Missional Broccili?

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.

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About Trevor Lee

Proud to be the husband of a wonderful wife and the father of two great kids. I love to hang out with them, hang out with others, read, lis

Posted on April 27, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Can’t the same be said of Christ-following in general since Constantine? When it was a fringe movement, it had subversive power to the maximum and Constantine made it an innocuous state religion.

  2. Yeah, in essence I think most of the elements of missional are trying to get at being a Jesus-centered movement and faith.

  3. Great observations from both of you. Reminds me of the research on the church-sect continuum (sociology of religion topic), which basically states that all new religious movements tend to naturally drift toward institutionalization or mainstream practice. Most denominations started as movements intended to right the perceived wrongs of established religion, but ultimately became that themselves. That is often why the ‘first generation’ of a particular movement is more invested and ‘pure’ than succeeding generations, which dilute the original intent and purposes that spawned the movement to begin with. Bottom line??— it will be increasingly likely for the missional movement to be eroded from the original passion and intent of the movment’s pioneers, often becoming a convenient slogan that is slapped on to mainstream activities (such as the ones you mentioned, Trevor).
    Thanks again, Trevor, for sparking thinking that can help us all to become more kingdom-minded. And thanks to you, Ryan, for highlighting the all-too-present historical drift toward conforming to the patterns of this world that faith needs to fight.

  4. Good post Trevor. I was enjoying your analogies….”It’s like making one three pointer and then saying you’re a shooter.” Oh wait, I really am a shooter!

    What’s interesting is this phenomenon isn’t reserved for the church. Out human tendencies is to “institutionalize” everything and ultimately move further and further away from the organic, fringe movement that started it. Drive down main street America today and you will see our streets lined with the reminders of what we do with these movements.

    Starbucks, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, JC Penney, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC (or KGC now), and the list goes on and on. If you were to trace back to the beginning of each of these companies they all started out as a “ma and pa” operation with one goal of creating a great experience for their customers; being a local business owner; a member of their community; providing for their families; fulfilling a passion; realizing a dream. Now look at them…..

    My point is only to validate your point. We have this tendency to do this in all arenas of our life.

    But I wonder if we do this because we are ultimately trying to fill the ache in our hearts to be in the perfect kingdom that we were created to dwell in? So we strive so hard to create something bigger than ourselves. Unfortunately in return we end up creating a cheap substitute rather than staying on the fringe (and I’m not talking about McDonald’s anymore).

    So, next time I go to an Easter service, get my cup of Starbucks out of the “Solid Rock” cafe in the lobby and say hi to a few people as I watch my kids scurry to pick up thousands of Easter eggs that were just dropped out of the sky from a helicopter, I will ponder at the marvelous advancements we have made through the power of innovation and how far we have come from the fringy movement that Jesus began.

    Or I may just cry instead.

  5. It is true that movements seem to inevitably move toward the institutionalization and lose their initial passion and values. Reminds me of Jesus’ words in Revelation, “You have forsaken your first love.” We slowly fall more in love with the creations of our own hands than the power and glory of God.

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