Kim Hammond reflects on the characteristics of the Missional Church and the implications upon his own community of faith, ‘The Junction’.
For the last fifteen hundred years the church has been at the centre of society and involved with the state. Today in a postmodern era there is a new emerging church rising from the midst of a irrelevant, dated church. It is grassroots and rough. It is being lead by mainly young people and it crosses denomination and organization.
Its form is still shaping and its contexts are ever changing however there are some universal principles that seem to thread these churches together as missional communities. They embrace their culture with simple abandonment. They have smashed the walls of the church and the invisible barriers of the church to reach the world around them.
While at the same time living counter cultural lives that interact with ancient prayers and age-old disciplines. They are rediscovering liturgy, service and prayer as the fuel for the mission.
Attract verus submerge.
Since the time of Constantine the church has been at the centre of society. This was reflected in the churches buildings, which were given great importance in the centre of town and its overwhelming structure was intimidating in height and design. The steeple was the highest point in any town. ‘It was only three centuries after the death of Christ that Constantine gave official recognition to the importance of Christianity in the State by calling and presiding over the Council of Nicaea (Cairns 1954: 85)’.
State and Church co-existed as equals crossing over into each other’s realms through politics and the government of the day. There was a blurred edge between clergy power and paid political rule.
Christianity was not birthed this way. It was considered a Jewish cult, was a grass roots movement, and its people were marginalised. The Roman government persecuted Christians and many thousands were tortured and killed in the first three hundred years after the birth of Jesus.
Today most of the church acts as if it is still under Constantine influence. It aims to construct large buildings where it conducts services that represent the spirituality of the church. Sunday morning has become the unchangeable icon of the modern western church.
Go anywhere in the western church and you’ll see a universal format of singing and preaching as the fundamental cornerstones of the content of these services. The church’s main premise is to conduct a service so it can attract visitors to their building and then assimilate them into the life of the church and its programs. Some large churches do this incredibly well and provide excellent services. From when a person enters the car park to when they leave they are treated to a host of volunteers who will greet them, show them to a chair, teach or baby-sit their children, sing to them and then provide a reasonable amount of entertainment from PowerPoint to skits, dramas and items. Some people can go from one large church to another enjoying world class preaching and music.
Unfortunately many of the smaller churches have the same aims and intentions, but they do not have the facilities, resources and volunteers to provide the same quality product. They most likely have attended the large church services and even a yearly conference hosted by the large church and yet they find such experiences unreproducible.
Firstly, western church services are normally incredibly inward in their language and content. Only people familiar to the Christian culture would truly understand the majority of what is said and sung. There is usually a cultural issue where the songs and style is dated. The service only appeals to people whom like that style.
This results in most people feeling they could not bring the average unchurched friend or relative to these services. In fact most of the people who do attend are the members of that congregation or visiting Christians. There are enough visiting or disgruntled Christians, who shop around, that these churches continue on without asking “who is finding Jesus for the first time?” They try all sorts of ways to attract new people, from fairs to fates to coffee lounges to visitor corners; they attempt to bring “the worldly person” into the church. No matter how well they greet and guide people, the cultural gap between the average person and the church is enormous. The western Church simply believes the average unchurched person wants their message.
The missional church goes back to the life of Jesus. It submerges itself into the culture it is reaching. He did not construct a building or start a service. Rather he walked among the poor and hurt and lost. He incarnated himself. He became flesh; God came down from heaven and lived among us. He was born poor and grew up in a despised town called Nazareth. He had a questionable birth and in all likeliness lost his earthly father at an early age. He became close friends of sinners and was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. (Luke 8:34)
This was the only model the early church knew. Those that had been his disciples saw how he pulled away from the crowd and wanted no fame or fortune for his ability to lead and heal. His purpose was to build into the lives of a small group of people so that his mission to bring the kingdom would be carried on their shoulders.
The missional church understands that it is primarily a missional community of people being trained and equipped to live among the world as missionaries. The same principle as oversees missions is applied in the first world. We speak the language, wear the clothes and submerge into the culture we want to reach.
Incarnation is valued as the greatest model of mission. Jesus coming to earth gives us the greatest example of missional living. We see our primary role as missionaries in the first world mission field. Or area is Berwick and Cardinia, reaching young adults, high school young people and families.
Church buildings versus proxy spaces.
The Western Church makes their building spiritual or uses a more conventional hall and makes it a spiritual place. They Christianise it with banners and flowers and pews or seats. They are distinctly built for preaching and singing.
The missional church can use any building and location to gather the church. It doesn’t see the building as the church; it sees the people of God as it. ‘The Greek word for church is ‘ecclesia’ which means ‘the called out community’ and that sounds more like a revolution (Matson: 2002: 33).’ So these called out ones gather to tell stories, remember Christ, practise disciplines and liturgy, teach and equip others to do mission, care for the poor and the widow and share life deeply as life long friends.
Proxy spaces are the places the church can gather at anytime, anywhere, such as in a pub, park, restaurant, caf