In Christianity Today Magazine I read an article called “Defining Missional”. It occurs to me that some of you might wonder about the latest in church buzzwords. There are consequences when the meanings of words become confused especially when we are trying to explain eternal truths to people. Here are some positives and negatives associated with various types of churches…
Attractional – This comes from trying to “attract” people to the church. Advertizing, events, marketing are used as “outreaches”. There is also a “build it and they will come” mindset attached meaning…If we just make our services attractive to the unchurched then they will come to us. Sometimes associated with the seeker sensitive model but not completely the same. (see below) The weakness of this movement is people must find their way to church themselves and those who feel unworthy to come never do.
Emerging – The emerging church movement holds as its primary purpose attempting to make the Christianity culturally relevant for a postmodern generation. While I do think we need to be relevant (many churches are not) the emerging church movement has many times gone to the extreme of compromising on Christian morality such as ordaining people still trapped in sinful lifestyles. Emerging churches may be attractional or missional or both.
Missional – Comes from the word mission. It is sometimes confused with a Missionary Church (a church which is planted by a missionary). Missional churches emphasize the mission of the church, which is the Great Commission “Go and make disciples.” They key word is go. They do not expect people to come to them. The emphasis of a missional church is the opposite of an attractional church.
Purpose-driven – A term coined by Rick Warren in his book Purpose Drive Church. In it Rick said a Purpose Driven Church is “one that is growing larger in numbers as it grows deeper in carrying out the God-given purposes for churches through worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and missions.” Some have wrongly called Rick’s church (Saddleback) a seeker-sensitive church because of it’s laid back approach. Emphasizing spiritual growth through purpose isn’t the same as being seeker-sensitive.
Seeker-sensitive – A term first coined by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, this movement comes from the idea of being sensitive to the unchurched person who is seeking God, hence seeker-sensitive. It should be noted that the idea isn’t bad, we want seekers to feel comfortable in our services but the movement got way off track. However, in his report entitled Reveal, Bill Hybels admitted that they had failed at the Great Commission because they had not discipled or helped mature the members once they were converted.
Separatist – While not a name given to a particular movement, these are churches that emphasize extracting people from the culture and assimilating them into the church culture. “Come out from among them.” and “Be in the world but not of the world.” are frequent phrases heard. This sounds spiritual diminishes their ability to speak to those outside and their people cease to win souls. Some examples are: Holiness churches where women can’t wear makeup and men can’t have long hair. Pentecostal churches where the emphasis is always on the next deeper experience so they have many meetings each week but don’t win the lost.
What kind of church do we have? I answer that question with one phrase, we are a Disciple-Making Church. We are a church that emphasizes the process of discipleship. Many churches will say they make disciples but they usually mean they are evangelical or highly teaching. Either they are making many new converts but maturing them or teaching a bunch of fat Christians who just want the “next revelation” from God.
[Note: This is not to be confused with the Shepherding Movement in the 1970s where leaders used discipleship as a way to control their congregants lives in a cult-like fashion.]
A Disciple-Making Church has a clearly defined, often taught discipleship process that includes going into the world. If you can’t tell me what the next step in anyone’s (including yourself) discipleship process is then your church isn’t a disciple-making church.
Are we attractional? Yes in that we will advertize to get people to come and adjust our services to make guests feel more welcome. (But not to the seeker-sensitive extreme where the truth isn’t taught and deep repentance required.) Are we missional? Absolutely! You’re not truly a disciple unless you are going out and winning souls. We do both! Who ever said you had to choose one or the other?
Doctrinally our church identifies ourselves as Charismatic, which comes from the Greek word charisma. Charismatic means we believe that the Holy Spirit still does the same things today he did in the first century, New Testament church. After all, it’s still the same Testament or covenant today. We work hard to make a weekend service that is guest welcoming yet doesn’t compromise on ‘gifts of the Spirit’ such as praying for healing.
Don’t get hung up on our particular beliefs. Remember that A Disciple-Making Church can be almost any doctrine. It’s about the clearness of the process.