There's always going to be an ongoing conversation about the mission/missional strategy of the local church. In some ways, if we're not having that conversation, then we're not engaging in critical thinking about what it means to be the people of God engaged with God in the fulfilment of his mission. And yet, at the same time, too much talk can mean too little action.
So how do we know when we are on or in mission? What might some of the signs be? Well, Jeff Vanderstelt gives an interesting definition in this short video clip of a longer talk. His basic point can probably be summed up in terms of living life among and with the people we are trying to reach.
I still maintain that too much of our mission activity is predicated upon the idea that people need to come to where we are in order to come to faith. In simple terms, they need to discover the church before they discover Jesus because the church is the only valid route to do this. Now we might not articulate in that way, but I think if we stop and think about, that is precisely what we've tended towards for many years. We hold evangelistic events and invite people we hardly know.
Now I guess that if the church really was the people living out the gospel and not the programmes and buildings and events, then it might just work more effectively than it has done. It certainly has worked in some circumstances, but I fear that there are many for whom it hasn't worked or for whom it may never work that way. Our imagination has to shift away from populating our programmes and towards something altogether more kingdom focussed.
I wish I could see the end from the beginning, but I can't. All I know is that it is time for the church to leave the building and find ways of taking the gospel into the heart of the communities where missing people dwell, and to invest the time and energy to dwell there with them as gospel people. In the world but not of the world as Jesus once said.