Part 3 of a 5 part series.
1997, 12 years ago, ministry meant programs. Programs for outreach. Programs for visitation. Programs for missions. Programs for inreach. In 2009, ministry is missional.
When I read the Purpose Driven Church, I remember thinking “he is talking about purposes of the church, not programs of the church.” I actually have a page dog-eared in my copy from 1997, where I wrote those exact words. This was a major shift in my young mind.
I was brought up in the youth program. My faith was developed in the Sunday school and Church Training programs. Our church had a visitation program for senior adults and home-bound members. I sang in the youth choir, which was part of the…music program. In the past 12 years, ministry has shifted from programmatic to strategic; from structured to missional; from committee-led to team-based. Ministry is much more flexible, mobile, even temporary.
In 12 years, we have seen the rise of a ministry philosophy called “missional.” Missional ministry attempts to discover what needs are present in a community and then encourage the church to fill those needs OUT IN THE community beyond the walls of the church.
Like a new missionary arriving on foreign soil, missional Christians first attempt to learn as much about the people, culture, and customs of their community. Then they slowly begin to form key relationships, sharing the Gospel as they walk alongside new friends. All the while, they are connecting with the community at-large and providing services and expressions of love to foster deeper trust and relationship.
Missional ministry is far different from ministry programs. People and relationships far outweigh the structure of programmatic ministry. Missional Christians DO ministry at gas stations, in coffee shops, in their business. They reach neighborhood children next door and make connections with folks in their apartment complexes.
Being a missionary in your own home town. Sounds a bit like the Great Commission to me.
But ministry is still not the biblical purpose that has undergone the most change in 12 years. That is still to come.