A Missional Church’s Mission

It starts simply. Most movements do. It starts with the awareness that there must be more to do in our witness to God’s presence in our lives and the world. First there’s an itch that seeks a scratch. Many churches know of the seeking, especially those churches that have exit signs in their parking lots that read, “You Are Now Entering the Mission Field.” But relieving the itch is not accomplished by simply exiting the church’s neighborhood and going to homes insulated by distance.

This is what the Purity Presbyterian Church in Chester, SC, learned when they explored Scripture that focused on Jesus’ sending the Disciples into villages to live and work with no promise of success (e.g. Luke 10:1-12). The Purity disciples set about the task to discern crucial needs in their community. Food became an obvious necessity that went wanting for many in Chester. Further discernment led the group to decide to build a community garden near the church in a lot that was also near public housing. There was considerable learning involved in the construction of raised beds and the development of fertile soil, but the church and neighborhood came together to produce considerable amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits. The first garden has grown to four, including one at the Chester County jail. Scores of people are now fed from the growth of this mission.

“It was messy at times,” says Purity’s pastor, Rev. Trey Hegar. “We were living lives to grow food and relationships with people we did not know. There was plowing, composting, building beds and learning about the needs of crops. But the purpose of it all was furthering the Kingdom of God by helping people learn to love their neighbors.”
Missional leadership calls for three basics: a clear theology; established practices; a context. Theologically, humans occupy an “in-between” space. On one side is the physical Creation in which we abide physically and in relationship with other humans. On the other side is the reality of being God’s own people filled with the very breath of God’s Spirit and created to represent the reality of God. From this in-between spot we can ask the crucial question, “What is God doing in the world today?”

To discern the answer to this question take practice: dwelling in Scripture; prayer; carefully listening to what people say about their lives; regularly giving hospitality to the stranger. These practices grow missional leaders who recognize that leadership is not about organizational structure but about the leader modeling patterns and habits of life.

The missional leader will focus on context by cultivating a continuing relationship of awareness and understanding of the people, neighborhood, and changing issues within the community. This recognizes that congregations are embedded in neighborhoods that are complex. Multiple stories vie for people’s allegiance and manage to coexist. Leaders help congregations come to witness to the Gospel in a fragmented, pluralized setting. The missional endeavor will present a fresh manner of being signs of God’s love and presence.

Rev. Hegar puts it this way: “Furthering the Kingdom of God is helping people learn to love their neighbors by going outside the church’s walls to be with neighbors. There is no agenda; no expectation of gaining members or increasing the budget. It’s simply building relationships and building the Kingdom of God.”

Missional folk are certain that God’s future looks for an opening in the imagination of the people of God as a way to bring in the Kingdom. That future is present but dormant in the ordinary “in-betweeness” of the people. It is simply itching for a way into the world.

Missional leadership helps open the doors for that entry.

Alan Arnold is a pastor, a trained life coach, a certified Disciple Development Coach and certified People Map trainer. He is associated with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and can be reached at alana@pinnaclelead.com. Feel free to contact Alan for coaching, consulting, and training related to Missional transitions and he will assist you in identifying what kind of services are best suited to address your needs. 803.240.9683