The ‘Missional’ Noughties Are Over… So What Now?…

I have a feeling that in church world the noughties will get remembered as the decade when mission got brought back on the agenda wholeheartedly.

What began with alt worship and asking how do we reach ‘Gen X’ (remember that?…) morphed into a much bigger and important missiological question – who are we as the church and what are we doing anyway? It doesn’t get any bigger!

While different ecclesiologies came at their understanding of mission from their different perspectives, we increasingly agreed that the church needed to move from a fairly passive and programmatic approach to outreach into a much broader and holistic understanding of how we engage in the world as the people of God. Mission moved well beyond pure evangelism and proselytism and became concerned with the whole of the gospel, with the environment, the poor and with everyday life to name a few areas.

Still not all would share the idea of the ‘gospel of the kingdom’, seeing it as in conflict with the ‘gospel of the cross’, (I see them integrated) but my own framework and thinking expanded significantly to be able to see some of God’s bigger picture and what that meant for our mission.

FWIW, I still find the term ‘missional church’ an absurdity – like a ‘goal kicking football team’ – or a ‘stand up surfer’ (boogers are not real surfers 🙂 ), but obviously it was the correction we had to have because we had become so inward looking and self focused.

But now I am wondering if we are ‘moving on’?…

I don’t mean that in the sense that we no longer care about mission, but rather that we have sufficiently ‘got it’ and are in the process of implementing, so the conversation is now less pertinent or stimulating. This could just be my own experience as I find less desire to think/blog/discuss in the area of mission but I sense it may be wider.

I remember being part of local missional networks, blogger chats and all sorts of forums online and offline in the early noughties, but no one seems to want these forums these days. I remember when missional thinking that challenged established paradigms met with vociferous opposition, but these days our own Baptist publications from Crossover encourage and endorse a much broader missiology than ever before.

Of course, let’s not think we all mean the same thing when we use the word ‘mission’, but I don’t think you could talk with a church leader anywhere these days who is ignorant of the missional conversation. A fair swag of churchgoers are keyed into it too, but not to the same extent.

While the idea of ‘engaging with the world’, ‘sending people’ to their local communities and ‘mission’ rather than ‘missions’ (overseas) did meet with some opposition, we now seem to be over that hump. The innovators and early adopters have done their work and in typical change mode the ‘crowd’ and the ‘laggards’ are coming along.

So I find myself wondering if God is up to something else. While we get on with the job of being the missional communities we have spoken about for so long what is he brewing up in the background and what will he challenge us with next?

Is it just me?…

5 thoughts on “The ‘Missional’ Noughties Are Over… So What Now?…

  1. Honestly, no, I don’t think we’re past it as a global church. I think we need to keep saying it over and over and over again in as many unique and creative ways as we can think of and when we’re tired of hearing it, be worried that we’re tired of it. The most basic message behind the missional movement is “it’s not about you, grow up and think about others for a change” … and it’s not a message we’ll ever REALLY get because that’s not how we’re wired. It is possible that this is an issue for just my local context because very few people here actually care about learning the language of others to then go out and love them in ways that are understood by the target audience … the message hasn’t even begun to permeate the church here!

  2. I’m with Chris on this …

    It’s not the Church has changed – but our group of fellow travellers has, it appears that we are ALL on the same page, not so, we’re on a different road.

    Until the building and all that involves stops owning the Church maybe then will we see change …

  3. Hi Fellas – really appreciate the thoughts – and I reckon you might be right. As one of those of us who has been banging the drum for a while it may be that I am just tiring of telling people the same thing again and again and again… and again…

    But I think its true that if missional = unselfish we never really get it.


  4. I don’t think we’re anything like done. the “missional conversation” is only just hitting the fringes of most of the major denominations with daily life still much more focussed on being “worship shaped” rather than “mission shaped”. when in those contexts its still all about money, ministers, property and sunday mornings…..and it mostly is…..there is plenty of banging the drum still to be done.

    don’t give up yet hammo, there are plenty of people out there who need to hear a different view

  5. I don’t have much perspective on “The Church” in Perth these days, being more involved in neighbourhood stuff, but in my limited experience I think you’ve basically summed it up – the ideas and insights of the 00’s are partly absorbed into the mainstream and partly too hard to leave the plasma TV or dazzling worship experience for. The New Millenium and Sept 11 had some kind of spiritual effect at the time, but we’ve settled down now, and there’s not so much impetus to attend forums or training events.

    Less cynically, I think alt worship did have a grounding effect on worship hype, and broadened the imagination of what _can_ constitute worship but without changing the basic pattern of mostly singing.

    Also social justice became more mainstream over the decade, with Make Poverty History, Millenium Dev Goals, Drop the Debt, Bono having conversations with Bill Hybels and world leaders (including AIDS in Africa), Jim Wallis declared in Time Magazine “The era of the Religious Right is now past” and Riverview began talking more about serving in practical ways.

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