It’s Not Missional If No Proclamation

There seems to be a growing interest lately in many circles on missional churches, whether to understand, discuss, advocate, criticize, or misrepresent. (BTW, an upcoming conference should be of interest on the Missional Church Movement.) It has been rightly pointed out that there is a need for clear definitions. There has also been concern expressed about the centrality of proclamation.  In an earlier blog I briefly defined missional in saying that "the church is on mission daily and not only when gathered on Sunday. God's people are in the world, in their communities, in the lives of unbelievers – for the gospel's sake, to make Christ known, to be a visible expression of God's power and proclamation." I don't claim any originality on this definition but can't pinpoint a source. Anyway, from my standpoint as a church planter when I hear about the centrality of proclamation I let out a "Duh." How insightful! Honestly I don't want to demean anyone and I know "missional" has been abused by some for activity divorced from gospel proclamation so please read on.


However, although the priority of gospel proclamation seems evident to me I know that different views on the relationship of evangelism and social engagement often muddy the picture – whether evangelism as a bridge for the gospel, social action as a consequence of gospel proclamation, or parity between the two. Yet a church planter, for whom proclamation is central to his ministry, asks the question: "To whom will I proclaim the gospel?" I was an insurance agent while in seminary and received this advice from a supervisor. If you want to be successful in selling insurance you need to do three things. Number 1 – See the people; Number 2 – See the people; and Number 3 – SEE THE PEOPLE! I sold a lot of insurance because I saw the people.


In a church plant you generally don't have many people looking for a place to worship, especially your hard-to-find, poorly located, enter by the back door, no cool place and programs for the kiddies rented facility. Even in established churches you don't have many looking for a place of worship anymore unless they are new move-ins and coming from another church. Which, by the way, is why many established churches that really do preach the gospel are dying. According to Ed Stetzer, "Eighty to 85 percent of American churches are on the downside of their life cycle" (Planting Missional Churches, 13). Churches were so accustomed to having people find them that they stopped going out in the highways and byways to seek and save the lost. Or pastors became become managers of programs and directors of member care. That can happen to any of us. We forget Paul's exhortation: "Do the work of an evangelist!"


When we use the word missional we understand that our world has changed and that the Church's stance must change. We no longer live in a Christian America. We never really did but churches were at the center of society, places of gathering and of influence. Some have called this period Christendom or Churchianity. Look around today. Churches are no longer at the center but are on the margins, outsiders looking in on a world that no longer needs the church (or at least as they've known it). Missional churches recognize that they must intentionally go into their communities to engage people, to love people, to whom they can proclaim the gospel. You can't proclaim to people you don't encounter.


We don't do anything in our community without gospel centrality. Whether at the community jazz fest, the police clergy prayer vigils at murder sites; whether school backpacks for poor children or providing space in at our ministry center to a group which offers assistance to low-income families with their income tax returns. We are indiscriminate seed sowers and seek to have visible presence in our communities, to see the people, to see the people, to see the people, with one priority in mind – PROCLAMATION!  To see more on the theological side of gospel proclamation priority and urban church planting see John Davis' blog, the Gospel First.


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