One of the ways I’m trying to help people understand this whole “missional church” concept is by talking about the mission trip our youth took to Slovakia last summer.
When we finally got off the plane in Poland, exhausted from an overnight flight, we got on two big, beautiful tour buses and made our way to Ruzomberok, Slovakia, some four hours away. Most of us slept along the way, and when we got to our hotel in Ruzomberok we were able to stay awake just long enough to eat some dinner before trudging upstairs, brushing our teeth, and falling into bed.
We slept with the windows open, breathing fresh, mountain air, and most of us woke up feeling deliciously rested and wonderfully alive. We had a big breakfast in the dining room where there was plenty of food and plenty of hot coffee. By eight o’clock we were ready to go to the job site—an orphange in town that had acquired a house next door and needed someone to clean it out and fix it up. We had our morning devotions, said a prayer, and then got onto the buses, rolled into town, and pulled up in front of the orphanage. Every person on the bus had been assigned to a work crew, and each crew had a leader. Within minutes of our arrival the demolition crew was demolishing an old barn, the painting crew was painting an old fence, the grounds crew was pulling weeds from an overgrown flower bed, and the fencing crew was sizing up the job of building a new fence.
We worked all morning, right up until lunch, and then we went back to work that afternoon. For the better part of four days these youth and their adult chaperones worked as if their lives depended on getting that house into good shape for those orphans.
I couldn’t have been any prouder.
That experience serves as a useful metaphor for understanding the missional church, because instead of thinking of church as that place where we come to worship and study and enjoy Christian fellowship we begin to think of church as those people who roll up their sleeves and take part in God’s mission to the world. There will be times when we simply need rest (as we did after our long journey). There will be times when we need nourishment, both physical and spiritual (as we did the next morning). There will be times when we need to organize ourselves around the tasks at hand (as we did before getting off the bus). And there will be times when we need to put our hands to the work, and make a real difference in the world (as we did at that orphanage).
In and around all that activity are those rich opportunities for fellowship—for getting to know each other and coming to love each other. On that trip we laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced, and by the end of the trip we had not only done good work and worshiped the living God, but forged unbreakable bonds with one another.
Now, that’s what the church ought to be, and it ought to be true that it doesn’t only happen on once-in-a-lifetime mission trips. It ought to be part of our everyday experience as the church of Jesus Christ. So, maybe we could begin to understand that we are on a mission trip, right now. The bus that we have been riding has brought us to Richmond, Virginia. And having rested, and eaten, and said our prayers, it’s time to get off the bus, and get to work.
Who’s with me?
Bonus Feature! See video of the Slovakia mission trip by clicking HERE.