Missional Fad vs Missional Movement

iStock_000006711564XSmall.jpg Ed Stetzer wonders why so many "missional" churches are uninterested in doing global missions. Others have wondered why the emerging/missional church doesn't do evangelism.

Dan Kimball agrees that something is wrong: "For the past few years, I have been observing, listening, and asking questions about the missional movement. I have a suspicion that the missional model has not yet proven itself beyond the level of theory."

Andrew Jones looks back on 2009 and observes,

I can think of 5 or 6 countries where some of the top "emerging church" leaders have been brought on staff to more traditional churches or denominations or mission agencies where it is hoped they will bring new perspective to the traditional streams of Christianity. There are now Bible colleges that offer a degree in the emerging church.

Not a good sign for the emerging/missional church if it has any intention of being truly missional/missionary.

Four years ago, Gibbs and Bolger's study of the emerging church left me deeply disturbed for its future.

Their two year study revealed: a loss of confidence in the gospel; a blurring of the distinction between the church and world; a redefining of mission away from evangelism towards social and political agendas.

In contrast, this is what I would expect to see in the few emerging/missional groups that will become genuinely missional movements.

1. Missionaries without borders

Has anyone read the Matt 28:18-20 lately? You're not a movement if you're only interested in reaching your tribe.

2. Making disciples

Missionary movements teach the newest believers to follow Jesus in obedience. It begins with simple commands of Jesus like: repent and believe, be baptized, love one another, be generous, make disciples, celebrate the Lord's supper. True discipleship always leads to church formation.

3. Paying their own way

Where's the money coming from? Some denominations have millions of dollars to splash around for "missional initiatives" that are not sustainable. Missionary movements take responsibility to generate their own funds rather than remaining dependent on mom and dad.

4. Gospel faithfulness

Movements are not known for the vagueness when it comes to their message and mission. Putting a "missional" label on it may just be a smokescreen for the reality that we not sure anymore about what we really believe. Movements return to the heart of the gospel and at the same time find relevant and effective ways to make the gospel known in new contexts.

5. Vision validated by action

Movements turn dissatisfaction into vision, and vision into action. There was a time for critique and vision casting. That time is over. The emerging/missional groups that have a future are already implementing a positive agenda for making disciples.

6. Children and grandchildren. Everywhere

This is everything. This is the end of the bigger vs smaller debate. You can be five or five thousand. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you have descendants. Produce some great great grandchildren, and we might even call you a movement.

7. Out on the fringe

The breakthroughs always occur on the fringe. I'm not expecting to find leaders of dynamic movements in denominational bureaucracies, or theological seminaries, or on Christian television.

Look for the leaders who follow the example of Jesus and Paul, and all the great movement leaders through the ages. They are close to the action. They hang out with people: preaching, teaching, healing, confronting, mobilizing, and pioneering.

Look for leaders like that in the emerging/missional church of today, and you'll find founders of movements that will change the world.