Developing a Missional Mindset in Your Church

  • 10 May 2017
  • Keith Reed

What does it mean to be on mission for God? In a previous blog, I explored Six Marks of a Missional Church from Acts 2:42-47. In this article, I want to explore this theme further and unpack ways we can develop a missional mindset in our churches. 

A Missional Church is Incarnational

A missional church recognizes that most people will not come to a building to hear the gospel. People in a missional church are actively bringing Christ to those who desperately need him. Just as "the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood," so too, those on a mission incarnate and share the gospel with those around them [1]. 

For the past 18 years, my family has lived in a nine-unit townhouse complex. Even though we’ve contemplated buying a detached house many times, one of the main reasons we choose to stay is because it’s easier to do life with people when you live close to them. It’s definitely harder to avoid your neighbours when they’re standing ten feet away (although we do manage to do this sometimes). Over the years, we’ve been able to share the gospel with several of our townhouse friends. At least two of them have accepted Christ.

We took this living-in-close-proximity-thing one step further last year when we moved into an apartment building with refugees for seven months (you can read about our adventure in the Do Something blog). We did life with these newcomers to Canada and had many opportunities to share Christ. In fact, it was sometimes ridiculously easy to talk about our faith.

Of course, not everyone lives in an apartment or a townhouse. The point is that we need to find ways to move into people’s lives—to build relationships, to be a blessing, and to share the gospel as the Holy Spirit opens up people’s hearts to hear it (see Six Ways Anyone Can Share Their Faith for more ideas).

A Missional Church Equips and Empowers Individuals to be Active in their Harvest Fields

It’s one thing to talk about being a missional church, but how do we mobilize the masses to live missionally? Let me suggest five ways: 

1. Sermons need to remind people of the importance of the gospel for both them and the unsaved. This gives people a vision for gospel-living. 

2. People need to hear salvation testimonies and stories about people who are actively reaching out to the lost. This gives people a passion for gospel-living. 

3. Small groups need to make outreach one of their primary purposes (see Four Strategies for Growing Your Small Group). This gives people the necessary support and accountability for gospel-living. 

4. Training in evangelism and apologetics gives people the tools they might need to share the gospel. Of course, anyone who has accepted Christ should be able to help someone do the same thing. Yet, training helps to empower people and can touch on topics (e.g. objections to Christianity) that can help in our witnessing.

5. Outreach-oriented programs can provide a bridge into the community (e.g. Alpha, TESOL, children/youth programs). That same bridge can help unsaved people or new Christians move closer to the heart of the church community. Even as we develop a strong outreach focus in our church programs, we need to remember that they will only attract a fairly small percentage of the unchurched population. Unsaved people need meaningful relationships with individuals in your church who can live and share the gospel with them in loving and respectful ways.  

Let me conclude with some words from Allan Hirsch in his book, The Forgotten Ways, Reactivating the Missional Church:

If we're going to impact our world in the name of Jesus, it will be because people like you and me took action in the power of the Spirit. Ever since the mission and ministry of Jesus, God has never stopped calling for a movement of ‘Little Jesuses’ to follow him into the world and unleash the remarkable redemptive genius that lies in the very message we carry. Given the situation of the Church in the West, much will now depend on whether we are willing to break out of a stifling herd instinct and find God again in the context of the advancing kingdom of God. 

[1] John 1:14 (The Message) 

Note: Developing a missional approach in our churches is the fifth element in a series of 11 for Developing a Strategic Pathway for Discipleship in Your Church.  

Randy Wollf is the Director of MinistryLift and Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies at MB Seminary