Discerning Mission

Missional Lab

Missional Lab: Roadblocks that Wreck the Church (Part 2)

By Josh Linman

“Becoming missional will save the church.”

Whether we want to admit it or not, many mainline pastors and denominations are banking on this idea. In our race to become missional, we have allowed some key assumptions to endure that are actually roadblocks to renewal.

Missional Assumption 2: Worship is the centerpiece of Christian life

Missional Reality 2: Discipleship is the centerpiece of Christian life

Most mainline churches missed the “attractional” church era that stretched from the late '80s to early 2000s. Either we were out of touch or preoccupied with preserving the past. Even with all the new talk about going out into the community, the assumption remains that eventually these new people with whom we are connecting will join us in our worship services. Why? Because worship is the centerpiece of Christian life in most congregations. No matter where the conversation starts with unchurched people, it is hard for us churched people to imagine anything beyond the main goal of getting people into a worship service.

Even though most mainliners were not part of the attractional church era, we still have the residue of Christendom sticking to our shoes where, throughout our long history, the goal was to get people to come TO the church. Worship is seen as the litmus test for a true Christian life. In reality, discipleship is the centerpiece of Christian life. Our charge from Jesus was to make disciples (learners), not worshippers. Jesus’ command to new recruits was not “come worship me” but “come follow me!” Worship is certainly one part of a disciple’s life, but it must be balanced with community living, learning, and service for the world. Christian life is not defined by worship but by discipleship.

Steps Toward Discipleship:

Making discipleship the centerpiece of Christian life doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of your weekly corporate worship service. What it does mean is finding ways to build disciple making practices into worship and simplifying worship so you are freed up to focus on discipleship.

  • Stop preaching every Sunday. We talk a lot about this “priesthood of all believers” stuff...embrace it! Listen for stories that could be shared live or on video as the message for the day.
  • Make room for people to share their experiences in your current worship service. “Community Time” is my favorite part of worship at Mill City Church in Minneapolis. For a few minutes before the message, a set of questions (sometime serious, mostly fun) are read. The questions are designed to spark conversation and get you talking with your neighbor. Both of you and your neighbor get to practice telling your stories and think about the upcoming message.  
  • Don’t let a worship leader be your first paid staff position. Hire a video producer to tell stories from the community or hire a community development coordinator to build community internally and support missional efforts externally.
Josh Linman is a Luther Seminary student on internship at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa. When he is not thinking about discipleship he loves eating Chick-Fil-A and cheering for the Florida State Seminoles. He blogs irregularly at www.joshlinman.com.

Image: "road closed" (Creative Commons image by Sarah Korf on Flickr)

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