By Josh Linman
“Becoming missional will save the church.”
Whether we want to admit it or not, many mainline pastors and denominations are banking on this idea. In our race to become missional, we have allowed some key assumptions to endure that are actually roadblocks to renewal.
Missional Assumption 1: Becoming missional should be our priority
Missional Reality 1: Developing disciples should be our priority
This assumption is not bad. In fact, becoming a missional congregation is really important. The problem is this idea assumes that we have disciples who can look at the community and find out what God is up to. Looking at our current situation of declining cultural influence and membership, Mike Breen offers this course correction in his book Building a Discipling Culture: “We don’t have a ‘missional’ problem or a leadership problem in the Western church. We have a discipleship problem.” There is a gaping hole in the missional church conversation if we think that we can rely on the existing structures and programs (like worship, Bible study, small groups, etc.) to develop disciples who can then engage in God’s mission. Don’t believe me? Look at any mainline church’s membership and worship attendance numbers. Any questions? How can we answer the question, “What’s God up to and how can we get involved?” if we aren’t disciples ourselves first? How can we expect people to learn discipleship if they have no teacher?
Discipleship is a scary proposition for most church leaders because it requires vulnerability, accountability and transparency. Discipleship is not another program. Discipleship is a series of radical, interwoven relationships formed from your connection with God, with a community and with the world. Reggie McNeal in Missional Renaissance said that the discipleship paradigm means church is “synced with normal life routines.”
Becoming missional means we make discipleship our priority. So why do we ignore the fact that changes must be made to our discipleship processes? Are we worried that when we actually look in the mirror there is nothing worth imitating in our lives? Do we doubt that God is actually working through us? Is it too much work? Is it too much commitment? Is there too much risk?
Steps Toward Discipleship:
- Take time daily to read the Bible and to journal. I learned and would recommend the S.O.A.P. method from Wayne Cordiero at New Hope Church in Honolulu. http://www.celebration.org/connect/personal-devo/soap
- Read Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen. Mike and his team at 3dm have developed an entirely new way of viewing discipleship and the church that depends on an organic network of multiplying groups. http://weare3dm.com/
- Compare the model for discipleship and evangelism in Luke 10 (sending of the seventy) and Matthew 28 (great commission).
- Read Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood by Alan Roxburgh. Watch Alan give a 2-minute summary here: http://vimeo.com/22926467
Josh Linman is a Luther Seminary student on internship at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa. When he is not thinking about discipleship he loves eating Chick-Fil-A and cheering for the Florida State Seminoles. He blogs irregularly at www.joshlinman.com.
Image: “road closed” (Creative Commons image by Sarah Korf on Flickr)
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