“Seeker-Sensitive” church became a part of our vocabulary some time ago. “Purpose-Driven” church is beginning to compete as well. These two models of church are distinctive:

  • “Seeker-Sensitive” churches try to attract more un-churched people unto themselves in order to make them members;
  • “Purpose-Driven” churches seek to send their people out into the masses in order to bring back more un-churched people to make them members.

Both models have much to commend them—both are at least trying to reach un-churched people (non-Christians) with the gospel. What the two models have in common, however, is also what makes them less than ideal. The problem in my judgment is that both models are steeped in a flawed understanding of church.

In the North American culture church is primarily thought of as a place where certain, predictable, sacred events take place (e.g., “where do you go to church?”) The primary thing that occurs “at church” is worship. Tragically, for some members the only place that worship takes place is at a building on Sunday mornings.

Too often, a church is evaluated by what the members are able to “get out of worship” (i.e., Sunday morning). This standard of evaluation is made almost exclusively on an individual basis and springs directly from our dominant cultural values: (1) consumer capitalism, and (2) raw individualism. With these dual values defining who we are as a people, it is no wonder that our churches become little more than vendors of religious goods and services to individuals (or, at most, to family units).

It’s time to add another term to your glossary of church-speak: missional church (you might as well add the word missional to the dictionary of your word processor as well). The phrase missional church simply means a church that finds its identity within the mission of God. At first the phrase seems both offensively obvious and frustratingly vague. But I urge you to dig below the surface of this conversation—the people talking about missional churches are definitely on to something.

In the document made a part of this blog site and available via the link above entitled “Missional Church”  you can dig a little deeper into the ideas of the missional church movement. For now, think about the working definition just given: a church that derives its identity from the mission of God. Add to that the idea that the mission of God is (1) to create a distinct, counter-cultural community of people, (2) who actively and constantly participate in His life, (3) for the sake of His creation.

I want to now turn the discussion to worship within my faith community. As we gather together on Sunday mornings, our worship of God together becomes a communal act not an individual act that we happen to do in the presence of one another. Our worship expresses our participation in the Life of God. It is a public act conducted on behalf of the entire creation. In other words, as I participate in the worship of God within a faith community  (i.e., whenever I “go to church on Sunday”) it is not about my life, it is not about getting God into my life, and it is not about meeting my perceived spiritual needs. Our worship of God is about getting the entire church (all of us together) into the Life of God.

Worship: a communal expression of our missional identity.

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