Blogger Craig T. Owens tweeted a couple of weeks ago, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Poor people and other outcasts, find yourself a church!’ but ‘church people, find yourself the poor and the outcasts.’” I love that quote. It captures what I meant a couple of weeks ago when I said that the missional shift requires churches to give up a sense of entitlement and control. In the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly true that the church is not the cultural center of the community.
That’s what Christians are really upset about when a court ruling says that you can’t have the 10 Commandments in the courthouse, or when you can’t start a town council meeting with the Lord’s prayer. We are grieving our loss of control. The church used to call the shots. It used to be near the center of cultural power, but now, in places that don’t have Chick-fil-a restaurants, it’s not (more on that later).
Missional theology is often described in contrast to an “attractional” approach to church. Attractional church says, “come and see” while missional church says “go and be.” With attractional church, it is the church that calls the shots. We have home court advantage. We invite “outsiders” in and get them to do all the border crossing.
Missional church goes out and yields control to the surrounding community. A missional church does not call the shots but seeks to discern what God is up to and then join in. A minister friend of mine took a role as the team pastor in a local softball league. Rather than trying to dictate a more biblical title (I am told that the word ‘pastor’ is not in the Bible) he accepted the role as an invitation by Jesus Christ to be salt and light in his community.
Whatever your model (attractional or missional), the key is not to make church look great but to make Jesus look great. Our hope is not found in relevance, but in Jesus Christ – and that is going to require us to experiment a little, and bravely let go of the wheel. Control is over-rated.