Missional Institutions v. Missional People

January 04, 2011

Tuesday Re-mix –

In The Gathering, we are going through the gospel of John.  It has been a wonderful study for us!  I still feel convicted when I really study Christ’s “missional” ways and his passion for people…ALL people.  It is just not possible to really come to an understanding of the Biblical Jesus without feeling moved toward people in need.

But even as we read convicting passages from God’s Word, many in my church will be thinking to themselves, “Our church needs to be about feeding hungry people and helping the homeless in our community…our church needs to continue clothing them and providing other help for them…this is something our church needs to do.” And those are good thoughts, but they are indicative of the institutional mindset which is keeping many of us from ever reaching our true Christian potential as individuals.

You see, there is more to the missional mindset than just becoming a missional institution.  The missional lifestyle is a lifestyle for each of us as individual Christians, whether or not our particular church is ever seen by its community as being missional.  The attitude at my own church provides a great example.  Not that long ago, my church was literally blazing trails in the area of social ministries.  We owned and operated a restaurant run almost entirely by volunteers, the profits from which went to feed people in our near-by soup kitchen.  We provided leadership in some of our community’s homeless shelters and clothes closets.  We had a strong presence in several of our city’s project housing complexes.  We provided Christmas meals to between 400 and 500 impoverished families each year.  In this area of social ministries, our institution was a well-run machine.

So, over the last 30 years, each of us as church members could pat ourselves on the back because our institution was doing great things in this area and we each had the good judgment to be a member there.  Mind you, the vast majority of us were doing next to nothing in these ministries (other than supporting them financially), but when confronted by conviction about caring for the underprivileged, we could each conveniently check this item off…instead of “I gave at the office” we could say, “I gave at church.”

But if Christianity really is to remain the revolution Jesus intended (instead of just the institution we tend to make it), then whether or not my church is seen as a “missional church” does not define me one way or the other.  Only I can define me, through my own actions and through my own heart and mindset.  If I am seen as a person who genuinely cares about people less fortunate than I, then I am seen as “missional” in that respect.  If not, then I have work to do irrespective of whether or not my church offers me this opportunity through one of its ministries.

Isn’t it time for us to stop defining ourselves through our church membership and start defining ourselves by how we live each day of our lives?  Then we can stop worrying about whether or not our church (our institution) is a missional church…because when its people are missional, it will inevitably follow.

© Blake Coffee

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