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 3: Faith is ignited in hearing the Gospel preached
Missional Reality 3: Faith is ignited in experiencing the Gospel practiced
This is probably the point where someone will take away my Lutheran card and exile me to Methodism, but this has to be said. We are addicted to one, limited conception of proclamation in the Lutheran church: a pastor preaching in worship. I know this sounds crazy, but it is problematic.
Instead of preaching at people, we can practice with people.
It’s problematic because we have started to think that the only way to ignite faith is by hearing the Gospel preached. As a result, we limit how and where the Spirit can work. Certainly faith is made alive for some when the Word is proclaimed in worship, but faith can also be ignited in practicing the Gospel.
When we invite a new family in the neighborhood over for dinner, serve at a local food pantry, or talk about faith and life with co-workers, we practice the Gospel.
In the coming years, faith will be ignited less by hearing the Gospel preached and more by experiencing the Gospel practiced as our culture continues to shift from its aural and figurehead-led past to its more experiential and collaborative future. I still believe that “the Word of God is living and active,” (Hebrews 4:12) but the best method for proclaiming the Gospel and igniting faith has shifted from aural to print to now visual.
Reggie McNeal puts it this way in his book Missional Renaissance: “Our acts of service and love, not our oratorical brilliance and institutional success, will intrigue people with our message. Jesus followers live the truth; they don’t just study it. Because of this, others are invited into truth and life."
We’re not getting rid of scripture or doctrine or truth, rather we’re contextualizing it in a different way. Instead of preaching at people, we can practice with people.
We can still speak the Word in these “communities of practice,” but we can do it by acknowledging that God works in and through humanity, and by recognizing that the way humanity learns and experiences things changes over time. Alan Roxburgh says in his book Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood to be genuinely missional means embracing these changes and showcasing our “readiness to enter into the world of the other on his or her terms rather than our own.” Again, it all comes down to a matter of discipleship.
What does this look like? How is faith ignited when you experience the Gospel practiced?
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.
- Read Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal
- Cancel worship one Sunday each month and do service projects in your community. Connect the projects to Biblical themes. Take time for devotions before the project and set aside time after to share how participants saw God at work. See how Summit Church in Orlando does service days: http://summitconnect.org/pages/niceserve
- Encourage small groups to create a rhythm of Bible study, fellowship and service. The small group that I attend takes one week to discuss a recent sermon theme, one week to meet at a local bar or restaurant to check in with each other, and one week to serve a meal at a residential facility for people with HIV/AIDS.
Image: "road closed" (Creative Commons image by Sarah Korf on Flickr)