Missional Capacity: Set My People Free!

So many Christ-followers are caught up in the missional church movement, discovering new energy and life in their spiritual journeys. They are
praying the Lord’s Prayer with new perspective, actually believing God intends to bring the kingdom to earth, as it is in heaven. They are looking for ways to participate with God’s transformation of the world around them, seeing God’s fingerprints all over their communities.

And yet, congregations are struggling to embrace this missional impulse as it is unfolding. Our structures, activities and expressions of church are not designed to accommodate this missional church movement. Certainly our congregations have done missions, yet BEING missional and encouraging this in disciples…that’s another thing. Recent conversations from the field are highlighting our struggle to create and increase missional capacity.

• Our Innovation Incubator Cohort interviewed a new church developer who formerly served as pastor of established churches. In her current role, she spends over 50% of her time in the community, with real live people, cultivating connections and relationships. This new church developer is enlivened by the opportunity to be an ambassador for Christ, a missionary in the world, rather than spending most evenings in meetings focused on running the church. Other established congregations who are seeking renewal and redevelopment, strangely insist their pastor spend the vast majority of his/her energy on the church rather than community.

• This past Winter I led a retreat with a pastor and their lay leaders who are in a congregation who’s connecting in significant ways with its community. During the discussion, it became clear the pastor and his family are major initiators of relationships in their neighborhood. Now, with increased activity in their congregation as a result, the pastor is experiencing the competing pulls of church versus community engagement. These wise lay leaders decided to give their blessing to their pastor continuing to spend work time in the community, engaging with those who are not part of this church.

• Recently, I was with an invigorated church staff for a multi-day retreat. Their church is on full-throttle, with new people engaging them regularly. As a staff team, they are busy, engaged and nearly overwhelmed. Clearly, they are not the disciples in their congregation who are on the front lines of the missional impulse in their church. Instead their role is to call up and equip every disciple toward this missional movement. Their aspiration is for the disciples in their congregation to recognize and realize they are called to participate in God’s transformation of the world.

• While chatting with disciples during a break at a recent event, one described his role in his congregation. He’s in leadership, which means he serves on the lay leadership team. This also means he’s a defacto leader or member of two other committees in his church. This disciple is excited about this congregational ministry, yet he’s so involved in running the church, he says he can’t be involved in his community much at this time.

• One of the pastors in a Cohort regularly sets up for the workday in a local coffee shop. This is leading to multiple engagements during the day with people who would never talk with a pastor in a church office. Some of these conversations are leading to spiritual growth and exploration. Simultaneously, this pastor is asking for coaching on how to deal with the long-time church members who are complaining about their pastor not being in the church office as much as they prefer.

All these experiences and examples highlight the issue of missional capacity. Pastors and laity alike yearn to participate in God’s world reclamation project (KOG), yet they experience the pinch of institutional maintenance and missional engagement. Many of us at this point in history want to channel the voice of Moses to Pharaoh, “Set Our People Free!” There are many church activities which are nice and maybe even helpful, but largely prevent clergy and laity alike from engaging the world around them. More activity in the church building does not equal faithfulness to our calling, or even “success” as a church. Instead it’s time to grow laser-focused on our mission – to participate with God’s transformation of this world. To do so, it’s time to bless this missional impulse rising in God’s people. It’s time to set God’s people free. May we relinquish control, following the Holy Spirit inspired missional impulse to renew planet earth.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle Leadership Associates