Friday, April 3, 2009

Be the Church

Today concludes a series of posts celebrating the anniversary of Church Unique, a book by Will Mancini. Mancini, a former pastor, is the founder of Auxano, a national consulting group whose mission is to navigate leaders through growth challenges with vision clarity. Church Unique outlines the processes that Mancini and the “navigators” at Auxano use in working with all types of churches. The book was published a year ago, and is powerfully impacting churches all over the country. Here are some more thoughts from Mancini that you will find applicable to your church.

The idea of the missional church has single-handedly captured the imagination of church leaders of all backgrounds and denominations. But what does it mean? I’ve spoken with pastors and leaders across the country, attended several conferences and workshops, and read more than a dozen books on the topic. Mancini’s definition of missional is a simple, but challenging one:

“Missional” is a way of thinking that challenges the church to re-form and reforge its self-understanding (theologically, spiritually, and socially) so that it can relearn how to live and proclaim the gospel in the world. Church is not something you do or a place you go, but what you are.

Three dynamics illustrate the missional characteristics being seen in churches today.

From Doing to Being
The missional reorientation represents an important shift in focus from methodology to identity. In this post-Christian era, the question of church identity becomes “Now that our influence is gone, how do we reshape our self-understanding so we can be like Christ in the world?”

Attractional vs. Incarnational
Attractional means that the church’s basic strategy for reaching the lost revolves around getting “seekers” or the “unchurched” into the church building. Once inside, the opportunity to present the gospel defines the primary opportunity for evangelism. In contrast, the Incarnational emphasis of the missional mindset focuses on living and sharing the gospel “where life happens.” Importance is placed on the church “disassembling” itself for the primary work of evangelism in the nooks and crannies of everyday life.

Lost People: Prospects, or the People Jesus Misses Most?
A church’s language about the people it wants to reach quickly identifies an attractional or incarnational mind-set. Growing up Southern Baptist (attending, educated, and serving on staff), I am very familiar with the term used: prospects. The implication is that the church defines success as “selling” the church and getting people to join. But the heartbeat of the missional church has found different language to carry a renewed identity of being sent. Jim Henderson, a megachurch pastor and author, suggests that the emphasis in the parables of the lost sheep and coin is not on what they feel, but what God the Father feels. Henderson adapted his language to say that unbelievers are not lost; they are “the people Jesus misses most.” The shift in language assumes that followers of Christ will likewise have people they miss most, and will inspired and oriented towards actions in the lives of these people.

This brief discussion of the missional church is but one of literally dozens of learning opportunities you will find in Church Unique. I encourage all church leaders to obtain this resource immediately, and dive into the discovery process of what makes your church – unique.

No comments: