[Missional] leaders do not expect mission to just happen. They prayerfully seek for the best systems and structures that both facilitate and validate effective missional thrust into their communities. It is incumbent upon leaders to think outside the (warehouse) box.
This sounds simple enough, I suppose, but it’s the furthest thing from simple — or easy. Let me explain.
We church leaders have these difficulties to overcome:
1. Our members have expectations that we have to dash. They grew up in churches that met on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights and had visitation nights and on and on. They came to our church in part because they enjoy those things — or feel duty-bound to participate in such things. And we’ve done exactly those things for 50 years.
If we go a week without a traditional Wednesday night services, our members feel guilty for not being in church. And some miss that service. They enjoy the fellowship with friends, and some actually miss the classes.
2. Our members are too busy to do all that’s on the calendar already. How can we add something?
If we don’t remove something from the calendar, there just won’t be time to do what’s most important. I mean, half or more of our members don’t have time for Sunday night and Wednesday night. Many have commutes that interfere. Some are too old to drive in dark. Many have jobs that require travel or shift work. And many are busy with sick parents or spouses. Or kids activities. Or grad school. I mean, our members are busy.
Preach all you want about priorities and commitments, and our members will still live 20 or more minutes away, their parents will still be sick, and their kids will still need help with their homework.
3. We have precious few models for what works. This missional stuff is new. Most churches that are really into it are still figuring it out. The Churches of Christ are actually as far along as most, but we still don’t have the one great model for how to get it done.
4. There likely never will be that one great model for how to get it done.
I mean, did you start a Membership 101 class at your church? Do 40 Days of Purpose? Did you grow like Saddleback? You see, missional Christianity is very context sensitive. What you ought to be doing, and how you ought to be doing it, depends on lots of things, such as your talents, and your passions, and the needs that surround you.
Therefore, you likely can’t just xerox the handbook from a church that has it all together (if you could even find one).
Now — try to sell your members on giving up precious, comfortable traditions in order to do something that you’ve never done before, that doesn’t have a best selling book to go with it, and that just might not work at all — where you have to experiment and likely fail a few times before it all comes together.
Therefore, yes, you have to be strategic. A great 45 minute sermon won’t sell the idea. Rather, you have to get your members to burn with the passion of Jesus for the lost and the needy. And when your church wants to change, it’ll change.
But the passion doesn’t come from a one-quarter series on modern missional thinking. Such a series of lessons will help (as will the sermon), but what really helps is doing. Doing mission creates a heart for mission.
So you need some early adopters who will take the freedom you give them to go be Jesus to the world, and then you have to hold them up as examples and lead them to lead others. And be patient.
People will get upset. Even someone who helped teach the quarter’s lessons on missionality will get upset when his favorite hymns aren’t led or his favorite program is canceled. Change is hard — even on those of us who know better. It’s just hard.