Wednesday, September 19, 2007,4:30 PM
Missional and Seekers
Bob Roberts of Glocalnet recently put up a post about "being missional in the Sunday service" (ht - Rick Meigs). He had some good suggestions about being missional within the cultural trappings of the Sunday service. Like - if your worship consists of singing songs, it would help if those songs focused on service instead of just being another "me" centered melody (which is way easier said than done since songs like that are limited). But I was a bit uneasy with his opening assertions about being missional and seeker sensitive. He writes -
Can you reach seekers and be missional? Yes. Reaching seekers is missional! The challenge is how do you communicate to seekers, change their perceptions of God and church, help them find Jesus, and then help them understand we’ve been called to community to together live out the Kingdom.
I see all of the things he listed as good things, it is the order that he presents them in that bugs me. First you give them the messages about Jesus, God, and church and then you get them on board with being missional. It might just be me, but that smacks of the whole bait and switch technique that so many of us so desperately try to avoid. If the point is to follow Christ then call people to follow Christ from the get go. Don't woo them with spiffy seeker services and then expect them to catch the missional mindset. It's that old saying - "what you call people with is what you call them to". Calling people to enjoy a service and get committed to the church before you expect them to actually serve God can lead to disastrous results. In our "me? centered culture that sees church as a place to come, sit, mingle, be entertained, and possibly fed, to get people into your church for those things and then ask them to serve doesn't work. They either ignore the call to get up off their butts, or they find another church that doesn't make such "extreme" demands on their life.

But that can be a problem for churches. I've known churches where the people have left in droves after the church leadership started pursuing a more missional route. Our tiny little church plant continues to struggle with this as well. We don't want to present people with one conception of church and then push another agenda down the road. We try to be upfront about who we are and that scares people. They don't want to have to engage with the sermon, they don't want to have to give their time to missional events. It's too far out of their comfort zone. But it is who we are. We recently had a booth at our town's annual Hometown Days. We debated what to do with the booth (do we give away water or popcorn, what about free games for kids?). We eventually decided against the attractional gimmicks and instead sold fairly traded goods for Ten Thousand Villages - it sparked some good conversations about who we are as a church. What was amusing was that the new church plant in town went for all those attractional give aways (water bottles, candy, free games, ipods...). What you call them with is what you call them to - but somedays it seems like there are a lot more people out there interested in passive "gimme" styles of church than there are interested in missional churches.

That said, I also think that calling people to be missional does not come after the call to be a Christian, but is part of the call itself. In fact people can be serving God and helping others even if they are not onboard with the whole faith thing. Inviting people to engage with doing the work of Christ is part of calling them to Christ. We invite anyone to help out with our missional projects at church - even if they are not part of our church or any church at all for that matter. They are welcome to be the hands and feet of Christ even before they believe in Christ. And the interesting part is that action of serving and following Christ often makes them actually want to well, follow Christ. So being missional vs. being seeker sensitive doesn't follow in my book. It's about following Christ and that means being missional always.

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posted by Julie at 4:30 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/19/2007 09:38:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Excellent points babe! Though having visited Bob Roberts church, I'm not sure he meant this as a hard and fast "order". Northwoods definitely seems to be all about empowering people to be missional right from the get go.

  • At 9/20/2007 06:57:00 AM, Anonymous bob roberts

    I get asked a lot by people trying to transition churches what to do - I was trying to give them some simple ideas. There was no logic to the order, just ideas. I would agree with your basis of why we do what we do. I tell our people as we work around the world, we do what we do, not to convert - but because we are converted. Your enthusiasm and dream excites me - Bob Roberts

  • At 9/20/2007 08:57:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    hi Bob, thanks for the clarification.

  • At 9/20/2007 03:57:00 PM, Anonymous Matt Stone

    Good points Julie

  • At 9/21/2007 11:00:00 AM, Blogger paul

    Thank you, that was very thought provoking. I wonder whether we are in danger of creating a rule of thumb that only works sometimes in some cases - what we call with doesn't necesarily dictate what we call them too - but it can be a significant influence if we never call them to something and only ever try to bribe them to come along with us?

    I'm just thinking of Jesus for instance - plenty of wow factor, plenty of authority, miracles et al which attracted large crowds who only later heard the hard side and thought this is not some easy ride to fame and fortune...

    Your post and the one you refer to seem to me to highlight both the need to use a variety of ways to issue the call...

  • At 9/21/2007 12:53:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Paul, you made an interesting point about Jesus' methods. I have some random thoughts on that, but want to think them through before I respond.


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