Is the Missional Movement Broken?

At the end of last year, Caesar Kalinowski asked “Who broke the Missional  Movement?” because as he puts it:

“that despite all of the hype and all of the ‘cool-factor’ connected to this hoped-for movement, most pastors and leaders I know have still barely embraced a lifestyle of discipleship and mission.”

But here’s the question, is the missional movement really broken? Have churches, pastors and leaders barely embraced this lifestyle of discipleship and mission as Cesar describes?

I greatly respect Caesar as one of the leaders of the missional movement and as someone I have learned much from, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s broken. It is apparent that something is happening to the missional movement as it seems to be in a moment of change that from one angle can look like crisis, but from another can look like growth.

Just as a child experiences growing pains and an awkward phase, the missional movement is maturing, improving through growing pains to overcome the original hype and mistakes that come with early adoption. Basically the missional movement is in that awkward tween phase growing into what it will one day become in its unique expressions.

How do we know it is maturing and not breaking?

Ultimately time will tell, but just as when you mature, you face your limits and you adapt for future success so the missional movement has hit a wall and is reassessing the way forward. When this happens in our personal lives, you learn your strengths, confront your weaknesses and adapt to operate with wisdom for the future.

For the missional movement, this season of maturing provides the opportunity to grow into the lifestyle of discipleship and mission that was the core heartbeat and vision of its early advocates.

As I see it, the missional movement is maturing in 5 ways. I’ll be unpacking each of these more, but in brief here are the 5 ways.

Letting spiritual maturity precede missional activity

Your mission can only be as great as your maturity. The honest truth is that the missional movement was embraced at a scale beyond the spiritual maturity of most of us and our communities. We were an anxious group, ready to see the church make a difference and make disciples.

Your mission can only be as great as your maturity.

As the mission outpaced the spiritual maturity in individuals, marriages, leaders and families it couldn’t sustain the momentum. Mission always exposes the cracks in our character and the limitations of our witness. In short, it exposes our maturity. Spiritual lives and communities were crushed under the pressure to be more missional!

Maturity in the missional movement is cultivating spiritual maturity as the spiritual fuel of following Christ before focusing on missional activity.

Quit listening to the Missional Experts

The early promotion of the missional movement was from practitioners that developed practices within their specific context for their specific mission. The principles behind these practitioners were very similar and principles translate well into different contexts. The practices of these missional leaders don’t easily transfer into every context.

Early on the practices were promoted as the way forward in being missional, but it is time to stop listening to the experts and adopting their practices.

Maturity in the missional movement involves each community examining the principles behind the practices to develop local practices common to their community for their context.

Running at God’s pace for mission

One of the more memorable and necessary components of the missional movement has been the multiplication of disciples and communities. The initial missional movement encouraged multiplication at a rapid rate with a yearly expectation placed on every community.

As any family who has multiple kids under the age of 5 will tell you, it’s a joy to multiply but a high speed of multiplication can only be sustained for a short time before you experience exhaustion and burnout.

The pace of the missional movement was often at the pace of our own effort, depending less upon the Spirit and more upon our own abilities. Maturity for the missional movement embraces the patience of the Holy Spirit, discerning the pace of making, sending and multiplying disciples.

Live as though the Gospel is good news for today

We have a great hope in heaven, but Jesus prayed and resurrected to inaugurate the Kingdom and His reign now. The missional movement followed a broader movement that helped the church place their hope in heavenly promises over earthly treasures. A weakness that has hindered the missional movement has been the inability to show the gospel as Good News for now, not just the future.

People inside and outside of the church are desperate for the power of the gospel to be tangibly experienced as hope for today, as good news that can unite in the midst of racism, that can speak prophetically to power and that can bring healing to the hurting now. The church that carries the good news into each sector of life is modeling a mature missional understanding of God’s Kingdom.

As the missional movement matures, I see many Christians and churches modeling the joy, hope and lifestyle of Jesus’ Kingdom now. This maturity on mission is encountering a world ready to hear how the good news of the gospel meets the tense, divided and hopeless culture we are currently encountering.

Embracing nuance over dogmatism to be missional in the complexity of this life

Alongside the above, is a necessary embrace of dealing with the complexity of our world with the complexity of God and His gospel. I don’t mean to say that the gospel is overly complex, but to say that we often overly-simplify its implications for the world around us and our own lives.

We leave no room for the grey because we split hairs and fight over each issue as black and white. We leave no room for nuance because we want to nail down our dogma so that everything has a right or wrong. Jesus often spoke in a way that confused those who heard Him, but often intrigued them. He spoke into a complex situation of Israel in captivity of Rome without declaring war on the state or the synagogue. Instead Jesus regularly invited everyone to humbly examine their own hearts.

Complexity and nuance is a sign of maturity that truly sees the magnificent grace of the gospel as big enough to fill the gaps of the unknown that are left for us in everyday life. Maturity in the missional movement embraces the idealistic hope of God’s vision for life and has the ability to reconcile it with the often depraved reality we see in the world and in the mirror. It does this with the complexity of grace that offers freedom from condemnation and nuance that releases us from always having the right answer for moments that never actually demanded it in the first place.

The missional movement is not broken. It is starting a new phase of maturity, a phase that will be a little more humble, peaceful and ultimately fruitful than the over-activity of the missional movement’s early days.

Need a guide to help you mature your church’s mission for your local context? Logan specializes in coaching pastors, consulting churches and training leaders to live on the mission God has given them. Find out more by clicking here: logangentry.com/coaching