I’m busy prepping for a discussion I’m leading tommorow – my assignment is to explore the title of this post.
In order for a church to become missional, a basic reorientation has to take place. The first has to do with its orientation in society. Instead of adopting a come-to-us mentality, the church moves into the community. This moving into the neighborhood or in Jesus’ words ‘being salt and light’ is the primary reflex of what is implied by being church.
A good friend of mine recently bought a 1 million candle power flashlight. It’s a monstrosity. When he bought it, he couldn’t wait for the darkness of night to fall – for we all know that a flashlight in daylight doesn’t perform its intended function. Likewise a church that hangs out together all the time is an oxymoron. We have to get out. Or as Eugene Peterson translates that delightful part of the Sermon on the Mount –
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
What would this look like? Watching “Desperate Housewives” a few months ago gave me a glimpse into what this could look like.
In this specific episode, Lynette Scavo, who survived cancer and a tornado seeks God in an attempt to show her gratitude and also to get answers to some of her difficult questions (most that fall into the category of theodicity). She rounds up her family and enters the local Presbyterian Church. During the service she raises her hand to ask the preacher some questions … this rocks the boat of this particular community and her friend responds to her enquiry with a stern “we don’t do that here!” and “church isn’t a place for questions, it’s a place for answers.” I want to propose that becoming and being ‘missional’, a word that definitely has become another marketable buzzword, has a lot to do with the interaction between questions and answers.
I think the art of becoming missional consists of creating spaces where questions can be asked without it being slapped into an easy fix answer. I also think that missional communities move beyond their safe relationships into the communities they are compelled to bless. This movement with its accompanied acts of sacrifice and love should lead people into asking questions. Questions like “Why the heck would they want to do that?” more than “Why do they believe that?”
In the aforementioned episode a very telling conversation takes place between Lynette and Bree (who is a seasoned church attendee) …
“I have survived cancer and a tornado and I don’t understand why I survived and so many others didn’t.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”
Lynette snipes back,
“Why didn’t you ask? Oh that’s right, you don’t like asking questions.”
In this little interaction we see the desire for the reversal of the traditional flow of missions. Traditionally the church has given the answer for (mostly) people who didn’t really ask any questions. Here we see someone’s need to be asked questions in order that exploration could take place.