Church Planter’s Log 001: To Be Missional

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One of the things that have been giving me life since The Transition (🤣) is the rediscovery (and re-emphasis) of the missional church.

Stories like St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia have inspired what kind of community we want to work towards.
They don’t have Sunday worship and they don’t have any church members, yet they are still a church.
They have midday services Monday-Thursday but rather than bringing people to their pews on Sunday, they’re focusing on being present for the community. They’re focusing on how they can meet the needs of the community.
Here’s what their Bishop said (emphasis mine):

“We can look at goals, or we can look at the impact in the community. I’m of the belief that when you form a community based in Jesus and the love of Christ, then you will get resources, and then things will multiply. It’s called faith — that it will grow, that people will come in, that they will become members. But that’s not the end goal; it’s to be a presence in the community.”

I’ve been pleasantly surprised about how many people I’ve ran into know where St. Andrew’s (the local Episcopal church that is launching Mosaic) is when they have no ties or connections to the church.
“Oh, St. Andrew’s? Yea that’s where ___________” is the response of every person I have met so far.

The goal to be a presence in the community — that is what’s been driving the dream and vision for Mosaic.

I’ve always been wary of the idea that the most missional thing a church can do is have an excellent Sunday morning service; that Sundays are a church’s biggest missional opportunity. So let’s put the majority of the eggs in our basket on making Sunday mornings great again.

Isn’t that a bit more like collecting people than connecting with people? Sure, you connect with people but only when they show up to your place.
That’s not fishing, per se, but rather setting up a fish trap in a set location and hoping luring fish into it.
Having Sunday be the focal point of your missional approach requires people of the community to be where we are at; for them to join in on the conversations that we are having; to have them join the journey that we are on; to engage what we have been engaging in.
It’s not really about the people in the community.
It’s a “wouldn’t you like to be part of all the cool things we are doing for you?”
It’s really about us more than anything.
Since we are putting most of our eggs in the Sunday morning basket, we have to make sure that we are alluring and attractive as possible every Sunday morning.
We have to have the right “bait” to get people here.
Sometimes it’s younger staff;

Sometimes it’s hiring token staff to show people, see we value diversity (side note: token hiring is hiring someone of minority status to just be part of the staff. They have no influence or authority or say in what goes on in the organization. One church I interviewed with years ago was adamant they had a diverse staff. I looked at their staff page and everyone from office administrator to pastors to program staff — basically people who have a voice within the organization– were white. The persons of color? Their landscapers and custodial staff. That’s tokenism and not a diverse staff because the persons of color have really no input/say/voice in the church life…);

Sometimes it’s focusing on revamping young family ministries;
Sometimes it’s a new worship service or worship time;
Sometimes it’s throwing millions of dollars to build new buildings and renovate old ones;
Sometimes it’s all of the above.

I’ve always felt being missional is going to the people; meeting people where they are at; joining in on the conversations they are having; walking with them on the journey they are on. And it’s not a sin if they never come to where you hold weekly Sunday morning gatherings.

The end goal is to be present in the community with the the question: how can we be God’s presence/blessing to you and not how can we get you here?
It’s about meeting the people where they are at walking along side them with the struggles they are having, and blessing them. I use the term “blessing” the way Michael Frost describes it in Surprise the World:

“To bless” is “to add strength to another’s arm.” In this respect, to bless others is to build them up, to fill them with encouragement for them to increase in strength and prosperity… What does it mean to add strength to another’s arm? Anything that relieves their burden in life. Anything that helps them breathe more easily. Anything that lifts their spirit or alleviates their distress.

This is much (much) easier said than done.
But it’s a good thing to dream and aim for — to be present in the community; to bless the people that surrounds us.
I guess a good barometer of this is to see how your church is known (if at all) in the community.
Ultimately, the hope and dream is that Mosaic HTX will be known to the community as a blessing.

I have bookmarked this post to remind myself of this. And please feel free to call me out and remind me of this post when I start focusing on the wrong thing. Of course we want our churches to be big and healthy. Actually many of us would settle for just being big. It’s an ego boost to know that your community is attracting so many people. But that’s a dangerous game to play where there are no real winners.

Soon — real soon — we’ll have to stop dreaming about what kind of community Mosaic can be and start loving (and blessing) the people and neighbors that surround us. As Bonhoeffer said:

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself becomes destroyers of that Christian community.

So continue to keep us (and particularly the-often-slow-on-the-uptake me) in your prayers. I hope that we can be a church that focuses on how we can find ways to connect and serve our community every day of the week.

Sorry for all the grammatical mistakes. I try to catch them all (like Pokemon) but (like Pokemon) fail to do so. Hopefully you were able to still get through the post. Truly appreciate you all.

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