One of the “buzz” words in the church today is the term “Missional.'” It seems that an increasing number of people and churches want to be considered missional and will proudly tell others about the missional communities at their church. I got to spend some time this past semester looking at the missional movement in a little more depth and focus than I had before, and am still attempting to work through all the ramifications of it, but suffice it to say, I’m slowly being converted, with a caveat. In my Pastoral Theology class we read 2 books on the missional movement, The Missional Leader, and Church Unique. While I’d heard the term before, and even some explanation of it, I initially scoffed at it because it is the trendy thing to talk about right now (and because it also seemed to be very closely connected to the emergent church movement). Yet as I have thought through the ideas behind it and have seen the increasing ways Evangelical Christians are marginalized in American culture, I am beginning to see the merits of the missional movement and have begun thinking and praying through ways I can help lead the church I serve to become better equipped to be on mission to those around them. A large part of the change for me has taken place because of an opportunity I had to hear from Jeff Vandersteldt this summer at the EFCA National Conference, in addition to reading his book Saturate.
However, as I mentioned earlier, I am converting with a caveat. My biggest hesitation with the missional movement is that it can sometimes diminish the role of the gathered church and make being a Christian all about being the church scattered. I was grateful to hear Jeff hold in high regard the local gathered church. So this month I decided to read through the book of Acts in my devotions to get a better idea about what the early church emphasized and encouraged, and came across Acts 5:42 which says,
Every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (italics mine)
Teaching and preaching was an integral part of the early church, in addition to being the church scattered. We need the church to be the church both gathered and scattered, and must cling to both parts of the church to be effective in Christ’s command to make disciples. As I continue to explore what this means for the local church I’m sure I will be writing and sharing more thoughts about the missional movement. Has the church you attend joined in this thought process, and if not do you think they should?