The lack of direction and misguided measurements for success of many churches boils down to a failure to focus on the mission of the church as defined by its early members. Most church leaders think their mission is to build up the church out of the life of the community. In reality, Jesus calls us to a transformational mission that builds up the community out of the life of the church. As Pastors we need to view the church as the agent of change with in the community much like that of the early church.The first, second, and third century Christians were about this kind of transformational mission. They preached and practiced a Christ-like life in the communities where they lived. Being a follower of Jesus wasn’t a separate church function of their lives in which they participated once a week; it was their life in community with one another. This is what defined them. When new believers were added to the church, scripture states, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NIV). These early Christians had a mindset vastly different from our western twenty-first century world. They saw prayer, walking in the Spirit, working at their jobs, caring for their families, ministering to those in need, and the rest of their lives not in compartmentalized facets, but as a whole—integrated and continuous. This is true of the younger evangelicals today. They really want to get back to a holistic approach of the Christian life.
So the emerging church in the first century tended to see prayer, faith, worship, and loving others as Christ loved as an integrated whole. Church wasn’t a weekly event, separate from their daily living. They were the church. That is what defined them.
We need to help our churches become a called people who do not want to just think and talk about Christ one day of the week in a building somewhere. They don’t think in terms of participating in
a church program or just attending a series of events. They want to experience the totality of what Jesus was all about and model it daily before their children and within their community. Churches need to view the mission Jesus gave them as a journey, a relational pilgrimage of becoming more and more like their Lord, a mission that is to be lived out in every aspect of their lives within their community locally. It is an experiential relationship with Jesus that transforms their attitudes and actions. Their corporate prayer and worship in a fellowship is born out in the attending to the physical and emotional needs of people by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and befriending the outcasts and rejects of society. Their mission is to raise up transformed followers of Jesus by seeing people in their community redeemed spiritually as well as restored physically, relationally, economically, etc.
There is a stark contrast in the way the early church developed and our churches today. The early church grew so fast due to the working of the Holy Spirit that they did not have time to formalize the church into a Christian Institution. They were too busy trying to keep up with what God was doing. The late author and Christian historian Robert Webber may have found part of the answer in this startling quote he picked up from an unknown source:
– The Church started as a missionary movement in Jerusalem.
– It moved to Rome and became an institution.
· It traveled to Europe and became a culture.
· It crossed the Atlantic to America and became a big business
I think that over the past 1700 years the church has slipped into a slumber thus valuing the institution over the mission. Some of the pastors and church members that I spoke with about this really feel that the church is so full of politics and bureaucracy that very little ministry can get accomplished. The reality is that you have to jump through so many hoops and committees to get approval to do ministry that it is easy to get discouraged and at times even feels as if the Holy Spirit has been replaced with the man made structure of church systems. We need to get back to the simplicity of the mission of the early church but preserve the uniting “glue” factor that an organized church can bring to a fractured society.
The Missional Church is really a renewed Theological Vision of the church in light of who God is (God of Mission). The best definition for Missional Church is a renewed theological vision of the church on mission… serving as a sign, servant and foretaste of the kingdom of God. We are to be salt and light in our communities that point people back to God. It is our task to awaken those around us to the activity of God in the lives of individuals and communities. We need to be bold enough to re-imagine what God is up to in our midst. The church should be leading the way and be the most creative and imaginative group of people that are expectantly waiting to see God move and join Him on mission. God has a mission, therefore the church has a mission. A better way to state this ideas is that God’s Mission has a church. Take some time this week and re-imagine with me what it would be like to be so in tune with God that we see him moving in our churches, schools, neighborhood, etc and eagerly join him on this life changing mission. What will that look like for you? Your Community? Our World?