Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mid-life Lession #31: On Missing the Point

There is a tendency to think, in this era when missional church is all the rage, that the new and main question for the church is, "Who will we reach? How will we be sent? How will we reach the world?"

These are not bad questions per se, but they are not actually the central, core missional question. In fact, they aren't even close. Those are the last gasps of a breathless body.

The real question, the authentic and missional question, is quite different. It is not a question addressed internally to the body that is now supposed to go out in mission together. It is a question asked of those on the edges, the liminal ones, and even beyond, to other peoples, other faiths, other traditions, other groups. It is a question the church is called to ask everywhere and always, with humility, grace, and genuine concern. It is a question the church is called to ask with love, which means we are called to ask it ready to learn from the answer, and change and grow.

What is this question? Here it is:

"Are we missing the point?"

Some of the dangers of the missional era (which were/are equally the dangers of the attractional era) include an assumption that those outside the church are really just looking for a slight remix of what we have going on in the church. Or, we can go all "Steve Jobs" on people, and assume that people don't know what they need, but we can create the need in them (church as iPad).

Again, these aren't completely wrong-headed. There's truth in both.

But if we lead with, "Are we missing the point?" we lead open to the possibility that it is the church that needs to repent, it is the church that can learn and grow, that perhaps those we think don't have faith do have faith, just faith different than we had expected. We start from reconciliation, repentance, openness to the religious faith of the other.

And the other, whoever that is, does not get a loud message from us. Instead, they hear a question, an opportunity to share their perspective. It opens the door to ask further questions, like how, why, what, where.

I figure most people who read this blog are "inside" the church in some way, so this last question might not work, but I'd like to try. If you are reading this and you are not part of the church I'm a part of, but you have experienced us, in clumsy and strange ways, trying to reach out to you, might you answer this question,

How are we missing the point? How am I missing the point? I know just enough at this point in my life to know this isn't a bad question to ask, at any age.


  1. Anonymous9:11 AM

    The "church" does not seem to reflect what Jesus said. The church looks just like a country club or the Shriners - only more popular.

    1. Anonymous9:40 AM

      If the church really looked like the country club, then the pews would be full on Sunday morning, with folks and their golf clubs!!!

    2. Anonymous1:09 PM

      Pick the club of your choice. Most churches are demographically designed social communities.

  2. Anonymous 29:38 AM

    The church looks exactly like the Obama Administration -- especially after yesterday.

  3. Don't be anonymous. If you're going to post, say who you are, please.

  4. I don't know what the last Anonymous really means, either. Like you, I really want to know.

  5. I love this! I have to admit that I really dislike the nomenclature of the " unchurched" and much prefer to speak with "the unheard."

  6. Anonymous1:07 PM

    There are two different people commenting as anonymous.

  7. How hard would it be to get this on the op-ed page of your local newspaper? I think it'd be worthwhile.

    At the same time, though, I have another response, and it goes, basically: Don't we (the church) know the point? The point is Christ, incarnated, crucified, and resurrected for you and for me and for all. Right?

    Would "What are we missing here?" be an equally good question to ask?

  8. Anonymous7:53 AM

    Clint - just as an FYI and affimation of your ongoing work ands thought - I used this article as part of my study session with council last night and it generated good reflection. Thaanks for asking the question! G

  9. I find in talking with folks who may not be 'churched', which I do quite often, I need to first find some small way to indicate that I am not "one of THOSE Christians" (judgemental, dogmatic, etc). Unless that is somehow known, people do not feel safe in sharing their own truths.