What Does It Mean To Be Missional?


“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV)

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (NRSV)

God’s mission, the missio Dei, is the mission assigned to all believers. It is the mission of the Church, the Body of Christ. The basis of the mission of God within the Church is the equipping of those “missioners” to proclaim the Gospel to the lost and at the same time serve them by meeting any tangible needs of those whom they are trying to reach.

To be a follower of Jesus Christ means that you are called to be on mission. Going, as Jesus says, on mission is fundamental to the journey of discipleship and from day one when we should view ourselves as missionaries. Going on mission is not an optional extra – an upgrade for the “mature disciple.” In the New Testament, we see the continual train of followers of Jesus Christ sent out on mission. Jesus showed us that going on mission is something we can start doing from our earliest days of starting to follow Him. Bible study, training, equipping, and growth in maturity are vital, and often they can supercharge our mission efforts. In the same way, mission – like worship and fellowship – is an essential part of discipleship from the very start of our Christian journey. We understand that to develop a disciple, we must incorporate the emphasis of studying Jesus Christ teachings, obeying His commandments, and all things spiritual, with following Jesus Christ into the world to join Him in His redemptive mission.

In each of the four Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that His disciples are to go to the lost and that we are to make that the center of how we think, love, and live (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48; John 15:26-27).

Mission is following the Lord of the harvest into the fields, becoming the answer to His (and our own) prayers, “Send more workers into the fields” (Matthew 9:37-38).

Worship services alone cannot produce, train, and equip disciples. Jesus says going occurs in two related yet distinct forms: service, and witness. In Luke 9 and 10, Jesus sends out the disciples with the instruction to do three things: heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

We go as a community, inviting people into community. The under-girding theme of the Bible is covenant relationships. While we do have a personal witness, the evidence of the New Testament is that everything happened in teams. Jesus sent His disciples out in teams. The Acts of the Apostles show teamwork within almost every missionary venture, while we only have to read the greetings in the letters to see how highly Paul valued his team members.

As we read in the Gospels, Jesus had three great loves and thus three distinct dimensions of His life:

• Vertical: deep and connected relationship to his Father and attentiveness to the leading of the Holy Spirit
• Connection: constant investment in the relationships with those around Him (His disciples)
• Horizontal: entering the brokenness of the world, while looking for a response individually (people transformed by Jesus Christ)

Missional communities balance their energies between a vertical movement towards God, a connecting movement towards the missional community as a place of identity and a horizontal movement to represent Jesus Christ to their missional contexts. When they gather, they express this in creative ways that are appropriate to their context. There will be great diversity between groups in how this looks, with a variety of faces and voices given room to step forward and contribute what they can. It is important that they do not try to do a miniature version of a Sunday church service.

As we seek to go out and reach the lost with the Good News, Jesus gives us a simple strategy for doing just that. He tells us to look for the person who welcomes you, serves you, and responds to you. This person likes you and, probably, you like him or her. This person will in time prove to be a gatekeeper to a whole network, or neighborhood, of relationships. Therefore, once you recognize this person, you stay and intentionally invest in that relationship to see where God will take it.

“Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house!’ And if a peace-loving person is there, your peace will remain on him, but if not, it will return to you.” Luke 10:5-6 (NET)

In Luke 10:5-6 (also Luke 9, Matthew 10, and Mark 6), Jesus teaches His disciples to search out the person of peace. A person of peace is someone who:

• Welcomes you
• Receives you
• Listens to you
• Serves you
• Responds to you

We are to look and listen to discern where the Holy Spirit is already at work, as we go about our lives. One of the markers of a person of peace is that the individual often becomes a gatekeeper to his or her community. In other words, as Jesus Christ moves through you to change that person, he or she will then introduce you to his or her network of relationships, granting you favor, access, and opportunity with those people.
The invigorating part of meeting the person of peace is that it stops mission being yet another thing to cram into our busy lives. Instead, this is about bringing the Gospel where we already are – as we shop, play sports, collect the kids, go to work, meet the neighbors, etc. Thus, the healthiest missional communities are reaching out to their context in ways that feel natural and life giving.

In conclusion, let us use the Lord’s Prayer to help us pray about our missional community:

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)

• The Father’s character – He is the giving, generous, going, searching, community-building Father. What other names of God are relevant for your situation?

• The Father’s kingdom – His will is for the Kingdom to come into our city. Talk with Him about particular people and place that especially need this.

• The Father’s provision – He WILL provide all that is needed… by you, your church, your leaders, your mission, your city. Ask for specific needs and expect him to provide.

• The Father’s forgiveness – He loves to help us to change from old to new ways. From what specific attitudes and actions do we need to repent?

• The Father’s guidance – He will lead you. Where is the Father at work and where can we join Him?

• The Father’s protection – He protects us against the wiles of the enemy. Talk with Him about specific areas of concern.

• The Father’s Sovereignty – He is the Sovereign Lord. He rules and reigns over everyone and everything. He has all power. To God all glory, honor, and praise are due.