Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts on the church and missional living

So there’s a lot of talk within the church leadership culture/community/conversation about making churches and church communities missional.  I’ve heard sermons online about how to make your church more missional, how to teach people to be missional, and about why being missional is so important.  I thought I might be able to add something to the conversation because I haven’t heard anything about what someone who’s living missionally within the world needs from the church.  And make no mistake, we need the church desperately.

So, after about 9 years of living and working in the world while trying to live out a calling to be missionally investing of the lives of my friends and co-workers, here are a few of the things that I need from the church in order to support that missional posture:

1) Prayer.  No spiritual fruit is ever borne without the work of the Holy Spirit, and I am completely and utterly dependent on him to intervene in the lives of the people around me.  Day after day, I get up, go to work, have conversations with people about life, about spiritual things, about problems, about struggles.  There are many things that I pray for my friends about.  There are many needs that they have, spiritual and otherwise.  I need you to pray for me.  I need you to pray for my friends.  The work of the gospel cannot be done without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

2) Fellowship.  Because I’ve chosen to spend most of my time with people outside the church, who probably don’t believe much of anything that I do, I end up feeling very different and very lonely much of the time.  I need the fellowship of the body to be a place where I can go and feel like I’m a part of something bigger than me.  And that the something bigger is not just an idea or a kingdom that exists somewhere in the future, after I die.  It’s a community of people that is following after Jesus right now.  Ideally, I would love it if I could find some other missional people who are living the same kind of life that I am–who would understand what it’s like to count people who don’t know Jesus as some of my closest friends.  I would love the support and encouragement of that kind of shared understanding.  But even if that’s not possible, just worshiping and talking with others who love Jesus and have given their lives to him is refreshing when most of the time, in my regular life, that kind of commitment is viewed as something strange.

3) Understanding.  I need you to understand why I don’t join the worship team, teach nursery or Sunday school, run a small group, cook food for our gatherings, or work as a youth group sponsor.  Even though I could do all these things, and I could therefore add a great deal to the building up of the body in that way, I need you to understand that I’m called to the world.  So I need you to help me guard that gift and bless me for using my gifts for the church and the body outside of the body.  I need you to understand why I don’t show up at all the social or peripheral activities of the church.  I need you to recognize and celebrate my activities outside the church as just as vital to body life as what I might do if I was helping to support or attending all the programs of the church.

4) Opportunities to invite my friends to meet some of you.  Most of my friends are not at a point where they’re going to jump at the opportunity to go to a church service.  Many of them are not even really interested in going to a church program or a church building.  It sounds boring.  It sounds stuffy.  It sounds religious.  However, there is nothing in the world as powerful as seeing how the community of believers loves each other.  Jesus even said that people would know his disciples by their love.  I need opportunities to invite my friends to meet you and to see how you treat each other.  I need places where those of my friends who come from broken homes or who have been abused and neglected and struggle to have quality relationships can find home and family in a way that it’s never been available to them before.  I need you to be the church to each other, even outside of church time, and I need you to be willing to invite my friends into those relationships.  And when you do, I need you to love my friends as much as you love your friends.

So these are the first 4 things that come to mind.  Do any of my readers have anything to add?  Or for those who are in church leadership, any ideas of how to make these things a reality?


  1. Anna, I've been meaning to write you, but things have been so insanely busy that I just haven't made the time. Sorry for that. I wanted to let you know that you kinda inspired/encouraged me when I last visited. Living where we do, in the "ghetto", among the poor, well, it can get quite tiring at times. It's not where we would've chosen to settle. (I'd prefer the more rural suburbs, where thekids could run and climb trees and be free to play without my worrying about the 3 sex offenders on our block and the others not registered) All the depravity (in action and mindset) gets to me sometimes. But your heart for the lost and living in the world is inspiring and encouraging to not just live here and hide out, but to be a light. Western mi is such a different world. I could be very comfortable there. I would likely be very involved in some church and never really talk much to non-christians. But God has us here. And He seems to have a reason for that. Anyway, thanks for being my friend. It's not the first time tou've encouraged me and I'm sure it won't be the last. Love you.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment! I know what you mean... living in the ghetto can be exhausting. But it's important--it's important to love and care and be a positive presence there. Love you too!