I've added a new word to my vocabulary: missionalism. In fact I may have coined the word. All I know is that my spell-checker never heard of it before.

Missionalism defined: the belief that the worth of one's life is determined by the achievement of a grand objective. Key word: worth.

I don't know how long the word missional has been in use. I only began to hear it in the last few years as in "we're a missional church." Is missional really that different from being purpose-driven? I like both terms, but I know lots of churches (including ones I pastored) that were acting missional and purpose-driven long before the two words became popular. I remember thinking one day that missional sounds a bit Catholic, and purpose-driven sounds more Evangelical Protestant.

But missionalism is something else. It's a leader's disease. Like a common cold that begins with a small cough, missionalism catches on in a leader's life and seems at first so inconsequential. But let this disease catch hold and you are likely to have bodies strewn all over the place, the leader's and some of the leader's followers.

A worst case scenario from a generation ago might be Jim Jones and his horrific ending in Guyana. The mission became all-consuming, and it turned dark. Not only did the leader go down, but most of his followers self-destructed, too.

Seeds of the Sickness

Missionalism starts slowly and gains a foothold in the leader's attitude. Before long the mission controls almost everything: time, relationships, health, spiritual depth, ethics, and convictions.

When I searched the Bible for insight on this, I first lighted on Moses in his fortieth year. "[Moses] went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor." In other words, there ...

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Winter 2007: Going Missions  | Posted
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