That’s what I’ve been telling people these days when they ask me to explain the concept of the “missional church”: I say, “If you’ve ever been on a mission trip then you know. It’s like that. It’s like all of us at First Baptist Church are on a mission trip right now, right here. The bus has just come to a stop at our mission site on the corner of Monument and Boulevard and it’s time to get off the bus.”
It came to mind a few weeks ago when I was sitting in the sanctuary, listening to our children sing at their end-of-the-year program. They did a beautiful job; I was feeling a good bit of pastoral pride; and then it hit me: if we were on a mission trip, would we be doing this? If we had loaded those kids up on a bus and driven to Arkansas, would they have stood at the front of the bus and sung for us? No. They would have sung at a nursing home or a hospital. They would have worked all week at a trailer park, teaching other children to sing the same songs. In other words their singing would have been shared with the world in some way, and not only with their proud pastor, parents, and grandparents at First Baptist Church.
According to missional activist Alan Hirsch, it is this awareness of the world around us, and this understanding that we are on a mission—God’s mission—that makes a church “missional.” When we really “get it,” it begins to affect everything we do, and some of us really are beginning to get it.
I had a talk yesterday with someone who wondered if we could find some land to plant a garden and then donate the food to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. As we talked we thought about the refugees from Nepal who have been coming to our Wednesday night dinners. Could they tend the garden, use the food, sell the surplus at the 17th Street Market? Suddenly, instead of only talking about taking up an offering and sending missionaries to Nepal, we were talking about how we could be missionaries to the Nepalese right here in Richmond.
Or what about one of our members who is talking with other churches in the city to see if each church could provide an apartment for someone who has a job but not a home: the “working homeless”? He’s doing it because when I asked him to help Jesus bring heaven to earth by looking around for anything that didn’t look like heaven and then rolling up his sleeves and going to work there, that’s where he went—to the homeless. He seems to understand that we are on a mission trip, and the First Baptist bus has rolled to a stop, and it’s time to get off the bus.
As we remember and celebrate the Day of Pentecost, please pray that God’s Holy Spirit would fall on us as it fell on those first believers, and that like them we would find that we cannot keep the good news about Jesus to ourselves, that we have to live it, and breathe it, and tell it, and share it in every way imaginable with the world around us.
Maybe we can learn to sing God’s song in other places, and not only in the church sanctuary.