Bill Kinnon is another missional thought leader and practitioner. He joined the conversation in plain terms (which I greatly appreciate) speaking favorably about megachurch Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City —
If every megachurch in the world helped to plant 100s of different kinds of churches in their city, putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to church planting, only began to worry about a building after nearly 20 years (and a building that won’t even come close to seating the 5,000+ people who attend all the services at Redeemer’s multiple rented locations), encouraged the artistic expressions of the people in their midst, focused on the hurting, lost and broken, stayed in the heart of their city, and loved that city as desperately as Redeemer loves New York – then folk like me would sit in stunned silence praising God with our mouths shut. (Two dear friends of mine, will wish I had kept my fingers stilled when they read the rest of this.)
Ah, at last, recognition that a large church can be missional, while correctly noting that most are not.
Kinnon goes on to note that many large churches are very consumer-oriented — people join for what they can get out of it. Many only attend when their favorite preacher is speaking, for example. Many large churches collapse when the preacher changes job or retires. The people aren’t truly committed to the church’s mission so much as to its products and services. We sometimes join churches rather like we join gyms or choose malls.
Missional (organic/incarnational in Tim’s comment) is not a methodology. It is not a pragmatic approach to growing the church that is used as the best model and method to reach a particular people group. At it’s best, missional runs counter to the consumer culture, realizing that much of the West is long post-Christendom. Missional believes that Aslan is on the move and that we are to follow the Spirit into the mission field which is our very own culture.
I will continue to love and honour churches like Redeemer and the Meeting House, which are the very best of megachurches, while critiquing the more predominant consumeristic megachurch culture of places like Willow Creek, Fellowship Church Plano and Joel Osteen’s Coliseum-sized church in Houston – churches that actively promote & market their methodology as THE way to grow churches in the west. All of us, however, must come to a realization that any church in the West swims either with or against the tide of consumerism – whether small, medium or large.
And here we see the conclusion. To be missional is not to pick one of many tactics or marketing schemes. It’s to be faithful to Jesus. And we can be faithful regardless of how big we are. But being faithful means some pretty big changes. It means —
* Treating the mission as bigger and more important than the building program. We need to go to multiple services and rented space and use multiple campuses or whatever it takes to invest our money in mission rather than cavernous meeting spaces. As best we can, we build the church, not church buildings.
* Teaching our members to treasure faithfulness to God’s mission over personal preference and convenience. Consumer Christianity may well succeed in many places, but it’s a watered down, adulteration of the real thing.
* Making commitment to the mission the one thing that the church is centered on — above tradition, a favorite preacher, a great worship service … whatever.
* Giving up things we enjoy for things Jesus enjoys. If we have to give up Sunday nights for mission rather than a second worship or small group, then that’s what we do. We make choices that favor mission.
* Being about church plants. After all, different segments of society are going to be best reached by different kinds of church plants. We need to be sending teams into our cities to begin organic, transformational communities, supported and encouraged by the mother church, but not acting as clones or franchises of the mother church. Each plant finds its own niche, its own way of serving God’s mission.
* Being open to the artistic community. It’s so foreign to most of us left-brained guys who grew up in traditional churches that we don’t realize how anti-artistic we can be. We just have to find a way to announce our openness to the creative side that God has given us.
* Caring about those in need — not just through prayer and writing a check, but by being personally involved in the lives of the hurting, just as Jesus was.
Now, this would be a different sort of church indeed, but it would be far closer to the scriptures than what most of us are familiar with, I think.