Stop Saying You're 'Missional'

Why "being missional" means more than we think.

For the average Christian, planning your week might look something like this:

“Tomorrow night I have a work social event. Friday I'll hang out with friends. Saturday I'll clean the house. Then, next Thursday at 6:30, I'll visit the homeless shelter to ‘be missional’”

OK, so you might not use that terminology, but chances are, the attitude is there. As Christians, we talk about “being missional,” but our conversations about what that means are often misunderstood or absent.

Mission is not an event we attend or a block of time on our agenda. Mission is the medium for God’s message.


We strive to perfect the planned, short-term mission trip and the “once-every-so-often” local service project. Both are great endeavors, but by themselves, these events do not make an individual or church “missional.”

What we fail to realize is that the question is not “are you missional?” The question is “what message are you declaring?”

Mission is not an event we attend or a block of time on our agenda. Mission is the medium for God’s message, and everything we do reflects His story. From what we buy to how we talk—every interaction we have demonstrates what we believe about the God of the Universe.

Our present-day understanding of mission comes from the scriptural passage in Matthew 28: 18-20, where Jesus says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

This may sound like Jesus was telling His disciples to go on a trip or volunteer a few times a year. But according to its Greek connotation, this word “go” means “as you are going,” which means Jesus was talking about the idea of missions as an everyday experience, not just a seasonal event.

The reality is that mission takes place all the time—as we go to the store, drive in our cars, eat in our homes—everywhere we go, Jesus commands us to make disciples.

Living “on mission” for Jesus means being conscious to the Kingdom of God among us, with everything we do as an active demonstration of the Gospel.

Marketing guru Marshal Mcluhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message,” which implies that whatever message you attempt to convey will be changed by whichever medium you use to express it. Throughout the narrative arc of Scripture, God continually uses humans to communicate His story. This shows us that God has, in fact, chosen the body of the Church to be the medium for His message, which is centrally about His Kingdom.

If you have spent any time in church, you have probably heard at least one of the stories, or parables, Jesus uses to describe the Kingdom of God. Each parable tears down traditional thoughts, ideals and philosophies we can believe about our existence.

Jesus declares the subversion to our story of humanity. He shows us life is more than we think it is. The Kingdom of God is an overlapping of heaven and earth and an insurrection against the powers that be. Jesus points us toward this reality as a full embrace of the divine in our daily lives.

This may look different than we think. I know a sincere, Bible-believing Christian who has made it his mission to love his neighbors and engage with them on their terms—no matter the cost. He boldly steps into uncomfortable environments, one of which includes occasionally attending a cult meeting, just so he can learn about his neighbors and share the Gospel with them.

Another one of my friends loves to talk with people, especially those who go unnoticed or get treated like garbage all day. Thus, he makes it a point to engage with waiters, waitresses, retail employees, baristas and lawn care workers. He simply looks them in the eyes and asks, with all sincerity, “How is your day going?”

Even if you don’t realize it, your interactions with people, in every second, carry significance and meaning.


For many, this one question is all it takes to break through the drudge of everyday life. People often respond by thanking my friend for his “extreme” kindness, which can seem unnatural in the world, yet his compassion allows him to build relationships and share the Kingdom with people in very real ways.

Living on mission means recognizing where your true work lies. For example, my former Pastor intentionally works out of a local coffee shop so he can interact with people as they spend time in the store. He initiates conversations with complete strangers in order to one day be able to share the Gospel with them. This is what it looks like to live as the Kingdom of God.

Even if you don’t realize it, your interactions with people, in every second, carry significance and meaning. Living on mission means constantly keeping your eyes open, looking for opportunities to live in Jesus’ subversion to our story.

We have the privilege of inviting everyone we know to come and experience the life-giving power of the Gospel. When we step into the lives of other individuals and demonstrate the Kingdom of God, we show them the way of Christ. So, let’s stop simply saying we are missional and truly be on mission to spread Jesus’ Kingdom.

2 Comments

Michael Schutz

39

Michael Schutz commented…

Amen!

Doug Jolly

75

Doug Jolly commented…

Really good article. As with a lot of other terms, the word "missional" has become a buzzword, and gets overused and abused until no one knows what it means anymore - or maybe never knew what it meant in the first place. Five years ago, it was so trendy to say your were "emergent". And eventually it died, because no one really knew what it meant - did it mean you were hipster? millennial? postmodern? liberal? do worship with lots of candles? I still want to be missional, though, because I do think the term actually means something. Thank you for pointing out what it doesn't mean (going on a mission trip, etc.) and what it truly is - that it's a posture and a way of life.

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