Missional is a term which is gaining traction among church planters and senior leaders. It borrows its root meaning from the more familiar word, missionary. Chances are, your senior pastor is familiar with it. The expression is far less known among children’s ministry leaders. This is unfortunate. I have read many books introducing me to the concept of being missional. I have also met people who model missional living beautifully. These influences, combined with my personal experiences both inside and outside of the church context, persuade me to attempt missional living in the normal routines of daily life.
But what does that even mean? What is missional?
To live missionally is to do life authentically with other people—both believers and lost—in such a way that honors Jesus Christ. Not only do we proclaim the gospel, we exemplify it through our daily living. We go to people in their contexts and on their terms. We do life with them without presumptuous agendas, allowing the life of Christ to show his love to them naturally. It is no more complex than that.
Here are two early practical outcomes which occurred over the past fifteen years in my personal journey as a local urban children’s pastor. Click here to let me know what you think.
First, rather than only thinking of outreach to the lost (esp. families which living in low-income projects near my church) in terms of events which attract children to the church campus, I learned to spend a great deal of time with the children and their parents in the contexts in which they live. When I entered their world, many of them began to call out to me by name. I began friendships with fathers, mothers, grandparents, and older siblings, as well as the younger children. Most of the times when I went to the low income apartments near my church campus, it was simply to say hello and to see how people were doing. I tried to go there without an agenda, other than to live a Christ-honoring life among them. We shared laughs, occasional tears, stories, and many smiles. This strengthened the impact of attractional events my church held because relationships had already been established. On or off campus, I became a missionary to them, even though I did not use that terminology in their presence. They simply knew me as Glen.
Second, I concentrated on doing life with parents face-to-face and through shared experiences, rather than only thinking of parent training and communication respectively as a few events per year, or through the typical means of conveying information. I participated in small groups. I went to children’s events. I attended parents’ events. I took people out to eat. I visited their homes occasionally. I let them see me as a vulnerable human being. In the natural I felt inadequate to speak into their lives because I am never married and I have no children of my own. I admitted this to them. Despite my foibles, some invited me into their lives as a coach for ten weeks at a time, helping them to think through the parenting issues they faced. Others dialogued with me frequently about their family situations. By choosing to become weak in their midst, Christ honored that posture by showing himself to be strong. My prayer was that these kinds of relationships could also be translated into the cross-cultural contexts of the families I befriended from the apartments. All of that occurred in my free time, given that I was a part-time volunteer children’s pastor who worked full-time in a regular job.
A typical day for me in the workplace allows me to encounter many of the same people several times per week, some less frequently; others more so. They are sales people, managers, manufacturer’s representatives, contractors, truck drivers, FED EX and UPS delivery drivers, to name a few. I know most of them by name. They know my name, too. Some are believers; many are not. Our lives are intertwined through the routines of conducting our jobs in ways that intersect with one another. In many cases—more often than not, I hope—this breeds friendships. It also allows opportunities to do life with one another in the context of work, and sometimes beyond. For me, it is the stuff of missional living.
But it does not stop there. Like many of my readers, I frequent certain grocery stores and restaurants, often to be helped by people who are learning to know me by name. Again, our lives intersect in the marketplace to the degree that authentic concern for one another is birthed.
Both while I was a children’s pastor, and now that I anticipate life after my pastoral ministry concludes, I am still enthusiastic to help churches learn to be salt and light in their communities, whether rural, suburban, or urban. Once again, missional living enters the equation as I strive to reconcile the way I interact with people in business and in the community with how I traditionally have been expected to relate to people as a pastor.