Christianity is a lifestyle – a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established “religion” (and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history, and still believe that Jesus is one’s “personal Lord and Saviour” . . . The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great. – Richard Rohr
What draws me to the “Missional Church” concept (as opposed to the “Attractional Church”) is the way those in a missional setting view their calling as incarnational—that is, following Jesus in being part of the greater and local community (or, as The Message puts it, ‘moving into the neighbourhood’).
What the Attractional Church model says is, ‘Come to us and we will share the life of Christ with you.’ The Missional Church is saying, ‘We will come to you and share our lives with you.” There is no agenda but being Christ to your neighbor. If they never darken the door of your church, you are still committed doing life together.
The attraction-based church fails to do this well, although I have seen some that have found a good balance in encouraging missional-focused small groups.
Here’s a simple illustration of how these two frameworks operate:
(For a great example of being missional, read Missional Evangelism from The Blind Beggar blog)
The biggest problem with the attractional model is that it encourages a consumerist Christianity where you ‘shop around’ for a church that you like, where you fit in, and that offers programs and services that suit you and your family. Therefore, we see attractional –modeled churches growing simply by transfers of membership, not because people are being pulled in from the ‘outside.’
Missional-minded churches see no distinction between ‘outside’ and ‘inside.’ They tend to be open, welcoming, integral components in their own local communities. They are involved in civic initiatives, establish relationships with local schools, organisations and local government. Generally they have a ‘belong-then-believe’ mentality rather than setting faith as a prerequisite for active involvement.
If we believe the Church is the hope of the world—the ‘suffering’ Earth—then simply attracting people to our Sunday services would not be congruent with our mission. Not that we would be repellant. We want people who attend to encounter God in whatever way they are able and at whatever level they happen to be. However, being salt and light, as Jesus says we (corporately and individually) are, we need to have as our number one goal to reach into our world with the love of God, being—as Christ himself—in the neighbourhood.
Salt must have flavour to enhance that to which it is applied, but it also must be in close proximity to the food and used in appropriate amounts to be of any value.
Light just shines in the darkness to dispel the darkness. There is no additional sound, no bells or whistles, just shining. There is no way that darkness can overpower light because where there is light, there can be no darkness. Even the darkest night can be pierced by the light of a single candle.
The metaphors of Salt and Light are clearly lifestyle pictures.
So rather than be a collection place for salt or a lighthouse, the church needs to see their mission as equipping and sending, encouraging and supporting its people in their lives lived in generous love.
This is a life to be lived, not a religion. This is a way of being, not a building. This is our mission; may we not be distracted into being a place for our own pleasure rather than being a people who truly love.