In an “attractional” church, success is usually measured by the number of people in attendance, the size of the offering and (using those calculators) the growth of the institution itself. In a “missional” church, success will not be measured by counting heads or dollars but by faithfulness to God’s mission, deepening faith and the development of Christ-like disciples. Obviously these intangible indicators are much harder to assess than those borrowed from the business world. That does not bother missional people, however, because their focus is not on the institutional church to begin with. It is rather on the kingdom and mission of God.
Missional people understand that the church is called to be an expression of God’s kingdom during the interim between Christ’s first coming and his final appearing. God has planted the church in the world as a model community, an advance demonstration of the redeemed society of the new heavens and earth to come. But they understand that even at its best the church is always a flawed and incomplete expression of God’s kingdom. They confess that sometimes the church scarcely resembles God’s kingdom at all. To the extent that the church does express God’s kingdom now, its presence in this world is a sign of God’s kingdom that has come and is yet to come. And to the extent the church aligns itself with the mission of God, it is also an agent of God’s kingdom to which that mission is surely leading. This vision of a missional church is old truth in new clothes. It is the vision of discipleship we hear in all the parables and teachings of Jesus. It is the sort of Christianity we discover throughout the Book of Acts, the kind of church the Epistles all call us to become. Consider, for example, the following missional goals which in reality are New Testament values: Using God’s mission as the standard for determining priorities and allocating resources (Matt. 6:33; 2 Cor. 8:1-5; 9:8-15). Measuring success by sacrifice and self-giving (Mark 12:41-44). Placing kingdom concerns ahead of any particular congregation or denomination (Acts 13:1-3). Expecting believers to meet high standards (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 1:28). Participatory worship meetings open to the fresh leading of the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:26). Learning truth to obey it and not merely to know it (Eph. 4:20-24; 1 Tim. 1:5-7). Every believer a missionary on God’s mission (Phil. 2:13; Eph. 2:10). Being honest, authentic and real (1 Thes. 2:3-10; Eph. 4:25). Changing the world in keeping with principles of God’s kingdom (Titus 2:11-14; 3:8). The list could go on and on.
Those who wish to be missional people, God’s fellow-workers on behalf of his kingdom, must cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as living members of his spiritual body the church. We must become a people of prayer, a people fed by the Word, a people totally dependent on God and not on ourselves, a people guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Such a prescription holds little attraction to a fleshly-oriented, self-centered or worldly-minded church. On the other hand, nothing less than this prescription will enable us effectively to become God’s fellow-workers through whom his mission is carried out in this world.