Towards Missional Effectiveness: Analogizing and Applying Missional Effectiveness – Part 7 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

Yo-Yos, newer churches, and established churches

Missional effectiveness begins with a biblical understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which hopefully leads a church to become a missional people who embrace a missional posture and who enact a missional program.

So, how does this series about missional effectiveness apply to the local church today? My goal in this post is to answer this question with an analogy and application.

Analogy of a Fully-Orbed Mission

When we think of becoming a missionally effective church—whether we are a newer or established church—picture a yo-yo in motion.

  • The string is the mission (since it is the string being advanced).
  • The yo-yo (circular ball) is the church that has a centripetal and centrifugal movement (weight) that moves outward and inward.
  • The finger within the circular string represents a church held and captivated by mission. [Note: A church outside the string, not captivated and held by the mission, is a church that exists as a monument and not a movement, and according to many missiologists like Lesslie Newbigin isn’t really a church.]

[To get a visual of what a master “yo-yoer” looks like, see this TED video]

Here’s how the analogy works. In a non-movement state, the yo-yo exists as a missional community (people) captivated by mission in its local environment. In this state, it has a strong community held tight by the string (mission).

As the yo-yo is put into motion and begins extending, it manifests the missional mark of sentness (posture). Thus, it signifies a church sent on mission. When the yo-yo reaches its extended state, the yo-yo exhibits the missional mark of multiplication (program), for it becomes a church extending mission to the ends of the earth.

By centrifugally ‘going out,’ the yo-yo has a centripetal force of ‘coming back’ to its established position.


Application of a Fully Orbed Mission

How do newer and established churches fare in being missionally effective? What follows is a list of the strengths and weaknesses newer and older churches possess with regard to missional effectiveness.

Newer churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong missional program of evangelism and an acute awareness of living sent.
  • A mentality of ‘Go and Tell’ rather than ‘Come and See.’ The reality is that newer churches will not survive if they do not reach people.
  • A passion and vision to reach out to unbelievers and the unchurched. For example, in one study of established churches, there are 3.4 baptisms per one hundred resident members, but new churches average 11.7 baptisms per year. In short, new churches reach new people.
  • A desire to become part of the rhythms of the local community and find ways to serve the community.
  • A flexibility to contextualize to the present culture rather than the culture of two or three decades ago.

However, newer churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A lack of structure and organization. In other words, they tend to have weak community. I have found that many new churches struggle with developing teams, leaders, systems, and processes that help facilitate ministry and mission. They struggle with foundation, and therefore are in need of creating centered-set primary theological boundaries, as well as a solid structure that includes governance, systems, and processes.
  • A lack of macro multiplication. In other words, they tend to never parent another church. While it seems newer churches are better at multiplying in a micro way (making disciples), I would like to see more of them multiply in a macro way (church plants).

Established churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong centripetal pull through the foundation they have laid—usually through their programs, systems, processes, and structures.
  • A solid financial base with resources to fund mission acvity and global missions.
  • A stable, consistent presence in the community. In some cases, the church has become an anchor in the community.

However, established churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A difficulty to multiply in both micro and macro ways. There’s no denying that the majority of established churches in the West are in trouble. Thousands close each year, while others struggle to maintain or slow down the decline. Typically, the longer a church has been established, the more mission drift occurs. Based on research, churches that are not involved in multiplication, especially in church planting, are unhealthier than those who are. Thus, they could use more intentionality in their missional posturing and programming.
  • An inward focus. Many established churches typically have lost sight of the mission. Rather than being motivated by mission, often they are motivated to maintain their traditions, preferences, culture, and systems. They fall into the same trap as the church in Jerusalem; they go overboard on their foundation and end up protecting and preserving their culture and homogeneity at the expense of mission. (Unfortunately, churches often choose maintenance over mission.)
  • Allow a clergification to set in where the paid clergy does all the work while the members sit by consuming and watching.
  • Prohibitive leadership. Although there may be a solid foundation with strong leadership, in some cases, established churches are controlled by what Mark DeVine calls “lay cartels” that act as the powerbrokers of the church that prohibit leadership and mission advancement.

Why do I share all of this? My goal is to show areas where churches exhibit strength while noting areas where churches can improve. My intention in listing the weaknesses isn’t shame, but brutal honesty. If you are a pastor or church leader, it may be helpful to talk through these posts and discuss your church’s strengths and weaknesses.

We live in changing times.


My goal in this series was to outline how churches today can be missionally effective.

Missional effectiveness begins with an understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which should result in enacting the marks of becoming part of a missional people (community), embodying a missional posture (sentness), and enacting a missional program (multiplication).

In doing so, churches become the effective vehicle of God’s mission, the vehicle that He purchased with the blood of Christ over two thousand years ago.


This article was originally posted at:


Towards Missional Effectiveness: An Introduction – Part 1 of 7

  By Ed Stetzer

What is mission? What is missions? What is missional?

Like most people, I want what I buy to work and be effective at what it was created to do.

For instance, I have a smartphone that keeps track of my life. I call, text, surf the web, tweet, Facebook, use Maps to get directions, make calendar appointments, etc. It helps me to function at a high level. In fact, I must confess that I couldn’t imagine going back to the pre-age of smartphones. I assume I would manage, but not without making some major adjustments.

However, the good news is that smartphones are here to stay and the technologies and capabilities will be ever increasing to help enhance our lives in some capacity.

But what if all of a sudden my smartphone didn’t work effectively? What if the screen started to freeze frequently and Siri started telling me where she wanted to go, rather than me telling her? I would likely be frustrated and look for an upgrade. Why? Because we want what we buy to work effectively at what it was created and designed to do.

When it comes to the mission of God (missio Dei), God bought a vehicle (the Church) by which He will carry out His mission in the world. The Church is God’s Plan A for advancing His mission in the world.

There is no Plan B.

Thus, the design and intended creation of the Church is to be the vehicle by which God (through the good news of Jesus Christ) creates a people for Himself from all peoples on the earth. As a result, the DNA of the Church is, and must continue to be, missional.

We were birthed from God’s mission for God’s mission.


Just as we want our smartphones (and the other things we buy) to operate according to their design and intended purpose, God wants the Church, whom He purchased by the blood of Christ, to be faithful to its purpose and, yes, effective at advancing His mission throughout the earth. In all truthfulness, one would think that if God’s people understood the gravity of how Jesus purchased their salvation and how their salvation relates to God’s mission and their role in it, they would be missionally effective.

In order to understand missional effectiveness, let me define what I mean by missional and missional effectiveness.

The term missional has been used quite a bit in the last 20 years. While missional has been popularized, it has not experienced a consistent usage or a consensus definition.

One of the reasons why there’s so much confusion around this word is because the term missional is an adjective. By definition, adjectives are not easy to define, because they are used to accomplish the purpose of the author. One sees this in the way missional has been used. Yet, the flexibility of missional is both a benefit and a frustration. Because many practitioners, theoreticians, and foes have kept themselves busy defining, defending, and dissecting the term, the meaning of the term has become blurred and caused some to swear off the word altogether.

However, I am not ready to concede this conclusion. I believe missional has enduring value. The question is not whether the term should be used, but how it should be used. How should we define missional?

At its simplest, missional is an adjective that describes a person or church who participates in the missio Dei.

But, of course, simple needs to be fleshed out.

For example, although this is not all it means, the idea of missional certainly includes missions. Lesslie Newbigin and others have helpfully distinguished the terms mission and missions. Newbigin understood mission to be the all-embracing term that refers to the entire task for which the Church is sent into the world, and missions as the intentional activities designed to create a Christian presence in places where there is no such presence, or at least no effective presence. (1)

So, it’s a big word because it is a big mission.

In light of what I have noted above, I understand missional as the totality of embracing, embodying, and enacting God’s mission in the world.

While I am grateful for all the missional talk, articles, books, and conferences, I am still somewhat concerned about the fact that many don’t seem to fully understand the essence of missional. Andreas Köstenberger rightly concludes, “A church that is unsure of its mission will not be effective in carrying it out.” (2) That is exactly what we see in too many churches in the West.

Most church approaches to mission are still founded upon twentieth-century strategies, which find root in an Enlightenment imagination—if we work harder, create more strategies, and techniques, then we can reach more people. Churches often begin with themselves and how they—through their strategies, programs, and ministries—can reach more people.

Churches then function as the originators of mission, which ultimately leads to a of lack missional effectiveness.

So, let me be clear about effectiveness in this context.

Missional effectiveness is embracing the totality of the missio Dei—including its message, movement, and marks—and enacting it in the life of a local church and beyond.

Thus, missional effectiveness begins with the mission of God. It begins with the church asking itself what mission looks like to God and crafts its identity, nature, and practices around His mission.

To help challenge and encourage church leaders (and their churches) towards missional effectiveness, this blog series will discuss the message, movement, and modes of God’s mission. And it will then conclude with some application to the twenty-first-century church.

This article was originally posted at: