“Missional” is a new word that First Baptist is just starting to learn about. (Don’t worry! “Missional” is a new enough word that the word is still catching on in seminaries and denominational offices, so just think, you’re ahead of the curve!) Thanks to a weekend in early February with Dr. Ron Carlson of ABC National Ministries, we began a conversation that I hope will continue onwards as the transitional time unfolds. Indeed, if we live out the definition of “missional” as a congregation, and even as individual disciples of Christ, we will experience great things. A church that is “missional” is defined by Dr. Carlson in this way:
“A community of faith which directs
its ministry focus primarily outward
toward the context in which it is located
and to the broader world beyond.”
To help us understand this definition, think about being “a missional church” in this way: For years, the emphasis of many churches has been to worry about declining numbers rather than figuring out how to utilize the creativity, gifts, and talents of those who are already faithful members of the congregation. Worrying about the pew that is empty has not allowed us to look at those already in the pews.
Becoming a missional church also asks the church to understand its identity anew. When you think of the church and its ministry, is it a fairly static understanding that has not changed for as long as you can remember? Does the phrase “mission field” sound like somewhere far, far away, and in turn, no place that we would expect to find ourselves?
Missional churches look at their community intentionally as a mission field and their ministries as more the result of creative thinking and praying about “how can we reach people and meet their needs?” Being this sort of church is to be less about worrying about “keeping the doors open” in the sense of maintaining an aging institution and more about keeping the church current by addressing the changing needs of the community.
Think of this sort of church as leaven in a loaf of bread. Jesus called the “reign of God” as such. A missional church finds little ways to effect the bigger picture, perhaps in small, sometimes imperceptible ways. Rather than being on edge about if there’s a tomorrow, a “missional” minded church is able to live “on the edge” of where the gospel is needed most.
Some of these initiatives can be the work of our existing boards and committees, however, a missional type church gives permission for “the whole people of God” to get involved. We will be offering another weekend with Dr. Carlson in the early part of summer to learn about how to organize “mission teams”, a group of people interested in tackling a particular issue or need—perhaps a team comprised of members of First Baptist as well as others in the community who would help resource the need being addressed, and in turn, learn that faith can indeed connect with these critical issues.
One way that First Baptist can become involved in missional ways is by tackling the issue of poverty in our community. Later this summer (June 27-28), American Baptists will gather in Washington, DC, for a conference called “Seeing the Children—Transforming the Church”, a national two-day event helping congregations engage their communities around the issue of children in poverty. We are hoping to send several congregants to this event, and in return, help those congregants put into action some of the ideas that they learn. If you would like to help underwrite the expenses of these folks, please send your donation marked “Poverty Conference” to the church, and we will help provide some assistance to our folks going to DC this summer.