Jeremy from “Till He Comes” and “Grace Ground” has written a very good post (for Grace Ground) called “How to Tell if a Church is Missional or Traditional.”
In the post, Jeremy offers 10 questions to consider in order to determine if the believers you meet with (that is, the church) are missional or traditional. (Although, Jeremy doesn’t give us a definition of either “missional” or “traditional.”)
I thought they were good questions, so I told Jeremy that I would try to answer them. (I hope others attempt to answer the questions also.) Now, to be honest, I can only answer for myself and how I think my brothers and sisters would answer.
1. What would you do if the church members became convinced that to do a better job at reaching people in the community, they needed to change the name of the church?
I’m not tied to any organizational name, and I don’t think my brothers and sisters are tied to a particular organizational name. When we first started meeting together, we were much more traditional and organizationally minded, and we picked the name “Messiah Baptist Church.” I don’t think many (if any) would fight to keep that name. However, I’m not sure that an organizational name actually affects reaching people in the community. It may affect how people initially react to us (if we even say we’re from such-and-such a church), but I tend to say that I represent Jesus Christ, not a certain organization. Many people that I am serving don’t even know the name of our church (or that I am one of the elders), but they know the name Jesus Christ.
2. What would you do if the church members became convinced that to do a better job at reaching people in the community, they needed to sell the church building?
We don’t own a church building, so that particular issue would not be a problem. We do own a few things to facilitate our times of meeting together (chairs, tables, etc.). I don’t think people would have a problem selling any of those things; I know that I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Again, with the few things that we have bought, I don’t think selling any or all of them would help us reach or serve people in our community.
3. What would you do if the church members became convinced that to do a better job of reaching people in the community, the church needed to switch service times from Sunday morning to Tuesday night?
We do not meet together on Sundays in order to reach people. So, if doing something on Tuesday night would help us interact with and serve our community, or help us proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in our community, then I think those who are able and available would meet together on Tuesday night (wherever we would need to meet). Many of us do this now on every other Thursday night when 300-400 families come together for a food pantry.
4. After attending meetings and preparing a sermon, the pastor finds that he only has five hours of time left in his work week. Do you think he should spend those hours with people who are already part of the church or with people who are not?
That person should be spending time with people. Period. If the elder/pastor only has a few hours to spend with people (whether part of the church or not), I would ask where all the time went. Perhaps (and probably) less time should be spent on “sermon prep” or meetings. (Of course, we don’t have meetings – well, once every two weeks the elders get together.)
5. Recently, some teenagers have been coming to church who wear all black, and smoke out front before and after the service. What do you think the church elders should do?
For those elders (and other brothers and sisters in Christ) who are not allergic to cigarette smoke, I think they would be sitting with these teenagers and getting to know them.
6. A single mother comes up to you after church one day for advice. Due to work and her busy schedule, she can only attend one â€œchurch functionâ€ a week, either the Sunday morning service or her Tuesday night â€œLife Group.â€ She confides in you that she actually â€œgets more out of the Tuesday night group and is developing good relationships thereâ€ but would feel guilty â€œskipping churchâ€ on Sunday. What do you tell her?
I tell her, “By all means, spend time with the group on Tuesday night. Those people you meet with on Tuesday night are the church also. Now, how can I personally (and we as a church) help you with your busy schedule? Do you need someone to watch your child/children occasionally? Could we fix meals for you, or would you come to our home for dinner?” (By the way, there is a young lady in our church – a teenager – who spends several hours each week staying with children (without pay) so that the mothers can do things they need to do. So, this is not an “academic” answer, but a real one.)
7. A Hindu attends church one Sunday, and afterward tells you that he doesnâ€™t believe in eternal judgment or that Jesus is the only way to God. What do you tell him?
I would tell him, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God who died on the cross and rose again, just as Scripture says. I believe that salvation and a living relationship with God are found only through him. I believe that life in him is eternal. Now, I know that you don’t agree with me. I can’t force you to believe, and I don’t want to force you to believe. Would you like to share the lunch that my family brought today? During lunch, I’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have. I’d also like to learn more about you and your family.”
8. How long have you lived where you live right now? What are the names of your neighbors, and what problems are they facing right now?
We’ve lived in our house for almost 5 years now. I know the names of my neighbors around me, and I know some of their struggles (especially the single mom to the right of us). To be honest, this has been a difficult for our family. We have attempted to get to know our neighbors better, but have been shut down repeatedly. (I’m not saying it’s the fault of our neighbors; it might be our fault.) But, we’re constantly seeking opportunities to get to know them better or serve them.
9. How are you showing love to others tangibly, and to whom are you showing this love?
Without going into too many details, our family is tangibly showing God’s love in many ways. Primarily, we do so through day-to-day living out the relationships with people that God has brought into our lives. Plus we look for opportunities to love those who are in need, through delivering meals to the elderly and serving at a food pantry. We do not see those “ministries” as ends in themselves, but as opportunities to build relationships with people who need to know the love of God. And, God has blessed us with several relationships because of that.
10.Â How much money does the church receive, and where exactlyÂ does this money go? Is thereÂ a “missions” or “outreach” budget?Â What percentage of your budget is it?Â What sorts of things is it spent on?
Well, this question is impossible for me to answer, because our church doesn’t operate like that. The only “budget” that we have is for corporate expenses that we have agreed upon, such as rent for the building we meet in. We don’t ask people to give their “tithe” to the church so the church can redistribute it. We only ask that people meet those corporate needs (again, that we’ve all agreed on). Then, we encourage everyone to use their money to meet the needs of people around them and/or to support those who are traveling away from home to proclaim the gospel or encourage churches (i.e. missionaries). I know that our family and many of my brothers and sisters are often helping others, serving others, giving to others, and supporting missionaries.
This was a very beneficial exercise for me. I’ll let my readers decide if we are more traditional or more missional. (I’ve always identified us as a hybrid traditional/simple church.)
Again, I hope that others answer Jeremy’s questions also. Then, let him know (in the comments of his post) where to find your answers.