Sunday, October 01, 2006

Missional as Function, Not Form

The Body of Christ is made up of many different parts. Two of those parts are its form and its function. Its shape, its size and its location are also parts of the puzzle. But I want to focus on just the form and function for a moment.

Form is defined here as: in general, refers to the external shape, appearance, configuration of an object. There are many, many forms of church. Mega-church, home church, organic church, seeker-sensitive, multi-campus, country church, emerging, user-friendly church, intentional, Gen X, Gen Y, boomer church and so on and so on. I’m often asked what the church is going to look like in the years to come. I’ve come to this conclusion the church is going to look much like it looks today, with many, many forms. Its shape, appearance and configuration will be different from place to place. What is being used for Kingdom building in one place may not be used in another. Will that be bad? Nope!

We’ve come to expect the McDonaldization of the church. That each will look like the other and that we will know what to expect when we enter into one that is outside our own. This has spurred the idea that one form is better than another. I do not believe this, I believe success (and I use that term with much fear) will be dependant not upon form, which will vary widely, but on function. The church will be know for how it functions. What it does will become vastly more important than the form by which they use to get it done.

Function is defined here as: the actions and activities assigned to or required or expected of a person or group. The function of the successful (again more fear) church is not found in its form. It’s found in its actions and activities. Those actions and activities must be missional! The living out of Christ and the kingdom in our communities will be the determining factor in the success of our churches.

I think I’ve added to the form debate by framing missional as different from “traditional.” I wish to change that positioning. Missional is a shift not from “traditional” but from “missions minded.” All churches need to go from the idea that missions is something someone else does, to something that everyone does 24/7.

In the end I do not believe missional has any connection to form but has everything to do with the true function of the church.

What are your thoughts?

, , , , , ,




J.R. Woodward said...


Hey, I want to thank you for your post. I appreciate your generous approach to form and the emphasis upon function.

While I think it is important to be careful in our judgement of forms,my current understanding through study and experience would say that form is not neutral. Form in many ways starts to shape the function, expand it or limit it in different ways. For me personally, without getting into a really long post have come to some conclusions on this matter, and feel that some forms have more merit than others. While I think it is dangerous to promote just one form, I do believe certain forms develop an ethos that tends toward greater transformation.

I also would say that this is a huge issue that I constantly wrestle with and feel that people in general are developing stronger convictions about certain types of forms.

There is my short thoughts on this topic. Peace and Love.

Cindy said...

Jerry, I really like your thoughts on this. Like j.r., I think your generous approach is much needed in the conversation. Your willingness to say you've changed your mind (is that what you said?) was refreshing, as I thought how seldom I read that on blogs.

I'm going to think about it some more, but my gut tells me that yours is the voice of reason and wisdom here. I'd also appreciate your input on my most recent post on Jeremiah.

Don said...

j.r. could you elaborate re: "certain forms develop an ethos that tends toward greater transformation."