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.

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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.

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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: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/towards-missional-effectiveness-analogizing-and-applying-mi.html

 

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Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Movements of God’s Mission – Part 3 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

The mission of God is attractional and incarnational.

I don’t know why, but I have a fascination with yo-yos. Now, I can’t yo-yo. Nevertheless, I find it amusing and entertaining as a skilled yo-yoer (if I can use that term) cast the yo-yo out with great rhythmic force only to have it return with an energetic bounce to be cast back out and to come back to its starting place.

I often use the yo-yo and it’s movement as a way to describe God’s mission. Just as a yo-yo, when properly used, has a ‘going out’ and ‘coming in’ function, so too does God’s mission. Missiologists sometimes refer to this going out and coming in as the centripetal and centrifugal forces (movements) of God’s mission.

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The Centripetal Movement of God’s Mission

The centripetal movement (coming in) of God’s mission is most clearly seen in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel. God placed Israel in the middle of the nations. In the Promised Land they were called to be a light to the nations—to live so that the nations would be drawn to Jerusalem (see Exod. 19:5–6; Deut. 28:10; Isa. 49:6). As Israel embodied and enacted the life of God (i.e., the Kingdom of God), they were to be an ‘attractive sign’ to a watching world.

The centripetal movement of God’s mission remains as part of God’s missional call for the New Testament people of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers, “You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world. . . .[L]et you light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:13, 14, 16). Peter uses similar language found in his epistle (1 Pet. 2:9–12).

The centripetal force of mission expresses that mission isn’t only about going or doing (missions), it’s also about being. Thus, the identity and nature of God’s people manifested in the way they live out the cultural mandate, the Great Commandment, and their relationship with God becomes an attractional missional element among a lost and dying world.

The Centrifugal Movement of God’s Mission

The centrifugal movement (going out) of God’s mission is most clearly seen in the New Testament—although it is present in the OT in places like Joshua 2, Jeremiah 27 and 29, and Jonah. However, in a more pronounced way, Jesus introduces the paradigm shift of going out when He gives the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 1:8).

The Great Commission teaches that God’s mission isn’t just local, but global. And it is not the globe’s responsibility to come to the area where the local church resides, but the church’s responsibility to go to the globe.

The Great Commission (as well as Acts 1:8) is commenced in the Book of Acts and is to be continued today. Rather than people coming to Jerusalem, the believers went out from Jerusalem. Some have taken Acts 1:8 and created a (centrifugal) missions strategy that includes local missions, domestic missions, and international missions.

While I think this is helpful, I would also like for us to think about Acts 1:8 as a cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, and cross-racial mission. In other words, the Jewish believers were to centrifugally cross cultural, ethnic, and racial boundaries in order to share the gospel with those far from God.

This is an important point for believers living in an urban context—not to mention for all Christians given that we live in a globalized world. Over the last half-century, our world has experienced urbanization—an influx of people moving into cities.

Thus, our cities and their metro-plexes contain much diversity—they are typically multicultural, multiethnic, and multiracial. And the reality is that diversity isn’t slowing down; if anything, it’s accelerating. Those living in or around urban centers may encounter their own Jerusalemites, Judeans, Samarians, and foreigners.

The following is a chart to help understand the differences between the diverse groups—which are not only found throughout the world, but also where we live, work, and play—the Church was and is centrifugally called to reach all, simultaneousy.

Note that Acts 1:8 is an outline of the book of Acts, not an order that we follow. In other words, we don’t first reach our Jerusalem, then our Judea, and so on.

We are already, now, at the ends of the earth. The mission is from everywhere and to everywhere.

But there are some things we can still learn about the kind of people we are to reach. Here’s one way to think of it.

  • Jerusalem – Any location within the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith.
  • Judea – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith, but shares a common worldview.
  • Samaria – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith that has a slightly differing worldview, are often unappreciated and even disliked, but shares some commonalities with you.
  • Ends of the Earth – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith that has a radically differing worldview with few, if any, commonalities.

Let me sum this up.

God’s mission moves two ways.

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First, it moves “attractionally” (magnetically) through the transformed lives of His people. Thus, it’s important for churches to teach and equip believers to live transformed, godly lives that are centered on King Jesus and that demonstrate His kingdom ethics. The mission of attractional living can and does lead to those far from God asking, “What must I do to be saved?”

Second, God’s mission moves “incarnationally” (externally) through God’s people being sent to a lost, dying, and diverse world. Thus, it’s important for churches to teach, equip, exhort, and provide avenues for believers to participate in God’s worldwide mission of reaching those far from God, a movement that begins with neighbors but that moves to the nations.

The mission of incarnational living can and does lead to the ingathering of all nations into one people—a people from every tribe, nation, tongue, and people group (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).

Next time, I will talk about the mark of a missional community.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/december/towards-missional-effectiveness-movements-of-gods-mission-p.html