I am reading several books on discipleship and the mission of God as part of my DMin program. It is creating much angst in me on our lack of discipleship and the mission of God as the center of our lives and church. I am re-reading a book that impacted my thinking and helped to shape our mission statement ten years ago. We have done little to make a shift so that mission rather than ministry is the central driving force of the church. There is much written about the difficulty and viability of transitioning a traditional church to a missional one. I came across this statement today again and think herein lies one of our issues:
He [Crosby] noticed that in over 60 years of significant ministry, he had observed that no groups that came together around a non-missional purpose (i.e. prayer, worship, study, etc.) ever ended up becoming missional. That it was only those groups that set out to be missional in the first place (while embracing prayer, worship, study, etc. in the process) that actually got to doing it. This observation fits with all the research done by Carl George and others that indicate that the vast majority of church activities and groups, even in a healthy church, are aimed at the insiders and fail to address the missional issues facing the church in any situation.
If evangelizing and discipling the nations lie at the heart of the church’s purpose in the world, then it is mission, and not ministry, that is the true organizing principle of the church. Mission here, is being used in a narrow sense here to suggest the church’s orientation to the ‘outsiders’ and ministry as the orientation to the ‘insiders.’ Experience tells us that a church that aims at ministry seldom gets to mission even if it sincerely intends to do so. But the church that aims at mission will have to do ministry, because ministry is the means to do mission. Our services, our ministry, need a greater cause to keep it alive and give it is broader meaning. By planting the flag outside the walls and boundaries of the church, so to speak, the church discovers itself by rallying to it—this is mission. And in pursuing it we discover ourselves, and God, in a new way, and the nations both ‘see’ and hear the gospel and are saved. The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, p.235.
God, help our leadership to grasp your mission as the mission of our church and make the necessary changes to align ourselves and our ministry to your mission.