Missional church and global mission

In a recent blog post Ed Stetzer asks, “Why are so many missional Christians uninvolved in God’s global mission? As the missional conversation continues and deepens, what has occurred that has led to our blindness to the lost world around us?” (HT: JT)

Stetzer’s answers are worth reading. But I have to say that the phenomenon he identifies has not been my experience over here in the UK. In my admittedly limited experience, I’ve found missional churches in the UK very involved in global mission.

I wonder if this reflects our different contexts. The UK is deeply secular and for the most part post-Christian. So missional church is the UK is largely a response to our missional context. It is driven by mission (and also, for me, by biblical theology – see my talks at Lead09). The US is far more religious and the church is much larger. But the church in the US is often perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be entrenched, disengaged, formal. So missional church in the US is largely a response to its ecclesial context. It’s a reaction against traditional church. The danger with this cna be that the focus falls on ‘doing church’ without a focus on ‘doing mission’.



8 thoughts on “Missional church and global mission

  1. Hi Tim,

    When I read Stetzer’s comments I thought of TCH immediately. Because that was definitely not my impression. Almost everyone I met had a dream brewing somewhere about leaving Sheffield, to take the mission elsewhere. As well as being significantly missionally engaged in Sheffield.

    I think your analysis of the difference is very insightful. And because South Africa is much more like the US than the UK, something for us to be aware of as we engage in missional church. And even as I have spoken to Christians about what we are hoping to do, in being missional, the focus in most of the ensuing conversations tends to be on church rather than mission.

  2. I’m the director of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK. For the most part, our membership, the churches which adopt Bibleless people groups and the churches which cold call us for speakers are drawn from the more traditional end of things. I can’t offhand think of a missional church which has engaged with Wycliffe (though I’m sure there are some). This could be that the missional churches want to do things on their own and are avoiding the traditional missionary societies. However, with 200 Million people still without a word of Scripture in their language, organisations like ours still have some work to do.

    The other side of the coin would also be worth experiencing. I have observed that significant numbers of people who have spent time in cross-cultural mission become frustrated with attractional churches back at home and more drawn to missional expressions of church.

  3. Thanks Tim. John is correct. At one point, I was getting frustrated with all the how to do church talk, while simply following Jesus and being witnesses of the Spirit on His mission was way behind there somewhere.

    Your insight into the UK/USA is helpful in detecting our problem. Very often what we are talking about is misunderstood for a model of church because what is seen in the way of mission is …. well, of little effect.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Hi Eddie, interesting comments. I’m not surprised churches that cold call for speakers come from the more traditional end of things because that’s a traditional way of operating! We only have visiting speakers for any reason or form any source where there is already a relationship. I think institutional mission agencies have trouble connecting with missional church because missional church is a non-institutional way of doing things. That’s hardly a new or fresh insight – it was being widely recognised back in 1990s in mission circles when I was on the board of the old Evangelical Missionary Alliance, now Global Connections. So it’s not that missional churches what to ‘do things on their own’, but rather than they want to do them with others in a relational way. In our case it is also because we believe that in the Bible mission is the privilege and responsibility of local churches and not something to be out-sourced to others. That’s why we work in partnership with Radstock rather than other agencies – because they were founded to facilitate that vision.

  5. Hi Tim, thanks for the response. I would very much agree with you that mission is the privilege and responsibility of local churches and that relationships are primordial. However, I think your response seems to be more of a caricature of mission societies than anything that I recognise. It is fair enough that missional churches want to work in relationships, but by putting mission organisations into a box in the way that you have done, you seem to preclude any possibility of forming relationships, which is rather a shame.

    From my point of view, a large part of our role is to facilitate relationships between church communities in the UK and around the world, while providing the specialist input which is needed to allow them to move forward with Bible translation. It is true that mission societies (our own included) have not always worked this way – but change (though it may be slow).

    If British churches had the skills, background and training to work in Bible translation on their own, there would of course be no need for a specialist organisation such as our own. But they don’t and so we have a raison d’etre. But you are dead right, we have to be a vehicle of support for local churches (not just in the UK) and we have to do things through relationships.

  6. Dear Beloved in the Lord , Why lot of people in the call to mission are not into global mission works, is that a lot have little or less understanding about ewhat mission means,some lack the contacts and means to reachout and some in the their country do not have the proper support needed to strenghten the call reaching out for global mission.
    I just believed that your call will go beyond races and country log for the kingdom’s gospel to expand and reach every where as we are all comissioned by our Lord Jesus Christ.
    I will love to hear from you soon.
    God Bless

  7. As an ex-Wycliffe member (and now involved in The Crowded House) I can see where you’re coming from, Eddie. Wycliffe, and other mission agencies I’m familiar with, do not advocate ‘out-sourcing’ mission from local church in theory or practice. In fact, both Wycliffe and Frontiers (www.frontiers.org.uk), who I am now hoping to work with, heavily emphasise the importance of the local church. Although it’s possible for members to become somewhat detached from their sending church(es), as long as all involved are intentional about being relational, that doesn’t need to happen. It’s great when local church and mission agencies work together in partnership, drawing from each others’ strengths.

  8. Dan and Eddie

    My experience of OM was the same, they were working to support struggling local churches rather than trying to run the show without them. They were all desperate to be redundant but in the meantime they were committed to the growth of the local church.

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