Why the missional church conversation? It seems to be a conversation that mostly involves the North American church rather than the universal church around the world. I think the reason why this whole conversation has emerged within the last decade is because we have finally begun to notice that the North American church is no longer really working for many of the younger generations. They are no longer seen in our churches. People have been leaving the church. Thus, the need for this conversation is a symptom of a bigger problem–and the problem is clear. We have not been the evangelizing church that we have been called to be. Furthermore, as a result, attendance in many churches, or at least our traditional and mainline churches, have been rapidly declining, even though our population has grown. We are now getting desperate.
The purpose in the missional church conversation is to discover a new ecclesiology for mission. In the old paradigm of mission, mission used to revolve around the institutional church, which is an ecclesioentric model. The newer paradigm of mission revolves around God’s mission, missio Dei, and must now be theocentric. In my readings, I’ve learned that this shift away from an ecclesiocentric to a theocentric model of mission has signalled a big change in the way we think about doing God’s mission in the world. This is a reflection of a much bigger change in society. Our North American society no longer values the institutional church like it once did. It is no longer the central point in our cities, towns and villages and has not been for a long time. In fact, churches have moved off the grid of significant institutions. Therefore, our expressions of spirituality have also moved off the grid and have been made more personal and private. Therefore, the way we do ministry and outreach should be from the world rather than from the church.
Who needs to be in this conversation? We already know that a huge shift has already happened and most progressive evangelical churches, e.g., seeker-sensitive, megachurches, have already began realigning themselves to a new paradigm. However, many of our traditional-mainline churches have not yet seen the light and we are still debating whether Christians should be doing evangelism. We are still operating under the old paradigm of an inward-looking ecclesiocentric model of church.
Let’s be missional! We can no longer afford to wait for the world to come to the church. It just won’t happen. It is we, the church, that must be the salt and light of the world; and we must go into the world rather than wait for the world to come to the church. The funny things is that our language and grammar still revolves around people going to, coming into, a place called church. We must think of ourselves as people going out into the world to do God’s work in the power of the Holy Spirit. The institutional church does not initiate or generate the work of God. It is God’s Holy Spirit who operates in the lives of people and Christ’s followers to do God’s work in the world.