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Missional Decentralization

October 24, 2006

Several weeks ago in a sermon I said, “What this church needs is not another prayer meeting.  What this church needs is fifteen new prayer meetings springing up like grass in a meadow.”  Few of us want another church activity on the schedule crowding out opportunities for family time and showing hospitality.   But all of us, I trust, would like to pray more.  And I’m sure there’s 30 minutes somewhere in your week that you could devote to prayer.  Pick that time and find two other people who are able to make that time and start a prayer triplet.   So far I’ve heard of six of these.  Are there more?   Are you in one?  Tell us about it and encourage us in this.

Now today I want to say this:  What this church needs is not an evangelistic program.   What this church needs is fifteen evangelistic programs.  Fifteen events per week that consist of unbelievers being shown hospitality by 2 or 3 CEFC members.    That’s a missional approach to evangelism.   Don’t wait to be given a four color brochure for a leadership exhausting evangelistic program that you can hand out to your neighbors.  Just invite them to dinner.   Join a bowling league and invite them to be on your team.  Take your kids to the zoo and ask your neighbors along. 

Here’s some distinctions between traditional and missional approaches to evangelism taken from Mark Driscoll’s books:

Traditional                                        

Gospel information is presented               

Unbelievers are called to decision

If a decision is made, the person is welcomed into the church

Friendship is extended

Convert is trained for ministry by being separated from the culture.   

Missional

Friendships are built between believers and unbelievers 

Unbelievers see authentic faith and ministry and are called to participate

The gospel is naturally present in word and deed in the friendship

The unbeliever is welcomed in the church before he is converted to Jesus

The church celebrates the conversion of their friend

Traditional

Culture is where the church battles to regain a lost position of privileged influence

Missional

The church accepts that it is marginalized in culture and holds no privileged position of influence, but gains influence by serving the common good.

Traditional

Churches grow through marketing that brings people to church events

Missional

Churches grow as Christians bring lost people to Jesus through hospitality

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2006 11:35 am

    The last traditional/missional distinction stands out the most to me. The traditional approach really falls for this mistake of thinking the pastor minister, and the rest of us are to be ministered to, without ministering to others.

    Wait, you mean, you’re trying to rile us up to love and minister to those around us? You mean, you aren’t some dude that we pay to do that for us?

    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…(Ephesians 4:11&12a, ESV)

    This post makes me think that the difference between the models is that one is the result of living as a consumer, while the other is the result of being a disciple or sojourner.

  2. egana permalink
    October 24, 2006 12:20 pm

    I found my flesh anrguing with this: but I don’t want to be uncomforatble! I don’t want to be with my neighbors!

    Pray for me, that I would kill my sin and embrace the tre Gospel over and over and over again, so that I can WANT to love my neighbors, and trust God to empower me to show them the same grace he has certainly shown me even though I didn’t deserve it. My neighbors aren’t nearly as bad to me as I was to God when he extended his grace to me adn accepted me into his family. Certainly if that sort of powerful love in action is in me (since I am in Christ, adn he is in me) then I CAN love them…

    But my sin keeps getting in the way…

    so I return to my plea for prayer from you all, that I would put to death my sin as I seek to know God better, be happier and happier in him, and do the things that please him (and ultimately me too) with my neighbors, for his glory, their blessing, and my own as well.

  3. October 24, 2006 2:15 pm

    Yay! I’m missional (ish). Okay, so really all I am is someone with a lot of nonbeliever friends that likes to hang out with them (and hopes the Gospel shines through in deed and word, occasionally).

  4. October 24, 2006 8:39 pm

    “You mean, you aren’t some dude that we pay to do that for us?” Heh.

    I’ve sort of been applying the missional idea of ministry already by inviting my friends over for beer and hookah.

  5. October 26, 2006 3:24 pm

    These are great distinctions and things that we’ve learned naturally and contextually through our disaster area post-Katrina ministry. Community infiltration by active involvement. However, there are two things I’d like to put out there for consideration.

    First, is that it is easy to become just another option in a pluralistic world if all one does is hang out with unbelievers. My experience is that the ‘word’ and ‘deed’ tend to meld into ‘just is’. What I mean is that we are called to actually proclaim the Gospel which means that really do have to lay it for them.

    Our lives are not just to be some sort of Gospel-mime. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, not just being the token Christian in the group who is somehow nicer than everyone else. Just ask yourself if you’ve ever actually presented the gospel to those who you ‘hang’ with and you’ll know if you are active, yet gagged.

    Secondly, is more thought and clarification on the last point.

    Churches grow through marketing that brings people to church events
    versus
    Churches grow as Christians bring lost people to Jesus through hospitality

    I’ll just lay out some basic thoughts here and see if anyone wants to ping pong:

    Not all marketing of your fellowship is bad, is it ?
    Bringing people to church through advertising a conference or symposium on a topic would not be a bad thing would it ?
    The purpose of the church gathering is for believers not unbelievers.
    Aren’t we the church whereever we go? Why drag unbelievers to a place that is set up for the Body? Where is that line? Who crosses it?
    How do we structure our meetings in light of the answers to these questions?

    Hopefully a post can be started about this aspect of church gathering / outsiders

    I still need more coffee.

  6. egana permalink
    October 26, 2006 10:27 pm

    “not just being the token Christian in the group who is somehow nicer than everyone else”

    no. there are lots of people WAY nicer than me…

    *wink*

  7. egana permalink
    October 26, 2006 10:33 pm

    The thing is, Eddie X, that lots of what I do at church I wouldn’t have liked at all when I was an unbeliever… so when I think about inviting my neighbors, I can’t really think of a good reason for them to come.

    Now let me clarify before the dung starts to fly! *ducks* of COURSE the good reason is that faith comes from hearing… but that is MY reason! I can think of a million of good reasons that are MY reasons… I simply can’t think of many that I think would be THEIR reasons…

    but, I am trying to un-learn this habit of thinking, becasue it leads me NOT to invite people, and so they miss out on the opportunity to hear the kind of kick*** sermons we get fed on a weekly basis around here.

    but when I was an unbeliever, I just didn’t care at all about what the Bible said… so I guess I don’t expect others to care, either…

  8. October 26, 2006 11:11 pm

    egana… understood… ;)

    Part of my point is that I don’t believe that the weekly gathering of saints is for unbelievers and hence I’ve never been comfortable with folks inviting all their lost friends to ‘our’ meeting. I don’t think it is sinful and I certainly know of many who have come to faith by such means but that, to me, only proves that the Lord does what He does despite our poor methods.

    I believe the majority of our evangelism should take place in the streets, the market, in our homes, at the mall, in the parking lot, at the ball park, in the bar, at the concert … mostly everywhere but the gathering of believers.

    Again, so I’m not misunderstood, I’m not saying that it is wrong to invite a ‘lost’ friend to church… just that I would encourage more one on one interaction outside of the fellowship meeting.

    That being said, I’m glad that the Lord is not willing that any of the elect should perish but that they shall all come to repentance. Preach on.

  9. October 26, 2006 11:30 pm

    Lots of good stuff to talk about here. I probably won’t get to it tonight or tomorrow, but I’ll be back. In the meantime…talk amongst yourselves.

  10. October 27, 2006 3:44 pm

    A few randomish things:

    Normally church advertisements kind of turn me off, because a lot of them suggest that people should go to church to have fun, entertain the kids, meet new people, and oh yeah, we might throw something about God in there, hope you don’t mind. But the other day I heard a radio ad for TCBC where Pastor Meier invited people to the church based on the REAL purposes of TCBC, which as I understand it are to serve God by focusing on the campus, the community, and world-wide missions. He said, “If you are interested in really worshipping God, come visit our church, we would love to have you.” It was an honest, straightforward ad, intended to attract people who already believed that those things were good to TCBC.

    I agree that inviting unbelieving people to church isn’t necessarily the best way to go about saving them, although of course like Egana said there are probably many people who have come to faith in such a way. Having quite recently been an unbelieving person myself, I can attest to the fact that I did go to church with family members a few times a year and it never did me one bit of good. I honestly thought all that singing, praying, and worshipping was just silly. Ouch. As an unbeliever I was also approached numerous times by strangers or very casual acquaintances who tried to give me literature to read or invite me to functions at their church, and let me tell you, I wasn’t about to listen to someone who didn’t know me or know anything about me try to tell me what was good for me, and after such an encounter I often felt like my space had been horribly invaded or something. I feel kind of bad about that now, but my point here is that there is an awful lot of stubborn grumpy pridefulness out there, and since coming to faith involves a HUGE GINORMOUS amount of trust, it helps to really trust one or more godly people as people, and then all their love of the lord sort of spills over into that friendship and you catch their good infection, and that’s where I guess all these dinner invitations and bowling teams come in, right? It wasn’t until after I started to believe, and had had lots of good one-on-one interactions with believers, that they encouraged me to start going to church. My first trip to church as a believer was a doozy, because by that point, after all that good outside preparation, the singing and praying that had previously seemed so silly were looking like the best thing ever. Plus the sermon was really kick***.

    So, my ignorant and possibly wrong take on the subject is that we don’t necessarily have to go our of our way to do this stuff. This is kind of a joke, but if you don’t bowl, don’t join a bowling team just to missionize people – we should be able to do the things we already do, but with a missional mindset, without stressing ourselves out by forcing the issue which might come off as fake and unbelievable. I suppose we here in the blogosphere could consider blogging a missional opportunity, right? Does what we do around here count as hospitality? “Ponder the path of your blog; then one of your ways will be sure.” (Proverbs 2.26) or how about “Commit your blog to the LORD, and your plans will be established. The LORD has made everything for its purpose.” (Proverbs 16.4) Egana, I know I enjoyed all the good spiritual food on your blog back when I started coming to CEFC, and was still pretty lost and confused, and hadn’t even met you yet. Beth’s blog is full of interesting conversations between nonbelievers and believers of different denominations and there seems to be a lot of good learning going on on all fronts. The original post suggested that we should have 15 missional opportunites every week, and since there are exactly 15 CEFC blogs (not counting this one) there we have 15 ready made opportunites to share good things with those who read, believers or not. What do you think? Please note, I have never missionized anyone myself, so I am not claiming to be any kind of expert on the subject, just thinking aloud here.

  11. October 27, 2006 11:02 pm

    Ellie, you’re so encouraging. Keep commenting and commenting and commenting!

    Eddie, that’s too many questions in one comment. :-) I’ll take the first. No, not all marketing is bad. But I’m uncomfortable with almost all of it. Ellie has made my point for me. I think when we simply and accurately publicize who we really are, that’s OK. After all, we want the people who are looking for us to be able to find us. But when we try to catch people who aren’t looking for us by bait and switch methods, I think that’s rebuked by the first part of 2 Cor 4. I think I’ll post my sermon on that next.

    Egana,

    It seems like you’re leaving out of your thinking the possibility that the preaching of the word will supernaturally awaken one who wasn’t even interested in it before she showed up at church. Jesus preached the sermon on the mount to his disciples, but by the end of the sermon the crowds were listening in.

    The least seeker sensitive thing we do at our church is the sharing time. But when I’ve invited unbelievers to church, more than once they’ve been taken with our sharing time and said things like, “Wow. These people really believe this stuff, don’t they?”

  12. October 27, 2006 11:05 pm

    Egana,

    Now that I reread your comment, I see that you already anticipated my response. Well, let me then just redundantly encourage you to (as you said) unlearn that part of your thinking. :-)

  13. October 28, 2006 4:21 am

    Mike, me no like the bait and switch lay down the cheese to the big G trap slap either.

    Ellie, I agree we need to be who we is. I’m reminded of a lyric from They Might Be Giants —

    There’s only one thing that I know how to do well
    And I’ve often been told that you only can do
    What you know how to do well
    And that’s be you,
    Be what you’re like,
    Be like yourself

    :)

  14. October 28, 2006 9:28 am

    Eddie – great song! But now I’m going to have it stuck in my head all day!
    …and so I’m having a wonderful time, but I’d rather be whistling in the dark…whistling in the dark…whistling in the dark…

  15. egana permalink
    October 28, 2006 1:17 pm

    Isaiah543:

    yep. I was forgetting the life-giving power of His Word, the sin-exposing that the law does, the power of salvation that is the gospel… it just shows the differenc between the mind that is “walking in step with the spirit” and the mind that is hackin out its own path in the wrong direction. As I recall, I was thinking about what a spiritually dead person would want. based on what I wanted when I was such…

    I was not even thinking at all about what a spiritually dead person NEEDED, and how that comes from hearing the word of God – faith in Jesus Christ.

    That’s what happens when I lean on my own understanding… good thing I have others around who can help me out! *grin*

    Ellie: here’s my latest thought… my current daily activites do not give me many opportunities to interact with unbelievers at all… so I am looking hard at this, and trying to figure out what (if anything) I can change in this regard…

    of course, the three “gorfchildren” are all unbelievers, as of yet, but they are hardly “unchurched,” they are more like my disciples than peers that I share my adult faith with.

  16. October 28, 2006 3:43 pm

    Egana: Come hang out with me more. I can introduce you to some of my awesome friends who aren’t believers. I have them in droves, apparently.

    And to hit on the rest of the post- I really enjoyed the sharing part of our service- back in the day at my old churches, there would be some prayer updates in the bulletin, but it was only for really dire things like seriously ill people… and I was very glad to see the whole church getting together to pray for each other. It’s great- I like it. I especially like it when the kids get up and ask for prayer for their teeth falling out or whatever :) Anyway, I don’t feel like I’m getting my point across, because my head’s all discombobulated right now….

  17. October 29, 2006 12:09 am

    It’s been 15 yrs since I was an unbeliever (long story, but I went to Jehovah’s Witnesses from infant to about 11 or 12ish then nothing), but I used to love to go to churches with friends — I went to a Catholic church, went to my cousin’s Methodist church many times, etc. But I found that I often came away with many questions and tended to find things wrong with it — inconsistencies drove me crazy and, for all that I loved the beauty and ritual the Catholic churches had, I couldn’t stand the thinking. I would constantly ask my friends in college what was the *truth* in what they believed, what they did, where was the bedrock support for it? I was agnostic but full of questions about the possibilities.

    In grad school I went to a couple of churches and in one sermon I found so much to think about and such a strong desire to know more that I went to a Christian bookstore the pastor operated and talked to him for about 2-3 hrs one afternoon — I brought up my questions and my concerns and one by one he seemed to answer them or slap them down. One thing he said that stayed with me — just b/c followers of a religion are an imperfect people who follow their own faith imperfectly, doesn’t mean the religion and it’s God are imperfect. I went home and read a couple of booklets he gave me, one was by Chuck Colson, and read a bunch of scripture and ended up lying on the floor crying, crying out to God. I felt so different after that and I wanted to read more and it was just weird to me — and I was suddenly more uncomfortable about going to church than I had been before!

    Anyway, point being — I went to many churches while an unbeliever, never b/c of a ‘promotional activity’ but always b/c of a relationship I had with someone. I went to a lot of churches and heard the word preached in varying degrees, styles, etc. I don’t know why He chose to, but God opened my eyes after I had been to a bunch of different churches — and I’m sure that I had friends who must have prayed for my salvation at one point or another while I cluelessly said ‘whatever’. Early on I wondered how this friend or that friend could have been a believer and not explained to me how fantastic this stuff was . . . but it finally dawned on me that I think a couple of them thought they had, but I was blind and deaf and worse, I was dead. At the time He chose, He gave me life. So we don’t know if and when God will give life to people, but if we are in a relationship with them and we talk to them about what we believe and why and invite them to come hear the Word preached, maybe God will open their eyes and breathe life in them also. I love that church is the special gathering of believers worshiping the God who gives life. To remake it into a place for unbelievers to feel comfy is to make it into a coffeeshop — just take your friend to a coffeeshop instead and talk about what’s going on in your life and hers and invite her to church too.

  18. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    October 29, 2006 12:32 pm

    We’re all home sick today, and so carried on with family worship. Listened to a sermon from a fella’ we know in NC. I think it provides a useful common foundation for how to approach the mission of the church. Listen if you have time.

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?currSection=sermonssource&sermonID=11300321922

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