Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Missional Church: Small is Big

I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion last evening about what “Missional Church” means. This was a joint discussion with a group visiting here from the eGoli, South Africa Presbytery. The discussion was led by Pastor Maricarmen Castro and three of our eGoli guests.

Maricarmen started off with some definitions as she tried to contrast the meaning of missional with what most of us in church think of as missions. In my experience this has been a difficult challenge and last evening was no different. The major difference is that each of us is individually called to be a missionary in sharing the Gospel; it is not just the Pastor’s or the Church’s job. This was summed up well with the concept of taking the Gospel outside the church, not just inviting others into the church. The other key point was that sharing the Gospel missionally is not to be confused only with acts of service in our efforts to combat social injustice and poverty. As you can tell from my description this concept is hard for us to grasp and convey, particularly to those steeped in church tradition. But I think it might become clearer if I tell you what I heard unfolding in the following discussions.

Questions from the floor centered on two things, the first being “How do we do this?” To me this revolves around our feeling inadequate to explain and teach the Gospel. The second question centered on “How do we get our church to do this?” To me this revolves around us still thinking in terms of this being a church program. One gentleman’s question about how to convince his church to continue in an effort when there were only a couple of individual “successes” generated a good deal of follow on discussion. As this was playing out it became obvious to me that, in true American fashion, we were thinking BIG. Individually we were thinking we are not equipped to convert anybody. Corporately we were striving for the big program.

The answer popped out to me; in the Missional Church small is big! God is not asking us to convert anybody. He is only asking for us to share “what we’ve seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20) Individually we are called to share what having a relationship with Jesus has done in our lives, period, God will do the rest. You can’t convince your church to change or to continue seemingly inefficient ministries with grand rhetoric. But you can tell the simple story of how you’ve seen God change lives. Our stories are as small as the boy who faithfully offered five loaves and two fish (John 6:9) and with that Jesus fed 5000! It is as small as Maricarmen’s challenge to doing something nice for a neighbor and watching how God can use that.

So be God’s messenger. Go out and do something SMALL and let God do the BIG lifting!