August 8, 2012
Five Environments Needed to Create Missional Culture
by JR Woodward
Christ calls us to make disciples, yet too often our churches are filled with consumers of religious goods and services instead of Christlike disciples living in the world for the sake of the world in the way of Christ.
One of the most overlooked elements to making missional disciples is recognizing how the culture of our congregation shapes us. It either pulls us down toward our base instincts or lifts us up to our redemptive potential. We create culture and culture in turn recreates us.
Creating a missional culture develops a current within the congregation that enables people to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit and live missional lives. So what are the different environments necessary to create a missional culture?
A learning environment allows people to inhabit the sacred text. A learning environment moves past monologue to dialogue and praxis. Praxis takes place when thought, action and reflection operate in a cyclical fashion. We demonstrate we have learned when we are better able to live faithfully to God’s story. A learning environment can be cultivated as people allow God’s future to reshape how we live in the present and as we avail ourselves to various sacred assemblies for mutual learning.
A healing environment allows people to work through their past hurts and move toward a sense of wholeness and holiness in the context of community. A healing environment is developed when people sense an atmosphere of acceptance, where they understand that others are for them, no matter what they do. We are told to accept one another, just as Christ has accepted us (Rom 15:7). Being “for people” also means desiring God’s best for their lives. A healing environment can be cultivated as people find true friendships where they can be open and vulnerable.
A welcoming environment reflects that we understand that our God is a welcoming God. From the call of Abraham to John’s vision of people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathering to worship the living God, we see God’s welcoming heart. We cultivate a welcoming environment by following Christ in extending the table of fellowship to those whom society has marginalized by being witnesses of his great love. When we practice the art of hospitality, we give God room to work in people’s heart.
A liberating environment helps the congregation experience liberation from personal and social sins by forming Spirit-transforming communities. A liberating environment encourages people to overcome addictions, grow in personal holiness, speak truth to power and live in the power of the Spirit. A liberating environment is formed by connecting to our liberating God, the God of the exodus, the God of the cross, the God of the resurrection and the God of Pentecost, and by practicing the presence of God through the Spirit. For where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom.
Finally, if we desire to create missional culture, we need to cultivate a thriving environment, where a strong discipleship ethos is developed and the multiplication of disciples, ministries and churches take place. This happens as people understanding their sense of calling and live it out. This will take place as people work out their mentoring matrix, finding experienced mentors, peer mentors inside and outside of their organization and mentor others.
Each of these environments are linked to the five equippers in Ephesians 4, where Paul links the spiritual maturity of the church to the five kinds of equippers operating in the church: apostles (thriving environment), prophets (liberating environment), evangelists (welcoming environment), pastors (healing environment) and teachers (learning environment).