I often have this conversation with students at Asbury Theological Seminary:
"I am not planting a new church. God has called me to serve in an established congregation. How can I lead my church to transition from a maintenance mindset to a missional culture?"
This is a critical question for the existing congregations in the Western world. The West needs to be re-won for Jesus Christ, but the good news is that there are footholds and resources already in place from which to begin. But transforming established congregations is not an easy task--but it is a vital one as we seek to be faithful stewards of all that God has given.
The key is to create a new culture or ethos. We must establish a missional "go to" mentality in keeping with the Scriptural story rather than the traditional/maintenance "build it and they will come/wait and see."
The following are key transitional points that push this along:
1) Reintroduce the Apostolic story of Acts.
At the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), God began to turn the world upside down by unleashing a small group of persons whom God filled with the Holy Spirit. The Church launched that day in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28ff) as a movement of “dreamers and visionaries” empowered by the promised Holy Spirit from God.
Don’t pass over the phrase “dreamers and visionaries” too quickly. In many struggling churches, the people of God have lost the capacity to dream of what God might do in and through the community. One of the first steps in transitioning to a missional model is to help followers of Jesus Christ to begin to dream again dreams shaped by the Scriptures. We might call this a "'What If?' Future".
What is God calling us to do today? What would the future look like if we followed God's calling faithfully now?
2) Move from Surviving to Living.
Struggling churches are merely seeking to survive. When followers of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Spirit begin to dream again, they slowly begin to realize that survival isn’t a goal. Survival is a prison that keeps us from living. Survival simply means keeping the lights on. The goal of the Church of Jesus Christ is an abundant life in relationship to God by announcing and embodying God's kingdom in our communities. Living may sometimes means dying. Following Jesus Christ involves living as though you have already died (Matt 16:24). A vital relationship with Jesus moves us beyond fear of failure to following Jesus into the world on mission. This is the source of life. Apostolic dreams lead to apostolic action.
Regardless of our past, what new day is God calling us to live into now?
3) Move God’s people from consuming to becoming collaborative influencers for the Kingdom of God.
Missional churches are not about providing programs/resources to meet the needs of believers as as the purpose of the Church. Missional churches call people to convert to the Gospel. This involves a reorientation from a life focused on self to a life centered on following Jesus Christ. The people of God shift from consuming to becoming Kingdom-rooted entrepreneurs who seek to extend the influence and reign of God to the ends of the earth. Congregations shift from inviting people to have their needs met to unleashing people to change the world.
How is God calling our community to change the world?
4) Shift from Attractional Methods to Interactive Engagement.
Pray: Who is my/our mission and allow God to put faces and networks in your mind.
5) Three Missional Ideas that Any Community Can Adopt
a. Host Recovery/Healing Groups. Offer support for families/individuals who are grieving. Host 12 Step Groups for persons seeking help for addictive behavior (drugs, alcohol, sex, co-dedependency). Present Divorce recovery workshops.
b. Offer Debt Reduction/Financial Planning classes. Our world struggles with debt and money management. Missional churches can help by teaching clear principles for enjoying financial abundance. Dave Ramsey's materials are a great place to start.
c. Adopt local schools. Organize tutors and mentors for the schools in close proximity to your community of faith.
What would you add?
© 2015, 2017 Brian D. Russell (updated 7/26/17)