I first became acquainted with the word “missional” a little over two years ago reading The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. Since then it has been a concept that has grabbed me and shaped me. God has used many of the “missional” writers and practitioners to cause me to view my faith in a much more holistic, sacrifical, unified, demanding, and fulfilling way. The word “missional” on a basic level is used to signify that the one true God is a God of mission, seen most clearly in the incarnation of Jesus, and continued in the power of the Holy Spirit today. Therefore, if anyone follows him that person will join in the mission of redemption he has started, made possible, and is continuing.
But like any concept that becomes somewhat popular, people have taken the word “missional” and twisted into something much less than what it began as. Maybe it’s sort of like the trend to be “green.” Being green started as a fringe movement of people radically committed to the health of our planet. Now I can go green by choosing not to put a sleeve on my paper coffee cup in the morning. I’m not saying the latter is bad (other than the resulting burn marks on your hand), just that it’s a far cry from where green started. Missional has tred a similar path. It began as a word that described people who were seeking to be fully and radically devoted to following the path of Jesus and his mission. Now you can be missional by hosting an Easter egg hunt at your church. Again, that’s not bad, just quite a ways away from the beginnings.
One of the negitive consequences of the dilution of the word/concept “missional” is that people can view isolated actions in their lives as missional and give themselves a nice pat on the back for it. For instance, a family might get involved serving in a soup kitchen and forming relationships with the people who come once a month and say that is being missional. I’d agree that it is, but what if that same family spent 99% of the rest of that month focused on themselves, pulling in and out of their garage without acknowledging their neighbors, indulging in gaming systems and luxury trips, slipping in and out of a church gathering, and generally living a life of narcissism? But they’re still missional because they have that one thing they can point to. Watered down, and destroyed in the process.
It’s kind of like eating fast food six times a day and then downing a piece of broccili before bed and saying you eat healthy. Or getting up in the morning, taking a lap around your house, then plopping your caboose on the couch and saying you’re in shape. Or learning to count to five in Spanish and then saying you speak it. (I’m enjoying these, you can skip ahead if you’re not.) Or doing a crunch and then ringing your neighbor’s doorbell to show them your “abs.” Or going through a discipleship curriculum and saying you’re a “mature believer.”
Okay, the point is made. I think we’re called to be missional in the deepest sense of that word if we are followers of Jesus. I don’t think it’s an option. We should quit watering it down to make it comfortable enough that we’ll all embrace it.