. Essentially, just give them Jesus.
So again I ask the question: What is missional?