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Want to Be Missional in the Way of Jesus?—Don’t Make These Five Mistakes

One of the attractions of the “missional” label is the inherent affirmation of Christ’s mission in and to the world. If we are followers of Christ, then part of that mission must include the idea that we want all people to know Him.

The term “missional” came into prominent use in the late 20th century as an adjective describing the activity of God’s people in the world for His mission. Today, the term has taken on broad meanings by such diverse and often contradictory voices that, to some, “missional” has become virtually meaningless.

I’ve been working on my chapter for a forthcoming book on the meanings of missional. As I write, I am increasingly convinced that the word has value—but we have to define what we mean by mission.

Being missional must also mean spreading the message of reconciliation between God and man through Jesus Christ.

Or, better yet, let Jesus define it.

In this short article, I want to weigh in on what a missional emphasis really must include. It is more than this, but it includes this. (I’ve discussed the bigger meaning of missional at length on my blog—here, here, here, here, here and here).

I cannot define the word “missional,” at least not in an authoritative or definitive way, for everyone. But I can tell you why I think it must include Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

This does not mean that much of the concern about the way the word “missional” has been used is not warranted. There are some serious and legitimate concerns. However, if we’re going to adopt the term “missional,” here’s what we can’t do and still be on Jesus’ mission.

1. We can’t de-emphasize the cross.

We do not want to focus on the Kingdom as an instrument of societal transformation without a cross-centered approach. Two millennia later, the cross is still an offense.

People don’t like being confronted with a bloody cross. It’s a stumbling block to them. In our zeal to make the world more like God would have it, there may be a tendency to move away from the centrality of the cross in our conversation.

Being missional means making sure that the missional proclamation continues to be “Christ and Him crucified.”

2. We can’t de-emphasize the spiritual dilemma.

Societal transformation is not man’s biggest problem.

The world is a broken place, and there is a desperate need for economic and social justice in all parts of the world. There are those who are exploited and oppressed with little or no hope of relief.

The vulnerable and the downtrodden must be in our missional vision. But we must remind ourselves (and those to whom we bring relief) that our chief problem is not alienation from each other but alienation from God.

Being missional means we publicly profess, confess and proclaim His name, even in the face of adversity and opposition.

Being missional means spreading the message of reconciliation between God and man through Jesus Christ.