What shifts will be necessary for Fellowship Baptists to be shaped by God’s mission?

Mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. “Mission” means “sending,” and sending is the central biblical theme describing God’s interaction with humans throughout history. Consequently, a missional church is shaped by participating in God’s mission that sets things right in a broken world, to redeem it, and to restore it to what God originally intended.

Because a missionally-focused church is changed by participating in God’s mission (missio Dei), CBF strives to help congregations connect to what God is doing in the world. This new modus operandi calls for essential and fundamental re-visioning by many congregations. For example, Reggie McNeal says going missional will require three shifts in thinking and behaving:

  • From internal to external in terms of ministry focus (less focus on institutional management to engaging the world)
  • From program development to people development in terms of core activity
  • From church-based to kingdom-based thinking in terms of leadership agenda

These shifts mean the church must move from being the recipient of a generous culture to actually being generous to the culture. Congregations must move from programs and pre-occupation with self to engaging with partners to meet real needs in the world. Missional church faithfulness is defined by following God into acts of service and sacrifice—developing influence in the community through incarnational ministry, i.e. becoming the hands and feet of Christ in the neighborhood.

Some struggle to define the word missional. The concept certainly connotes more than being a missions-minded church or participating in mission projects. Stories of missional faithfulness communicate more powerfully than limited definitions of the word. That said, The Center for Parish Development offers what I consider a helpful working definition on its website:

A missional church is a community of faith where people are discerning and participating in God’s mission. As a dynamic process, the outcome of their discernment and participation will vary given their unique circumstances. At the center of their life and ministry missional congregations spend time together, opening their minds and hearts and imaginations to the movement of the Holy Spirit through prayer and worship, Bible study and conversation. At the same time, missional congregations engage in learning about their missional context, asking what are the forces and factors that are blocking the fulfillment of life as God created it? As together they discern God’s mission and discern the challenges of their context, missional congregations may shape their life and ministry in distinctive ways, utilizing their particular gifts. 

The clarion call is for the Church universal to be God’s wisdom, energy, heart, and presence in accomplishing God’s mission. This perspective flies in the face of the attractional model of church. In Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One, Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren contrast the difference between an attractional church and a missional one:

Attractional Church:

  • Church is about an event and about getting people to attend the event.
  • Church provides spiritual goods and services that will help people lead better lives.
  • Church plays limited role in speaking to spiritual life.
  • Church is primarily focused on getting people into the building.
  • Church unwittingly shuts down the transformational capacity of the missional.
  • Church strives for the measurable, for countable certainty, and is information-driven.

Missional Church: 

  • Embraces the idea “It is not the church of God that has a mission. It’s the God of mission that has a church.”
  • Invites us to turn toward our neighborhoods, listening first to what is happening in the lives of people and learning to ask different questions about what God is up to in their communities.
  • Does not operate out of a predetermined model.
  • Acknowledges Missional Imagination = Mystery + Memory + Mission.
  • Engages God’s people around the world.
  • Encourages renewed dialogue with Scripture, allowing Scripture to prompt serious conversation regarding cultural context.

The shifts required for congregations to become more missional will not be easy. To successfully make these changes, a new scorecard for evaluating effectiveness is necessary. According to Reggie McNeal (Missional Renaissance), a program-driven church prioritizes:

  • Number of people involved, attending, or participating
  • People recruited for church services
  • Spiritual disciplines
  • Money gathered and spent on church needs
  • Church turf
  • Church-centered “opportunities for growth”
  • Staff devoted to program management

Moving to a people-development culture requires:

  • Relationships people intentionally cultivate
  • People released into service
  • Personal life development
  • Money spent on people rather than buildings and administration
  • Life turf (home, work, school, community, etc.)
  • Life-centered growth
  • Staff engaged in coaching people for their personal development

Churches everywhere are waking up to the global mission of God. This awakening includes a desire to connect with other churches, work with them, learn from them and, for the sake of mission, collaborate and cooperate with them. Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is poised and prepared to facilitate and nurture even greater participation in godly efforts. Our desire to connect in powerful ways with God’s work in the world drives our global mission enterprise. In contexts of global poverty, global migration, and the global church, CBF field personnel live out the following commitments alongside CBF congregations:

  • Cultivating Beloved Community – We cultivate communities of reconciliation and hospitality that serve as instruments, signs, and foretastes of the commonwealth (kingdom) of God.
  • Bearing Witness to Jesus Christ – We bear witness to the gospel with words that invite faith in Jesus and embody Jesus’ love in action.
  • Seeking Transformational Development – We work to transform systems that suppress individuals and communities so God-given gifts of all people in all places are recognized, and celebrated.

The time to move the church outside its walls and into neighborhoods is now. Discover what God is doing in your community and partner with others to engage in redemptive and incarnational work. Partner with CBF’s Global Mission enterprise to expand your missional reach. Become part of what God is doing around the globe through dedicated and gifted CBF field personnel.