A New Mission for the Burnt-Out Mom
In a recent "Stuff Christian Culture Likes" post at Beliefnet, humorist Stephanie Drury poked fun at signs—positioned so that they can be read only when people are leaving a church building or parking lot—that read, "You Are Now Entering the Mission Field." They remind churchgoers to share God's love with the people they encounter "out in the world." In the act of leaving the property, Christians are being sent out, as it were, on a mission.
When I was growing up, the word mission was used exclusively for those self-sacrificing believers who packed their bags and moved to a hot and sometimes unpronounceable locale. (Remember trying to read the words "Irian Jaya" as a kid?) Missionaries sent annual prayer letters to supporters, cards which pictured large "quivers" of children whose names were taken from the Old Testament, never shortened into nicknames and often began with the same letter of the alphabet. "Christmas Greetings from Daniel and Esther … and Jacob, Jonathan, Jesse, Judith and Jemima—on the Mission Field in Konang!"
But times have changed. Now instead of being "called to the mission field," all Christians are urged to "live missionally." But what, for the love of Jacob, Jonathan, and Judith, does that mean? In a climate in which we throw around terms such as emergent, organic, and Church 2.0 with such frequency that they lose whatever meaning they might have begun with, is missional another trendy, soon-to-be ignored modifier?
Not if Helen Lee can help it. Lee is a journalist, home-schooling mom and is author of The Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home and in the World. Since her book's publication, Lee has engaged others in the work of nailing down what "missional" really means. In a recent interview with author and New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, posted on her website, Lee asked McKnight what "this new buzzword" means and whether its "popularity [is] matched by its practice."
"Being missional comes down to answering a simple question: 'How can I help you?' " McKnight said. "Pastors are using the word, but I don't know that they understand it. Defining the word has become a game. In missional churches, people's ears are open, their eyes are open, and they are asking, 'What does our community need?' A pastor friend of mine wrote to the local police department and asked, 'What are the biggest problems you deal with in this community?' The police said, 'Drugs and alcohol.' … if that's the answer your church hears, what are you going to do about it?"