Monday, March 1, 2010

Non-Negotiables for the Missional Pastor

I'm not an expert or a guru. I barely know what I'm talking about. :-) So I don't have a manifesto on the comprehensive ways and means of what it means to be a missional pastor (or to pastor a missional church, if you prefer), but I do think there are some bottom lines. Our Miyagis and Yodas can write the books on all the facets of missional pastoring. These are some starting points. They are what I see as non-negotiables (for me, anyway).

1. You must love people. This has nothing to do with extroversion or introversion. (I'm an introvert, by the way.) It has to do with how you view people. Don't take the "sheep" thing too far, okay? You have likely discovered that ministry is messy (because people are messy), but the proper response to this is not to keep your hands as clean of the mess as possible. Don't detach from the relational matrix of congregational life. Too many pastors view people as The People and try to pastor them through strategy and vision, from the afar of their desks or laptops. Not the way to do it. This is not the way of love. Cry with people, laugh with people, be hopeful with people, be afraid with people. I think what can happen, even in the missional mindset, is the temptation to treat people as projects. This is a temptation faced by all Christians with an evangelistic impulse. Are you loving people because you want to evangelize them? Or do you want to evangelize them because you love them? It's a subtle difference, but a big one. Is there an expiration date on your evangelism project? Does your love wane according to their expressed interest or spiritual sensitivity? We want all people to come to repentance, yes, but we want that because we love them as fellow bearers of the image of God. And this means we keep loving. I think the missional pastor must have this compassion in the bowels like Jesus did, seeing people as they are and being moved by them and for them and their brokenness. Thinking in terms of "project" can produce missional activity but thinking from a loving heart produces missional longevity. Love never fails.

2. Get to know lost people in the real world. Serious issue for pastors. I know it. How do you get outside the "religious marketplace" of the church and develop relationships with lost people? There's lots of ways to go about it, actually, providing you put your mind to it. But we are at a disadvantage in that most in our congregations spend long amounts of time with unbelievers every day. We have to be intentional in our relational approaches. I think, borrowing from Jonathan Dodson's tips, becoming a regular is key here. Pick a place and start showing up regularly.

3. Embrace the long view. Think long-term and be extremely, exceedingly patient. I don't know if that can be stressed enough. Pastors, be freaking patient. With your people and with your development of relationships with unbelievers. Plant seeds, patiently water, allow for the Spirit's work. Maintain the right sense of urgency but not an urgency that distrusts God's initiative in the work of salvation and sanctification. Lead, don't push. Missional pastoring is not for the careerist, not for the guy needing to validate himself, not for the flag planter or the talking head or the theorist. Think crops and harvest, not Chia Pet.

Well, that's what I got. There are more bottom lines, probably, and lots more foci, skills, and applications. But these are three that I'd press upon you most firmly, I think. They assume, of course, that your missional impulse is birthed from gospel wakefulness. If you have not really tasted and seen that the LORD is good, 3 points written by even the best mind in evangelicalism (whoever that is) won't help you.


Jared said...

What I'm realizing is that this pretty much describes pastoring. Isn't it weird that we've thought to add "missional" to the words "church" and "pastor" to describe things churches and pastors should be doing and being anyway?

JR Rozko said...

Thanks for your thoughts here Jared. I agree, these criteria are basic for pastors, not just missional pastors. Even, perhaps, basic for simply following Jesus in general. So I am left to wonder, given your comment, do you think there is any value in trying to identify some "bottom-lines" for those who are trying to pastor communities out of a patently missional ecclesiology?

Jared said...

JR, thanks for the comment. Yes, I think there's value in it, as part of a general conversation that is more "explorational" than a blog post can be.
What I mean is, as we try to distinguish "missional pastors" from "other" pastors, I think it can be helpful to point out "Hey, here are the common markers of a pastor living/working missionally."

As per my first comment, though, I am with you that this should be just basic pastor stuff. Or, yes, basic Christian stuff. I regret we've had to have a "missional conversation." But it's part of semper reformanda, I suppose.

As a way to distinguish pastoring from what pastoring has become, I think these bottom lines (and the upper lines) can be valuable.

I wonder if it's somewhat related to the need for gospel-centrality. The ABC's gotta be the A-Z b/c we're so darn forgetful, sinful, and stupid.

Will Marks said...

Sorry for the basic question, but my church background hasn't allowed me the exposure to the full rainbow of doctrines and styles out there, or indeed the terminology.

Can you explain to me what you mean by 'missional'?


P.S. found your blog by accident and love it!

Jared said...

Will, in a nutshell "missional" means that Christians live as missionaries wherever they are. I offer a more academic/encompassing definition in the comments of the post two posts below this one -- "Prologue to Missional Discussions." In those comments others offer definitions as well.

Kevin said...

Jared, excellent points, all three. I would maybe add one more--equip and empower those you lead. The really significant work of the kingdom doesn't begin and end with the pastor. Our job is to equip and empower people to live Jesus shaped lives so they can have a far greater impact in our communities than we could ever have alone.

Paul Sheneman said...

Jared and JR:

I agree with you two that these "bottom lines" are/should be common for all Christians. And I appreciate that Jared started with commonality between "missional" and "other" pastors as a way to begin to move the conversation forward. If we are going to have a conversation about those who are seeking to work out of a missional ecclesiology, it is best to start with the basics and move out from there.

John L said...

I like the direction here. It follows the earliest self-described missional or mission-shaped conversations which invited people to gather in spite of their theological differences. Early on, it was much more of an ecclesial shift than anything else. From there, the word has been adopted by various camps – evangelicals, missions groups, etc.. Great to see all this happening, but also troubling in that some today want to use missional as a platform on which to draw theological lines in the sand.

As I shared on Ed’s blog yesterday, if missional is anything, it is radically inclusive. It is about dropping our polarizing religious identities and hierarchies and freely and even recklessly demonstrating God's love and empathy towards all people. Jesus will prevail, and will do so in spite of our propensity towards religious posturing and marginalizing and manifesto-ing.