One of the greater frustrations I have experienced in the church I serve has not come from the people within the church as much as it has from well intended (I presume) outsiders and fringe folks who espouse a missional approach. This is surprising because I want to embrace a missional approach. But much of the advice I repeatedly get is to make implementation without regard for the context of the culture in which our church is set, and without regard to the understanding of the people that have long been within the church.
The models that these well-intended Christians admire (and the models these folks have often reminded me are far different from what I have to-date effectively implemented) look a lot like those models I read about from cutting edge missional churches in Seattle, Dallas, and Metro Atlanta. They are excellent examples of missional thinking put in practice. And it is exciting to read about what God is doing in those cities. But I don’t live in any of those places. Nor, obviously, does anyone who regularly attends our church. Nor do any of our neighbors that God has put us here to love.
So, in short, the reality is that much of the well intended criticism I receive is by those who desperately want to be missional, but whose advice is not really so much “missional” as it is the imposing of particular personal preferences on a people through practices and structures. The irony is that their advice is just as much driven by their own personal preference as are the practices of the “Traditional Church” these folks rail against.
One of the primary marks of missional is to actually exegete the culture where you live and worship. It requires an understanding of the real values, the faith shapers and influencers, and the idols that may offer peculiar obstacles to the gospel specific to ones own area.
The question is, then, how to determine what those factors may be in a particular community or region.