[featured_image]Do you see yourself as a missionary in your neighborhood? Do you intentionally seek to build relationships with non-Christians? Do you actively embody the mission and message of Jesus
More and more Christians are discovering ways to incarnate the good news of Jesus in the culture where they live!
A Missional Orientation is the degree to which a Christ-follower demonstrates behaviors consistent with a radical orienting of one’s life to embody the mission and message of Jesus.
The word “missional” is considered a “buzz word” by many and it has been given a variety of meanings. Unfortunately, it no longer is understood as a radical call to recalibrate everything we do around the agenda of Jesus’ mission. The word “missional” should be descriptive of the behaviors of missionaries who are sent with the gospel in community to those in the culture around them
As part of the research for my doctoral dissertation last year, a variable called “Missional Orientation” (MO) was established based on a respondent’s demonstration in the past year of designated behaviors. Each behavior was determined to indicate initiative toward non-Christians with a weighted average of 10.0
First Step Missional Activities
- Prayed for non-Christians by name to come to faith
- Shared a meal in your home with an unbeliever
- Shared a meal in a restaurant with an unbeliever
- Shared a meal in an unbeliever’s home
Second Step Missional Activities
- Served non-Christians in your community
- Provided meal/shelter for homeless
- Shared the gospel message with an unbeliever (not on church campus)
When evaluating each respondent’s MO based on their designated role in their church, it was clear that church planters indicated a higher level of missional orientation. However, the group scoring the second highest was lay leaders, followed by senior pastors and then associate pastors.
Those younger in age, as well as those younger in the faith, indicated a higher participation in these specific missional activities. While this data is consistent with expectations, it does warrant attention. (Note: Only 18% of the respondents indicated participation in all seven behaviors in the previous year.)
This very basic study within my denomination indicates that church leaders need to take personal initiative to increase their own engagement with unbelievers in their neighborhoods and community. Since the average MO for all respondents was 6.0, there is room for significant improvement. The highest individual behavior indicated was praying for an unbeliever to know Christ, while providing a meal or shelter for a homeless person was indicated least by respondents.
Adopting missional behaviors requires changes to a leader’s weekly schedule in order to spend more time beyond the walls of the church building. Volunteering to serve in the community or sharing meals with neighbors is a good place to start. Church leaders can increase their missional activity by returning to Jesus’ model of partying with sinners (see Matthew 9:10; 11:19; Mark 2:15–17; Luke 5:30; 15:1–2).
Since most respondents indicated that small groups are already a valuable means for fellowship and spiritual growth in their churches, leaders should leverage small groups toward missional activity. Attention should be placed on coaching small group leaders to personally practice missional behaviors, as well as creating opportunities for their group to serve outside the church. Many group members may already be aware of needs or opportunities where their group can get involved.
Church leaders could easily increase the missional orientation of their church by giving group leaders and group members the permission to serve outside of the church. Distinction should not be made whether Christians serve in the church or outside the church. Where they serve doesn’t matter; the important thing is to honor God and be intentional.
Since MO decreased in respondents as they grew older, church leaders need to be aware of this tendency and determine not to become missionally passive. Every church leader can make a commitment to become more engaged in their local community and can get to know their neighbors. Start spiritual conversations every day. Be accountable to someone that will not let anyone out of the race because they are old.
Hybles and Mittleberg, in their book Becoming a Contagious Christian, challenge believers, “You’ve got to barbecue first!” This commonly understood approach encourages believers to spend time with unbelievers to build relationships before communicating the gospel. Only 1 in 4 respondents indicated they personally shared a meal with an unbeliever in their home in the past year. Close to that same amount of respondents indicated sharing a meal in an unbeliever’s home (23%) or in a restaurant or public place (30% in the past year.) It has been noted before, “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.” Pastors need to work to rub shoulders and experience life with unbelievers.
So, what will you do to increase your Missional Orientation?
Have you oriented everything you do around the agenda of Jesus’ mission?
What can you do this week to start practicing missionary behaviors?
Note: For a brief summary of my dissertation: Fueling Missionary Movements to Transform America, see this post: Missional Transformation: Abstract. For a video, see the post: Missional Alignment.