Why missional is the new black

Michael Kellahan

Let me tell you a true story.

A young unchurched couple went looking for a church to join.

First place they tried - their local Anglican church. They were welcomed, they enjoyed it.

They came along next week, spoke to the minister and asked about joining.

His reply (I swear I am not making this up): 'Actually, we're full.' They never went back.

If this is how people looking for a church are treated,  what chance does that church have of reaching its parish?

While the story is shocking, I don't think it’s that unusual. We may not be so crass as to say 'we're full' but there are plenty of churches who have given up on mission to 'outsiders'.

Here are some thoughts we dare not say out loud:

1. The gap between churched and unchurched is simply too great. We don't truly know non-Christians as friends. We don't know what we'd say if we did. And the world outside the church is an unfriendly place to Christians.

2. These are times when church is in decline.
Even a goal of seeing 10% of Sydney in bible teaching churches seems wildly ambitious. The culture of our parish is no longer 'Christian' and the culture of our church is no longer that of our Parish.

3. The ‘old’ ways don't seem to work any more. People don't bring their kids to be baptised and confirmed like they used to. The evangelistic events we run attract less non-Christians.

4. Most church growth seems to be transfer growth from other churches. More and more church resources seem to be directed towards scrambling for the Christians to come to your church. Clergy and church are there to service a Christian community, rather than to reach the lost.

Against this background of despair is there hope?

Yes, of course. Jesus will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

But the way that the church is built in 21st Century Sydney might look different from 1950s (even 1990s) Sydney.

The meaning of ‘missional’

One of the ways church may change is by becoming 'missional'.

'Missional' is the new black.

In the last year we've had Mark Driscoll challenge Sydney Anglicans to be missional in their stance towards the city. The Archbishop referred to being missional in his presidential statement. Connect09 materials feature it. The Diocesan Mission Midpoint Report was subtitled ‘Achievements and Challenges in Becoming a Missional Diocese’ and says that missional church plants are the fundamental strategy of the mission.

Missional describes a mindshift whereby church doesn't so much grow by being attractional (we open the doors and people come in) but by being missional (we train people to go out as missionaries into their culture).

Why do that? Partly because of the great gap there is between church and culture.

This blog is going to try and help start conversations about what it would take to reach our city for Jesus.

How would our churches need to change? And what does that really look like at a local level?  If you think being missional is a good idea, then how do you actually do it? Are there ways for the small local church to reach the Parish around it? What real difference can I make?

My prayer is that we can get some helpful discussions happening that help us reach our friends, families, and neighbours.