We live in a new and exciting time of Christian ministry, as long-established congregations move from being Institutional to being Missional. What does this strange language mean? and why is it important?
Well, it is important because it has to do with the life of the Church. If Church keeps being Church as we know it and live it, we will soon discover that Church isn’t at all. Membership enrollments and finances in Institutional churches continue to decline.
What is an Institutional Church? An Institutional Church is a church with a mission, a budget, a clearly defined membership, and, most generally a denominational affiliation.
In the Institutional Church the focus of church life is on the church itself -- the church family, the church property, the church outreach, the church programs, denominational participation and whatever mission and fellowship projects the church supports. We all know what a church is, right?
So then, what is a Missional Church, sometimes called The Emergent Church? A Missional Church is a church that puts much more emphasis on God’s Purpose and Mission than it puts on membership, budgets, and such. Not that it neglects the traditional concerns; the Missional Church focuses foremost on God (Praise) and God’s Mission (Personal Discipleship).
Perhaps this doesn’t sound like a difficult issue to you. But for many it is a radical shift in orientation which changes the way they do church. Missional people rarely, if ever, ask (or think about) what’s best for the church. Rather the question is what’s best for God’s Kingdom and Glory.
Including my years in seminary, I served the Institutional Church for more than 40 years. I loved it, but near the end of that time I found myself tiring of “the church,” all the institutional expectations and duties, all the bickering and politics.
In the last two years I have discovered the Missional Church and am re-energized to serve God, through the church of course, putting Christ first. After 40years I’m finding that this change in outlook is both wonderfully invigorating and mentally challenging.
At a denominational training event last April, I happened upon a brief and succinct explanation of this change -- from Institutional to Missional Church. It goes like this:
No longer – “The Church has a Mission”
From now on – “God’s Mission has a Church”
Any help you can give me as I start on my next 30 years would be welcome. Journey with me if you like, I’d love the company. Where will all this lead? God knows and that's good enough for me.
TO LIFE.! LeChayim.!