Thursday, October 11, 2007

Should We Be an Evangelistic or Missional Church?

by Jason Robertson @

Tim Keller asserts that churches need to structure their church to inhabit its culture. For instance, a church in a metropolitan city needs to be prepared to communicate the gospel effectively in every ministry of the church to a generation that does not understand the Christian world-view and are hostile to Christianity. Keller explains by comparing an "evangelistic church" to a "missional church." For example, an "evangelistic church" will have a Department of Evangelism that will communicate the gospel effectively to the culture. But if a lost person were to enter the church without going through the Evangelism Department,they could be confused at best and never return at worst. An "evangelistic church" expects the believer to immediately adopt instantly the Christian world-view, be comfortable with the "new" Christian lingo, and operate as a mature believer. On the other hand, a "missional church" not only does evangelism but every ministry of the church supplements and compliments that evangelistic effort by participating in communicating the gospel clearly. A "missional church" assumes that even Christians will not understand the Christian word-view quickly.

Missional Worship

Yes, it is true that true worship can only be accomplished by believers. Thus worship services should be designed to enable the believer to worship. But our worship should also be a "means" by which the gospel is communicated to those who come into contact with our worship. In Acts 2 one-hundred and twenty disciples were worshiping God when they were asked by men in Jerusalem what all of the commotion was about. Peter then focused on answering their questions by preaching his famous "Pentecost sermon."

Tim Keller says that we should "expect that God will bring lost people into our worship services." Keller says that our services should therefore be "challenging and comprehensible, but not comfortable" for the lost person. He says that if the Sunday service and sermon aim primarily at evangelism, it will bore the saints. If they aim primarily at education, they will bore and confuse unbelievers. If they aim at praising the God who saves by sheer grace they will both instruct the saints and challenge the sinners."

God Adds

In fact, I think this is advice that many Reformed churches need to heed: Keller asserts that we should "worship as if non-Christians are present before they really are, and they will be brought." My prayer is that when I preach this Sunday my church members say to themselves, "That sermon edified me, revived my spirit, and taught me how to be a better disciple of Christ. And I wish my lost friends could have heard that sermon, too! Next week I shall bring them."

This Is Not the Seeker Model

This type of thinking is not what permeates "Seeker Churches". Not at all. This is the nature of a church that has infused a missional consciousness in its people. Seeker Churches actually segregate people between those who are lost and those who are saved. And even worse, Sunday's are given to targeting the lost, Sunday worship is comfortable to the lost and objectionable to the saints. Christians are segregated to small groups and mid-week worship services, removed from the "center" of the ministry so that they will not offend or "turn off" the seeker or hinder evangelism. Missional churches look at that and are disgusted -- THAT'S NOT CHURCH, THAT'S NOT CHRISTIANITY. In a way it is false advertisement of sorts. Missional churches say we do not hide or disguise our Christianity nor or we ashamed of our biblical worship. In fact, we invite all to attend and we will consciously and humbly teach you what we are doing and why!

Evangelistic Churches are Effective Too

Every church doesn't have to be a "missional church". Maybe your church is not in New York or San Diego or London. Maybe the lost people in your town are very conservative and traditional in their values. Maybe they have been reared with a "Christian" world-view even though it is absent of the Lordship of Christ. Simply being an "evangelistic" church will be effective enough to reach such a culture. Such churches have been successful for hundreds of years.

Other FIDE-O posts attempting to define the concept of "missional": Link 1, Link 2

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