"Missional": A Complicated Mess (Part 2)

What is missional?

There's been a ton of debate in recent years on what exactly missional is or is not.  Although not the case for everyone, there are basically two camps:  social and proclamational.

Those in the social camp claim that being missional equates with good works, especially in "the community" or in "the world."  There's been a groundswell of awareness growing about problems such as sex trafficking, the need for clean water, homelessness, poverty, and injustice.  All of these things are symptoms of sin.  Being missional, therefore, is working to eradicate these things from our society and world.  The rub is this–for many, we do these things without mentioning Jesus.  The problem, therefore, with the social form of missional is that it helps meet felt needs without working toward addressing the greatest need:  the need for forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.

Those in the proclamation camp claim that being missional equates with proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.  The most obvious place this happens is during a worship service from the "pulpit."  Being missional is declaring forgiveness and grace through Jesus' death and resurrection.  Other things, such as meeting felt needs, are seen as good but are not part of being missional.  Some in the proclamation camp would even call those in the social camp guilty of proclaiming a "social gospel" and trying to bring heaven to earth.  The rub, however, is this–we're mostly preaching to the choir.  With exceptions, a great majority of churches aren't reaching people who don't know Jesus.  Their growth is by transfer–Christians coming from other churches.  Even when new people do come, the proclamation is often in a vacuum–without a strong relationship with someone in the church, the chances of newbies leaving is pretty high.  The problem, therefore, with a purely proclamational form of missional is that it proclaims the gospel without embodying the gospel.

There are voices calling for a hybrid, which is certainly an improvement.  Yet, it's still overly complicated.  I'm coming to the conclusion that people don't need more books and conferences on being missional.  Heck, all the debate is a sign that "being missional" may be on the way out in years to come (I may be wrong).  So what's the solution?

I'll post on that later this week.  Tomorrow, however, I'll post about missional vs. attractional when it comes to church.  Until then, what are your thoughts?

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About Aaron

Aaron is a follower of Jesus. He's married to his smokin' hot wife Laura and is the father of three adorable girls. He enjoys a robust cigar, a complex root beer, a good movie, writing, football, thought-provoking books, and rousing discussions about subjects you're not supposed to talk about (like theology and politics). Religious people irritate him (because he once was one). He's on a quest to find the perfect dry rub and sauce for ribs.
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4 Responses to "Missional": A Complicated Mess (Part 2)

  1. Justin Dunn says:

    i have noticed in the church/ministry world as a profession, once something comes around to actually being defined, the conversation is way too late. its like postmodern, remember when that was a big deal? or how about, “are you an emergent church?”- now its all just gone to “missional”- the irony is, nobody outside of pastors or overly involved laymen care about these terms or how it comes into effect at their church. i agree, stop the books, stop the “missional” drop and just be the church, love each other and try hard to be a good representation of the gospel. listen to God and thats about all you need.

    • Aaron says:

      BINGO! Outstanding stuff there, Dunn. By the way, I was sad to see the man-beard go. It was ridiculously awesome.

  2. Michael says:

    In instance after instance throughout the Gospels, Christ heals (and at times raises from the dead) people to whom we are given absolutely no indication that he invited to follow him, or shared the gospel of the Kingdom in any way. He simply addressed their felt needs.

    Matthew 25:35-46 speaks directly and specifically to a ministry addressing “felt needs” as a means of displaying the undeserved and fully gracious love of Christ expressed through us as human instruments. While the term “felt needs” may leave a bad taste in the mouth of many, it is more than a simple suggestion in the gospels.

    Should we preach Christ and him crucified, with a full gospel message…? Absolutely.

    Should we meet the “felt needs” of those suffering around us…? Absolutely.

    We should do both. Supporting organizations that both address physical needs and convey a gospel message while doing so is one way to accomplish the hybrid.

    Should we shy away from meeting the physical needs of another if we are unable to also provide a gospel message at the same time…? I believe the scriptures clearly tell us the answer to this one. Absolutely not.

    • Aaron says:

      Agreed, Michael. The problem comes with those who insist that we don’t mention the gospel or Jesus. If that’s the case, then it is not done it in Jesus’ name. Thus, the church would become just another relief agency. But I totally agree with your thoughts.

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