Friday, March 2, 2012


...or something...

Besides "relevance", the other big word in preppy church circles these days is "missional" or "missionality", or any other cognate thereof.  So far as I can tell, what is meant by these preppy theologians is that to "be missional" is to realize that the Church participates in God's mission, rather than the Church having a mission of its own.

On the one hand, I get this.  We always want to preserve God's agency, and we always want to recognize that the Church is to do God's mission, not just run off willy-nilly working her own pet projects.  Absolutely.

But unfortunately, the way "missional" often gets described ends up making it sound like "God is at work in the world, and the Church is just one more tool He uses to do whatever he wants to do."  Certainly God is at work in the world outside the institutional church.  Left-hand kingdom, and all.  But the Church is the Bride of Christ, and as such, has a special relationship with him that goes beyond "just one more thing God wants to use."

Everybody's got their favorite Bible verse that they claim is "the mission of the Church."  There's the "Great Commission" from Matthew 28: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."  There's the "Great Commandment" from Matthew 22: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  There's the "New Commandment" from John 13: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  These are all good.  My personal favorites these days are from Matthew 10:

"And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand'.  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  You received without paying, give without pay."
 and from Luke 7:
"Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

Regardless though, which of these (or something else) is your favorite, these are all things that we, the Church, are supposed to be doing.  We don't have to sit around navel-gazing, trying to figure out "what God is up to" that we might be supposed to be participating in.  We know what we are supposed to be doing.  We are the Church, we are the Bride of Christ, and we have a role in this world, a commission that comes to us from our "husband", Jesus.  We are not supposed to be twiddling our thumbs, waiting to find out "what God wants to do" and we are not just one other tool at His disposal.  We are the "pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15) and we submit to Christ's headship (Ephesians 3:24). 

This, in a nutshell, is my problem with "missionality" (or whatever that word is).  In an (I think) sincere but overzealous attempt to correct for the misdeeds of colonialism and ward against the tendency we have to make it all about ourselves and our pet projects, those who advocate for being "missional" have, to my mind, devalued the Church and the place that it holds in relationship to Christ.  When we do that, we end up devaluing ourselves, losing self-confidence, and watering down our actual mission. 

And who wants to do that?

No comments:

Post a Comment

My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23