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May 24, 2011

Developing Missional Churches for the Great Commission, Part Two: The Great Commission and Missional Thinking

This is the second of an eight-part series on Developing Missional Churches for the Great Commission. You can read part one here. Today, I want to focus on The Great Commission and Missional Thinking.

Where does the Great Commission belong in this discussion? Well, contrary to what some have written, "missional" and "Great Commission" are not interchangeable terms. "Missional" is not just a new way to say "Great Commission." The missional church is an identification of the people of God on mission because of who God is (and who they are because of their new life in Christ).

Yet, the Great Commission is essential to the missional Christian and church. Remember, the first biblical picture of what we call missional is of God as a missionary, seeking those who have wandered from Him. Second, we see God as a sender when He sent His Son into the world to be its savior and king (John 3:16). Then, we find it when Jesus sends the church into the world and the Holy Spirit into its members to empower them: "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world" (John 17:18).

Jesus was sent from the Father on a mission with an agenda: redemption. He is redeeming people and the world to and for Himself. And, that means we must be passionate about the advance of the gospel because of Jesus' call and his example. You can be an evangelistic church and not be missional, but you cannot be a missional church and not be evangelistic. Let me say it this way. If we are not developing "missional" churches for the Great Commission, we are not developing missional churches--at least in a biblical sense of the word. Yes, handing out coffee, teaching kids to read, and picking up trash in a park can be done for Christ. When we do these types of things, we are seeking to make the world more like Jesus intends for it to be. Seeking to be missional, however, without following the commissions of Jesus is not joining God on mission. It is merely pursuing a mission that we have created, not one where we follow Jesus on the mission he proclaimed.

Two perspectives must be embraced to develop missional churches for the Great Commission. We need a strong DNA and a corresponding culture that cultivates the conviction that Great Commission lifestyles are critical to accomplishing the mission God. New churches have the opportunity to shape a Missional DNA into new congregation. For existing churches, installing a Great Commission and missional DNA is a retrofit issue. Regardless of the church's age, cultivating DNA is hard work. The concept of being a missionary cannot be taught through reading good books and attempting to modify behavior. The significance and implications of the Great Commission must be fully internalized by core leadership teams in new or existing congregations. It takes time and leadership to cultivate and mature this DNA in the life of the church.

A Great Commission Ethic must be championed. The ethic is: We will, as we go, make disciples, baptize, and teach with a focus on people groups in the authority of Jesus Christ. To not do this is to ignore or marginalize the Great Commission, and that opposes biblical Christianity because it opposes the character and work of Christ. He was sent by His Father to establish the kingdom of God on the earth and redeem a people by His death for the kingdom, and He is the Sender of a sent people who are commissioned to speak and live out His message.

Part three will consider the challenge of being missional. For now, feel free to discuss and weigh in.

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