Disspelling the "Missional" Myth

In the last 5 years, a new buzzword came into play in the evangelical church in the USA: "Missional"

It was an adjective to describe being "On Mission". This new phraseology carries a strong, yet vague sense of purpose. We are "on mission"--we have have a job to do! We all have a mission--are you on your mission? But since this mission is the same across the church, we just did away with the article (on a mission, on the mission) and new power language was born: On Mission! When I saw this trending, I was concerned with the vague concept with which it so strongly thrust forth for three reasons:

1. I've said it twice, I'll say it again--it's vague... What does it mean?  Well, I think the best way to articulate it is the following: Be always ever focused on making disciples via the strategy of multiplication no matter where you are... I think... The strength of this vague concept is that church members were challenged to be 'on mission' in their schools and jobs all the time, not just at church or church outreaches. I strongly agree with the spirit of the saying (be a Christian everywhere), but think we could have maybe not made up our own word so that nobody really knows what we're talking about unless you've sat through a bunch of sermons and read a book or a couple hip Christian blogs.

2. 'On mission' blurs the line even further between traditional "missions" and everyday living out the love of Christ. Perhaps it came from the etymology of the word missionary: "Sent on a mission (1640)". But the origin of mission is: "a sending abroad" originally used by Jesuits. Having grown up in traditional 'missions' I've always been opposed to the blurring of this line because I think it hurts more than helps the advancement of the Gospel. The song "Be a missionary every day" which I so loudly belted out at age 7 in Sunday school with a bunch of strangers in every supporting church, did/does the same thing: blurs the line by suggesting everyone is a missionary, or missions consists of witnessing in the school you attend every day, or in your neighborhood or city. Certainly, these things are all essential and we should be doing them. But traditional missions* requires much training and sacrifice, and depends on the church for it's existence. One would not want me representing them in court as a lawyer, nor performing a check up as a doctor, nor operating a large crane (or any size crane) without proper training. Missions is the same way. To blur these lines is a) just false, b) setting potential missionaries up for failure and burnout because there is this mantra that everyone already is a missionary so 1. it must be easy and 2. who needs any training!? and c) weakening the entire base for on which missions exists in the first place--on the conviction of the church that men and women must be sent abroad for the spread of the gospel where those church members are not. It breeds the idea that the church can take part in "mission" in their own town and that be a sufficient reason not to send people abroad. (short term missions can also have this terrible effect).

3. The previous two points could be written off as opinions, and I would not be offended. But perhaps the primary reason for writing against the "missional" phraseology, is that being ON MISSION should NOT be our primary goal or purpose. Before you scream 'heretic' and cite the great commission, remember Ecclesiastes. The author experimented with every kind of hedonistic pleasure, and found it all meaningless. At the end of his conclusion of meaninglessness, he writes: 

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

(Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)

And it is this that is the whole duty of mankind, not 'be missional'. I fear that we have, ever so softly, rolled away from the biblical mandate in order to focus on mobilizing churchgoers. And we must beware lest those new to the church who cannot see the evolution (of which I agree with the heart behind) miss this altogether. Jesus said the first two commandments are to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as your self. Certainly disciple-making is included. But beware not to change your purpose from that prescribed by God himself, and teachers who are judged more strictly (James 3) should take heed.


*Traditional missions crosses 2 of 3 barriers: language, culture, country borders.


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