A Work of the Spirit:  Missional Expressions

“Find out where God is at work and join God there.”  This is a good definition of what it means to be missional.  Believers in the 21st century are moving beyond programmatic approaches that simply maintain individual congregations and discovering what it means to be part of the missio Dei--the mission of God--in the world.  As Pinnacle associates work with churches, we encourage them to reconceptualize what it means to be God’s people on mission, discerning and embracing new opportunities.

Often, the question is, “Who is doing this type of thing?”  The spectrum is wide with a number of examples.  Many people are discovering and implementing missional expressions of the church. In this article, we will attempt to identify and categorize some of these ministries, but this is a very organic, fluid situation. Here goes, anyway.

Mainline churches can become missional.  The Missional Wisdom Foundation has emerged in the United Methodist Church to encourage established churches to reimagine their mission and repurpose their facilities.  Under the leadership of Elaine Heath and Larry Duggins, churches in the Dallas area were encouraged to sponsor “missional micro-communities,” primarily made up of young adults seeking purposeful Christian community.  The story of this movement can be found in Missional, Monastic, Mainline: A Guide to Starting Missional Micro-Communities in Historically Mainline Traditions.

Duggins is now working with two UMC churches in North Carolina to repurpose their mission to form creative communities.  In Together:  Community as a Means of Grace, he explains how discovering new uses for church spaces opens the door to alternative approaches to Christian community.

Englewood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, is a small congregation that invited a Pinnacle associate to walk alongside them as they reimagined what it means to be a missional church. Not only have they instituted new ideas related to worship and spiritual formation, they have experimented with a shared leadership structure.  They have embraced a holistic approach to community needs that includes not only a food pantry but a neighborhood garden.

Denominations also support new church starts that are missional in nature.  With Susan Rogers as church planter and with the support of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, The Well at Springfield in Jacksonville, Florida, is a very agile congregation without a building that seeks to be “a community of faith practicing the way of Jesus together by loving God, our neighbor, and our city.” The fellowship is open and affirming to all people and deeply invested in social ministry.

Downtown Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, was born when founding pastor Amos Diasas shared his vision with the local presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to create a congregation in the downtown area of Columbia that would be multicultural and racially diverse.  It is a congregation characterized by joyful worship, energetic service, and welcoming community.

Missional expressions can also be found outside the walls of established churches.  Luke 14:12 in Nashville, Tennessee, has been described as a “soup kitchen,” but it is much more.  Executive Director Amy Dodson-Watts says, “Luke 14:12 is a non-profit soup kitchen providing free meals to the hungry, homeless, and working poor of Nashville. Our mission is to address the nutritional needs of those who are inadequately fed.” Each year Luke 14:12 provides over 37,000 meals to hungry individuals.  The meals are served in a family style around tables so that both guests and volunteers can engage in conversation and shared hospitality.

 Another vital not-profit missional ministry is Crossover Health in Richmond, Virginia.  Their mission statement says, “We are called to provide high quality healthcare, promote wellness, and connect community talents and resources with people in need in the name of Jesus Christ.”  Founded in a church building in 1982, the ministry now has two clinics with professional health care staff committed to being “a healthy, vibrant community where every person is restored by the compassionate, healing love of God.”  Crossover Health provides primary health care services to Richmond’s low-income, uninsured residents as well as mental health and counseling resources. 

Social Entrepreneurship is another form of missional ministry that operates outside the walls and the traditional ministries of the church. Social entrepreneurs develop business enterprises that are not only economically self-sustaining but serve a ministry function.

One example is CommuniTea in Overland Park, Kansas.  Although CommuniTea is a coffee and tea house, it is much more. The founders state, “Our space is your place. Grab your favorite tea or coffee, share a treat with a friend, find a comfy chair and relax. Attend a concert, join in a class, play along on a game night, reserve a space for a meeting or party. Check out the faith community that gathers here on the weekend. This is more than a tea shop or coffeehouse, this is the gathering place, and you are welcome here!”

Many examples of social entrepreneurship are found outside of the United States where missionaries assist local believers to establish businesses that provide a decent living and a means to serve as witnesses in the marketplace.  Although details cannot be shared, one example is a bicycle rental and repair business that a friend who is a missionary in Bali helped organize.  Bicycles are popular with both locals and tourists and need maintenance.  Christians employed in the business are providing a service, making and income, and becoming established as “persons of peace” (Matthew 10:11)) in the community.

We could cite many other examples of how the people of God are embracing missional expressions.  The Spirit of God continues to speak to the people of God.  John 3:8 says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (NIV)  If we are listening to the Spirit, we can discover and engage in new ways to be on mission with God in our community and world.

Ircel Harrison, Pinnacle Coaching Coordinator


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