Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Why the Missional Movement Will Fail

Why the Missional Movement Will Fail

We are a group of people addicted to and obsessed with the work of the Kingdom, with little to no idea of how to be with the King.

As Skye Jethani wrote in his Out of Ur post a little while back, “Has Mission become an Idol?”:

Many church leaders unknowingly replace the transcendent vitality of a life with God for the ego satisfaction they derive from a life for God.

Look, I’m not criticizing the people who are passionate about mission … I am one of those people. I was one of the people pioneering the missional movement in the 1980s and have been doing it ever since. This is my camp, my tribe, my people.

But it has to be said: God did not design us to do Kingdom mission outside of the scope of intentional, biblical discipleship, and if we don’t see that, we’re fooling ourselves. Mission is under the umbrella of discipleship as it is one of the many things that Jesus taught his disciples to do well. But it wasn’t done in a vacuum outside of knowing God and being shaped by that relationship, where a constant refinement of their character was happening alongside of their continued skill development (which included mission).

The truth about discipleship is that it’s never hip and it’s never in style … it’s the call to come and die; a “long obedience in the same direction.” While the “missional” conversation is imbued with the energy and vitality that comes with kingdom work, it seems to be missing some of the hallmark reality that those of us who have lived it over time have come to expect: Mission is messy. It’s humbling. There’s often no glory in it. It’s for the long haul. And it’s completely unsustainable without discipleship.

This is the crux of it: The reason the missional movement may fail is because most people/communities in the Western church are pretty bad at making disciples.

Without a plan for making disciples (and a plan that works), any missional thing you launch will be completely unsustainable.

Think about it this way: Sending people out to do mission is to send them out to a war zone. Discipleship is not only the boot camp to train them for the front lines, but the hospital when they get wounded and the off-duty time they need to rest and recuperate.

When we don’t disciple people the way Jesus and the New Testament talked about, we are sending them out without armor, weapons or training. This is mass carnage waiting to happen.

How can we be surprised that people burn out, quit and never want to return to the missional life (or the church)? How can we not expect people will feel used and abused?

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Mike leads 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church. He and his wife, Sally, have three children.