Tuesday, March 31, 2015

From Maintenance to Missional: Transitioning Established Churches into Kingdom Outposts

 Pastors often ask me, “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?”

I believe that this is the key question for existing communities of faith in the Western world. Every day in the Western world there are 5000 less Christians. This means that the West needs to be re-won for Jesus Christ. But there is good news. Footholds and resources are already in place from which to begin. Transitioning established congregations is not an easy task—but it is an essential one as we seek to be faithful stewards of all that God has given. 

Here are some thoughts:

The key is to create a new culture. I have written elsewhere about viewing leadership in the 21st century in terms of shaping ethos. The following are key transitional points that push this along:

1) Reintroduce the Apostolic story of Acts. At the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), a small group of persons whom God filled with the Holy Spirit began to turn the world upside down. The Church launched that day in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy was 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.

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 a group from living. The goal of the Church of Jesus Christ is life in relationship to God. 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 to follow Jesus into the world on mission. This is the source of life.  Apostolic dreams lead to apostolic action.

3) Move God’s people from consumers of religious services to becoming collaborative influences for the Kingdom of God.
Missional churches are not about providing programs/resources to meet “felt needs” as ends in themselves. 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.

4) Shift from Attractional Methods to Interactive Engagement.
Too many churches wait for people to show up at the door.  Missional churches are not opposed to advertising or raising awareness of the community of faith, but they do not sit round waiting for the World to show up. Instead, missional churches collaborate and envision ways to engage new Social networks. This is a key shift. The World no longer serves as a threat from which followers of Christ flee. Instead, the World becomes the venue for life and service in God’s mission. By engaging the world, we recapture the biblical vision of reaching the ends of the earth with the good news.

What are your thoughts?

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

Need a curriculum that helps trains disciples for mission rather than maintenance. Check out Invitation. Invitation introduces the narrative framework of Scripture through the lens of mission, character and community. Participants in the study will discover the missional DNA of the Christ following movement and learn to find themselves in the story of God's mission for humanity and all creation.

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