In this new season of (almost) post-COVID ecclesiology, we’re seeing pastors, church leaders, and planters struggle to find movement. Not only are congregants increasingly tired, mentally retreating, and instilling new rhythms in their life, but leaders are facing these new paradigms as well. All of this results in lower attendance and engagement, with tired leaders trying to find new movement in their community. We see the shifting patterns of church life and faith as opportunities to engage what the church was always designed to be—a missional movement of communities joining God in His mission to announce the Kingdom.
So what does “empowering” for missional movement look like?
We Are Sent People
First, it looks like reminding ourselves of some theological and biblical truths and of our true identities. This identity is found throughout the whole of scripture, but perhaps finds its crescendo from the lips of Jesus himself in John 20:19-23. In this conversation with his disciples, he proclaims their identity and their methodology when he states, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21, NLT).
We are first and foremost “sent” people. How are we sent? We’re sent in the same way the Father sent Jesus. His life becomes our model.
We Are Strategic
Second, we understand that there are different conversations for different church contexts. The pastor of an existing church community that wants to “re-mission” itself to be more outward focused and move into the neighborhoods and city that it serves will have much different coaching and training needs from the pioneer or church planter starting something new. An existing church needs to take into account the culture and organizational shifts that are needed in order to re-mission smartly.
Just launching microchurches as a program may actually hurt more than help if not thought through strategically. New pioneers have specific needs and concerns when launching a new community with missional values. Collectively, both of these leaders then need tools to help disciple people toward missional actions in their lives as a community.
We Are a Community
Finally, becoming a “missional” community will carry with it excitement and momentum as people experiment and learn to love their neighbors tangibly. New stories of exciting Kingdom displays and of lives being changed can be expected. However, this environment also carries challenges, as missional life is often messy. Leaders need a community of missional practitioners and entrepreneurs to walk with and belong to.
As pastors and church planters, we are at our best when we are part of a relational network of people who are on mission together. We come together and share best practices, ideas, and struggles as leaders. This is our collective intelligence that brings a communitas in the midst of our liminal experiences.
We see the future as extremely hopeful for the church, if we are willing to pivot and join God in mission in new ways.
Rowland Smith serves as National Director of Forge America, an organization that partners with local movements to mobilize the people of God to participate in the everyday mission of God.