The word “missional” is now in vogue within a large portion of the Christian church. In my own experience, it’s generally the under 40 group of people that are using it to describe themselves, the churches they are planting, or the churches they already pastor.
I had a conversation with someone a while back who had recently heard some members of a newer church describe themselves and their church as “missional”. He didn’t really understand what they meant by describing themselves that way and so he asked me if I knew what the difference was between a typical, traditional way of doing church and this newer, “missional” way of doing church.
Even though I’m not a frequent user of the word myself, (for reasons that I won’t delve into here), I did my best to describe to this person what I believe that difference is.
I asked him to think about……the National Football League–the NFL.
What do our Sunday services most resemble? An NFL game on Sunday afternoon, or, the huddle that both the offense and the defense take part in before each play of the game?
Typical, traditional church leaders and the majority of the members who attend their churches live their lives with a view that is similar to that of an NFL fan. The game on Sunday is important to them and they will set aside the time to watch the game either live or in person.
They like to watch the game sitting alongside other people that are also fans of the game and especially their team. If they go to the stadium, they are in the midst of thousands of others who watch the game with them. If they watch at home, they might have some friends over, but even if they don’t, they know that thousands of others are watching the game too.
They trust that all the players, the coaches, the refs, and especially all the TV people have done their jobs in a way that will make their own personal experience of watching the game as comfortable as possible.
The game that they look forward to watching for a couple of hours each week doesn’t really have an impact on the way they live their lives throughout the other 6 and 7/8 days of the week. It’s possible that they will have a short conversation with some one about the last game or possibly about an upcoming game if it’s a big one, but overall, their commitment to their team and watching the games of their team makes no significant difference in the way they live their lives.
On the other hand, those church leaders and members of a church that is “missional”, are more like the players that actually play the game. For those 3 hours, the game is the reason they live. They do gather together, but the purpose of their gathering together, their taking part in the “huddle”, is to be sure that all of them as a group know what they will be doing on the next play.
The huddle isn’t the point of the game and it isn’t something they take part in as just a spectator. The huddle gives the whole group the plan that will hopefully accomplish the goal and it lets them know what their individual responsibility is for the success of the team.
The huddle isn’t something the players take lightly. It’s crucial to their own personal success and the success of the team. It’s incredibly important, but isn’t the point of the game.
Needing to run, I summarized the “missional” view in this way:
Sunday morning services for the “missional” minded church and its members are like the huddle of a football team. Every other minute of life outside the church service is the game that everyone is involved in. To be successful in the game of life, the huddle is essential, but it’s not the apex or the point of the players lives.