By Pastor Gene Stockton,
America is a breeding ground for the great church experiment. We are surrounded by various styles and philosophies of church. The styles are typically influenced by music so churches get labeled contemporary, traditional or blended. The different philosophies of church are centered on the local body or denominational view of the Bible as well as how they see its mission. Those with a high view of scripture, read and understand it literally as an inerrant God-inspired work and those with a low view of scripture see it as a fallible human work. Those with a high view typically see missions in the context of spreading the gospel to the entire world. Those with a low view typically see missions more toward the spectrum of social justice.
As a conservative evangelical with a high view of scripture, I quickly see the fallacy and false teaching of those with a low view of scripture. However, we need to pay close attention to a dangerous shift in the evangelical church as well. There is a growing tension between a “come to me” and “go to them” mentality. The “come to me” crowd typically employs an attractional model that includes seeker-sensitive or seeker-friendly elements. They see the center of gravity for the church as the worship service. In contrast, the “go to them” pack employs a biblical discipleship model where Christians are trained and equipped to be sent out. They see the focus of their ministry beyond the brick where people are engaged with the gospel message.
According to Alan Hirsch in an article he wrote titled Defining Missional, “A missional community sees the mission as both its originating impulse and its organizing principle. Missional means to be sent into the world in contrast to expecting people to come to us.” Even though there is an element of church where we gather for worship, fellowship and discipleship the thrust is to go . . . to go into the neighborhood, workplace, marketplace and educational institutions armed with the message of the gospel. This shouldn’t surprise us since the Great Commission clearly states “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
If we are going to see church through the lens of the New Testament, Christians are missional with a church. We typically see the church as having a mission, but it is more accurate to see ourselves as missionaries with a church. The idea of containing, restraining and defining our ministry by an hour or so on Sunday morning in a building we call church is ludicrous. However, that is the practice of the average church in America. We even give to missionaries and take mission trips but still have the mentality that the church is a destination instead of a sending hub.
Instead of getting caught up in all of the trends that blow through the American church, we need to focus on obedience to scripture (the Word of God). What good is it if we gather a crowd if we aren’t making disciples? What good is it if we can impress people with our talent if our neighbors haven’t heard the gospel? There is a time and place for social justice, but missional Christians spread the gospel along every trail they walk, in every room they enter and among every crowd they contact. Our styles may differ but missional churches are filled with people that are on mission for Christ as they go and everywhere they go. Instead of being a laboratory for the next church experiment, lets determine to be missional—spreading the gospel everywhere we go.
Gene Stockton is Senior Pastor of Heartland Community Baptist Church in Sioux City.