There is a measure heat generated between the many who are embracing missional thinking and those who hold to a more historic or classical missionary mind-set. It’s something that acknowledged silently within both groups, but not usually discussed in “mixed” circles. The missional folks say that “we have much to learn from our cross-cultural missionaries,” and yet simultaneously push back from concepts such as “not staying in your own neighborhoods,” to do mission.
In part, I think, it’s because there exists a competition of sorts for resources and people within the different mission venues. I think it’s time for the classical missionaries and the new missional motivators to sit down at the same table and have a heart to heart conversation. While I would consider myself a missionary in the classic sense, I also consider myself missional. I’ve said before that “Being a missional missionary is neither redundant nor contradictory.” Living in the friction, however, has not been easy.
I think the tide is turning. I think that many classical missionaries, those across borders, culturally and otherwise, have a lot to learn from what our missional brothers and sisters are fleshing out in their own neighborhoods. I strongly believe there is a point of convergence, a biblical synergy if you will, that can optimize the strength of both advances.
Instead of putting more weight on either “going” or “staying,” and the guilting pressures that are often associated with them, the church would be better suited to assume a posture of preparedness. Believers are to be disposed to “go until,” and “stay until.” Yes, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, Message Bible), but he didn’t stay in the neighborhood. Jesus went where the Father told him to go, did what the Father told him to do, and said what the Father told him to say. Few have summed this up so succinctly as Chris Tomlin with his song “I will follow.” The Chorus contains these words:
Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I’ll love
How you serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
The missionary worth his or her salt, has no choice but to go, get the gospel to where it’s needed, and be ministers of reconciliation where they are. The missional likewise, but the missional paradigm seems to take more theory, energy, and convincing to get there. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but I am noticing that deployment seems more difficult amongst the missional. This is often confirmed by missional folks reaching out to classical missionaries to understand how they’re doing what they’re doing.
We need the missional as well as the missionary in our midsts. Some “overlapping,” in my view, is no longer sufficient. Sending and staying can only be held in balance and tension when the church is collectively listening to the Father and functioning as a unit. It’s time for the missional to be more missionary-ish and the missionary to be more missional.
A few questions:
1. Do you perceive any friction between the missional and the classic missionary mind-sets? Describe them.
2. Are you more of an “AS YOU GO Make Disciples” kind of person or a “GO and Make Disciples kind of person?”
Where are you being missional? Where are you a missionary?