Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions How to Embrace "Ordinary" Mission Work

How to Embrace "Ordinary" Mission Work

I met with some pastors a few weeks ago to see if I could help their congregations begin the titanic turn toward missional. I’m not sure if I was a little too tired or what, but I found myself irritated and a tad ornery within the first hour. I apologized for my attitude, but then proceeded to identify why I was getting a minor headache from our meeting.

These well-meaning leaders seemed to be fishing for the “big catalytic innovation” that would “unleash a movement”; meanwhile, the ordinariness of a communal/missional shaped lifestyle was seemingly unimpressive to them. These pastors humored my crankiness, and I eventually warmed up to their eager questions.

I’ve never been more convinced that it’s the ordinary stuff that we fumble over because our eyes are darting elsewhere. The most ground-breaking missional excavating is in the unattractive details of our rhythmic, ongoing lives. Addressing these details will bring about a collision with the primordial-ordinary ways we need to recover dwelling in our communities.

I’d like to point out some observations that I sense are lingering underneath the surface. These issues threaten to make the dynamic of “ordinariness” uninteresting:

1. Image

One of my frustrations is the knee-jerk thinking, How are we going to spin this to create excitement in our congregation? We are a bit too tickled and consumed with making our mark. We could benefit from losing some interest in ourselves. Under the mantra of “casting a vision,” we begin to push buttons to manipulate corporate energy.

When we lean into “being missional,” it should not be attached to larger presentations. This bent deludes the authenticity demanded of us in Post-Christendom. It also perpetuates the obsession with landscaping while neglecting the major shifts occurring on a plate-tectonic level. We need patience to wrestle first with what’s going on in the backroom before mocking up the display window.

Image management creates “cool” churches with poser sensibilities. These sensibilities smell of self-importance to those not yet convinced of Jesus. Swaths of churchy-stuff has been paraded in public which inadvertently has eroded relational credibility on the street. Our grand language should lag way, way behind our action. American life can feel like an insane asylum pulsating with noise, technology, information and competition. The church does not need to add to that substatic buzz.

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I lead a developing network of mid-sized missional communities that are filled with people learning to reorient their lives around the New Testament thrust of community. In 2010 my family along with 5 other families uprooted and moved into the city of Syracuse to pioneer a community/missional approach to being the church. We're a growing body of Jesus-followers learning to love each other and love our city. Follow him on Twitter: @danwhitejr