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February 14, 2008

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greg

Great post Jay!

Jason

Good stuff as usual.

As I assemble a launch team this is something I'm definitely keeping in mind.

One of the questions I ask Christians who seem interested is how many non-Christian friends they have? And how much interaction they have with them.

Looking forward to meeting you Jay.

Mike Thompson

Just a question to ponder. The disciples were not missional until they met Jesus. After meeting Jesus He gave them a new way of doing life. Could it be that we are expecting people to be missional, but not changing the way we do life? Could it be that if the church were to be truly missional and not just talk about it that people could be taught to be missional? I have no answer here, but you raise a good question and I would love to dialogue more about it.

Ron Geyer

Sorry, chief; I don't buy this one (of course, I could be one of the folks you've given up on). Your premise is, effectively, that people can't change (or be changed). I think Mike Thompson's observation is on track.

Reg Bertrand

Great post!

Brandon Johnson

"So many of us think we can turn off-mission people into missional people. The truth is, you can't."

So does that mean that people who are not yet believers but become believers can't become missional? Because right now they're not missional - or are they? Maybe missional needs to be more clearly defined? (I bet if you ask 100 people what missional means you'll get 100 different responses - sometimes it seems like just another "buzz word" within Christianity)

While I wholeheartedly agree that it is not in the best interest of a leader to spend too much time focusing on the wrong group of people, we must be careful not to assume that simply because someone is not missional now that they will never be that way. In my opinion, it's unwise to think that way. The minute we do, we've isolated a certain segment of the population. Is that missional? Furthermore, dismissing off-missional people and saying they will won't change provides a built in excuse for poor leadership (If the people won't change, it's a people problem and not a leader problem). It's certainly true that some people won't change but too many leaders are quick to turn the mirror toward the people instead of themselves.

I think this is a great conversation to have. However, it's probably not as black and white as we might like it to be.

Ray Brock

Jay,
What you are describing is what happened at the church that I serve in. Several came disguised as missional and talked the talk but when it came to really being and doing, they walked out, kicking and screaming and split the church. Even "leadership" sometimes where's this mask. To everyone planting... pick leadership really slowly, even in desperate times, and explain "your" definition of missional.

jay hardwick

understand my motivation for this post – i am a church planter and many of my friends are church planters. my heart hurts for my friends who are bent sideways or have had to close down a church as a result of an off-mission culture. i have experienced this myself.

i promise, i'm not trying to write a book. but, i do want to respond as well as i can.

@greg - thanks!

@jason - great question to ask! see you next week in cumming!

@mike - great questions. and, great example in the disciples...proof that people absolutely can be taught a new way of doing life. the challenge for us in starting churches is establishing this new way of doing life as the controlling DNA/culture of the church. we've learned that DNA is set very early on and thus, the people who pull up to the table in the beginning will set the DNA for the future. missional people create missional DNA that in turn creates more missional people.

also, Jesus sought out the disciples, not the other way around. and when He called, they followed with no "what's in it for me" strings attached. often, off-mission people will show up early on and have some strings attached for the kind of ministry you should have.

@ron - i promise, i haven't given up on you...no reason to. :-) you've stretched me many times to think more missionally. and yes, i do think people can change. how else do we have any hope?

once the DNA is set, sure...come one, come all. the culture will weed out or motivate and develop on it's own. but in the beginning, we have to be picky.

@reg - thanks! stay warm!

@brandon - thanks for your thoughtful contribution. i think i said in my post that often the most missional people are those who have recently met Jesus. the reason is that the gospel is white hot to them and they are still very closely connected to and deeply care about their unbelieving friends. not-yet Christians who are nearing surrender and brand new Jesus-followers are the most likely of candidates to be taught a missional lifestyle and actually embrace it to the fullest.

i do not assume that a person who is off-mission will always be that way. i do know from personal experience and from the stories of my friends that it is unbelievably hard and can become dangerously distracting to invest personal energy trying to convince a Christian who doesn't know any lost people, doesn't know their neighbors, doesn't give generously, etc., but has been chairman of ____committee and been a deacon for _____ years that something is amiss in their life. i think that work is best left to the Holy Spirit and a dominating culture that will not allow or embrace that kind of lifestyle...not because a dictatorial leader says so, but because the prevailing culture says so.

your point about leadership is spot on and i agree. we blame entirely too much on people when the people are products of the faulty systems we create. but, the systems are part of the DNA that is established early on. if we create systems with missional people, we will create missional systems that will not allow off-missional priorities to invade or be produced.

@ray - thanks for sharing your story. you were on my mind when i wrote this post.

to conclude...my caution to church planters is to be very, very careful about who gets a seat at the table in the very beginning of a church plant. that is arguably the most difficult and most important decision you will ever make.

Rich Barrett

Thanks, Jay. I needed that this morning.

Would love to see you again sometime. Are you planning to be at DRIVE?

Jason Stewart

Hey Jay. Great insight. I just sent this post to some friends who are launching a church and wrestling with this concept of missional as they develop a core team. At my church, we just finished an event where we called the church to fast and pray for three days as we sought the heart of God. What we have found when we do this is we see God's heart for the nations and God beginning to transform people's heart for the nations.

Mike Watkins

As a missionary this has always been an issue. We require our initial teem members to be missional in their home countries before they get on the plane. We also do most of our outreach work through the new believers because they are the only ones who still have unbelievers for friends.

Many Christians serve faithfully β€œin” their churches but can be so church-oriented that they lose all instinct to reach those around them. I am all for creative outreach ideas, but before any of them can get off the ground those who take part must already have a missional lifestyle.

Thanks for the insight on this subject and God bless.

Kirk Whitworth

Hey Jay, thanks for this post. Two thoughts stand in my mind though. The first is that people aren't born to be outwardly, evangelistically focused (which is what you and your friend mean by missional). The reason why my church is evangelistically minded is because our people have been taught to love deeply the gospel, not simply as the way people get saved, but as what the whole Christian life is about. Gospel-loving people become lost-loving people, in my experience. But if they only see the gospel being about how they got saved, and not about all of the Christian life, the gospel gets put in a box that someone else may need, but they never feel passionately about. The solution for apathy towards evangelism, I am convinced, is greater love for the gospel.

It's also true, from my limited observations, that "missional" churches can tend to be so focused on the mission to the lost outwardly that they forget that the church is not ONLY about mission...it's about fellowship with other believers inwardly as well, and fellowship (and therefore worship) of God upwardly. That's not to say this is true of every church that claims to be missional, but I think it is a fair general observation. The mission is critically important, but it isn't everything, and I sometimes fear that many churches that speak of being "missional" can tend to miss the bigger picture of the church as a place not only for preaching the gospel to the lost, but of preaching the gospel to all believers and of praising God FOR the gospel. In my own life, when I find my evangelism waning, the problem is typically a lack of gratitude for the good news that Christ has died in my place as the propitiation for my sins. Such good news can only propel someone outward and upward!

I haven't talked with your friend about his experience yet, but my first question would be how his folks had been doing at connecting the gospel to all of life. I had not idea what that even meant until I left SC.

Just some late night thoughts. Love to hear any other thoughts you might have regarding my comments.

Kirk Whitworth

(Oh, and CJ Mahaney's book, Living the Cross Centered Life, is all about this idea of connecting the gospel to all of life...to make a plug for one of my living heroes!)

jay hardwick

kirk -

insightful comments...thanks for sharing your thoughts.

for the most part, i agree with your comments...our differences probably lie more in semantics and meanings than actual principle and truth.

i do believe that many who sit in church pews and seats week after week have a very narrow view of the gospel. we've created and handed down a compartmentalized gospel that Jesus never personified or taught. this is especially true in the south. which is why involving really great church people who are terrible missional people early on in your church plant can be the kiss of death.

now, the possibilities are limitless with people who are far from God or have just recently surrendered their lives to Jesus. they don't have the compartmentalized baggage that long-time church people have. a pastor-friend in vegas left the south for this very reason and planted a church in vegas that is largely taking people far from God and turning them into whole gospel believing and living people engaged in authentic community and effective mission in the harvest.

i agree with you too on the connection between authentic community and effective mission. outsiders are dying for relationships characterized by hope, trust, love, forgiveness, mercy, care, accountability, etc. the church is supposed to be the picture of all the above...and when we are, we want everyone we know to get in on it. that's why Jesus said the world will know we are His if we love one another.

in my columbia friend's case, people didn't want to connect to the whole gospel. and he tried. they wanted cool church with cool music and a cool kids gig. nothing wrong with that, except when it is disconnected from the missional gospel and connected to my selfish wants and desires. it was all about them, not those who were not yet a part of "them."

the bottom line for me is that one cannot be a follower of Jesus without going and serving. i don't care what church you go to. if you truly are following Jesus, He is leading you into mission. we either go or we don't. our decisions on this say a lot about who we are really living our lives for.

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