For the entire course of my ministry I have felt guilty. I felt guilty my first five years of ministry when my ministry had no fruit. I was pastoring a little church in Springfield where nothing major was happening for the Kingdom. Yes, we had a good worship service and yes we had good people. But other than that, we saw very little fruit. No one was coming to the Lord, no one was getting baptized, no one was really growing, etc. For five years, I just became part of a fruitless ministry. The last year of that five year period was the hardest and it was the most guilt ridden. I felt guilty that no fruit was coming from my ministry. I literally cried almost every day that year in shame and guilt. Then God started to stir something in my heart that I didn’t understand. It was in September 2013 that I had an awaking. Since that time ministry has taken an entire new meaning. It was a movement in my heart that changed me forever.
Since this movement in my heart started years back I have heard many negative things from church people. Things like, “church is not supposed to be this way that you say”, “you need to slow down”, “Jesus said to go and make disciples, but this doesn’t mean we actually have to do it”. But in spite of these negative statements from people, I have seen more fruit in my ministry since September 2013 than I ever imagined. Hundreds have come to the Lord, new leaders have answered the call, churches have been planted, hundreds have been baptized and church growth multiplied at a rate that I cannot explain. Since this movement in my heart happened, I still feel guilty. However this guilt was different. This guilt came from a place of simply feeling like I wasn’t doing enough for the Kingdom of God. I started to feel guilty that I was a missionary in my community and I had a mission and that mission was not happening fast enough. People were dying and going to hell and were never told them about Jesus.
I believe that God began a new movement in my heart in September 2013. While it was a new movement to me, it definitely was not a new movement to the world. This movement is called the “Missional Movement”. I believe that this movement is from God’s Spirit and is sweeping across the nation in our churches, leaders and congregations. The more I travel around the country, the more I see this movement.
Church stats in the U.S are very alarming. Every month 1700 pastors are leaving the ministry. More churches are closing than are opening. Church attendance is at an all-time low with somewhere between 17%-18% of American’s attending church every week (this number continues to go down every year). And in 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990. And I could go on and on. These stats are alarming but it is exciting to see a new movement taking place that could reverse these stats. For me personally it is exciting to see the missional movement taking place in our country (even if we are in the early stages of it) to bring the necessary changes to our churches.
So what is the missional movement? The missional movement concept is rooted in the Missio dei (Latin, “the sending of God”). The missional movement believes that every Christian is a sent person by God. Meaning that every Christian is a missionary sent by God (encouraged and equipped by the church) into their communities, cities, etc. to proclaim Jesus Christ and make disciples! I love the line by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that says that “Sunday is the locker room and Monday – Saturday is the game”. I believe that church on Sunday is important! I believe that church programs are important. I believe that children’s church, youth activities, small groups, etc. are all important. However the primary purpose of the church should be to disciple and then send its people into the world to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and make disciples. Basically saying that our call as the church is to prepare our people to go into the world (jobs, schools, neighborhoods, etc.) and make disciples.
Over and over in the Scriptures, we see that we are a sent people by God into the world.
- John 20:21 – Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
- John 17:18 – As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world
- Mark 16:15 – He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
With these Scriptures in mind, we see that in the early days of the church they experienced a missional movement. The early church literally believed that they were a sent people into the world as missionaries. Because they believed this and lived this, the early church exploded. In AD 100 there were around 25,000 Christians and in AD 300 there were over 20,000,000 Christians. This could only have happened as a result of God’s Spirit moving in hearts of people and challenging them to live a missional life.
We know in the early days of the Church of the Nazarene that the missional movement continued. From 1908 to the 1950’s the Church of the Nazarene grew from having zero churches to planting and having over 5,000 churches. Again this as a result of God’s Spirit moving in the hearts of people and challenging them to live a missional life. The missional movement continued in the early days of the Church of the Nazarene.
Now fast forward since the 1950’s and look at the church today. Again I will write our current stats… Every month 1700 pastors are leaving the ministry. More churches are closing than are opening. Church attendance is at an all-time low with somewhere between 17%-18% of American’s attending church every week (this number continues to go down every year), and in 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990. And I could go on and on.
What happened? What happened since the days of the early church? What happened since the days of the early Nazarenes? To be honest I am not sure. It would be easy to play the blame game here, but I am not. I will simply say this. For whatever reason, the missional movement stopped in the 1950’s. Today I can say that this movement is being re-birthed! It was being re-birthed in so many and finally it was birthed in me in September 2013. God is doing something crazy big in our country and I believe that He is doing it through awaking our hearts with this missional movement.
Before I go any further I want to break down in detail the missional movement. Now the movement has many components and I will not try to explain it fully but here are some basics of it. As in any definition, there are extreme views, different opinions, etc. However this is how I would personally define this missional movement….
Defining the Missional Movement: In the missional movement…
- Every believer is a missionary sent into their communities, neighborhood, jobs, schools, etc. to make disciples. In the past churches existed for the members and depended on pastors and staff to evangelize the lost. The missional church on the other hand, attempts to take Christ to “the lost” and its members are personally engaged in reaching their communities with the message of Jesus Christ.
- Every church is a station to send out workers into the harvest and make disciples. The churches job is to raise people up and send them out into the world to build the Kingdom. The church should encourage, challenge and empower its people to go into the world.
- Every church must plant churches! The church would die without church planting. It is proven that churches have life cycles and daughter churches must be planted to continue the life of the church. We know now that church planting is the most effective means of evangelism today.
- Every believer is a part of a team! That team is the church. The great news is that we don’t have to do it alone. We can change the world together with the Body of Christ.
- The mission of Jesus Christ does not stop or end. Believers never reach a point where they can sit back and relax and say we have done enough. We should feel guilty that we are not doing enough and we should NOT slow down because we cannot afford to. If we stop then more people will go to hell.
- Discipleship! Discipleship! Discipleship! One of the key purposes of the church is discipleship! This is always on going! It never ends or stops.
God’s Spirit is awakening His people to fulfill our original mission to go into ALL of the world and be His witnesses. In all honesty this has been lost but it is exciting to see this movement being re-birth in our churches today.
As today as you read this piece you have two options! First you can continue to feel guilty. You can feel guilty from a fruitless ministry. You can feel guilty that the church in the US is losing and will just die out. Or you can take the second
option. You can ask God’s Spirit to start stirring your heart in a brand new way today. Ask God to bring the missional movement to your heart. It’s the same movement that happened in the book of Acts and the same movement that the early Nazarene’s experienced.
Now listen, I am certain that some people will read this piece and take offense to some of the things that I shared. I can accept that. But let me just say this. Apart from this movement, what we are doing is not working. Look at the facts and stats on your own. Something has to change. I talked to a missionary in Africa recently and he shared that God’s Spirit is moving in this missional movement there and the church is exploding at an incredible rate. I visited Haiti last year where they are following the missional movement model and the church is exploding in growth. In fact at the Nazarene compound in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, one of the workers shared that they have so many people in pastoral preparation training that it is so many to even county. Because they believe that everyone is a missionary in their local setting that is sent out.
This movement is here in the US today! In September 2013, this movement swept across my heart. Instantly it took me out of my comfort, safety and security. But when I read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, I see that the believers had no comfort or safety or security, all they had was Jesus! I didn’t understand in 2013 what God was doing, but I understand now. The past few years have been the most incredible adventure I could have ever imagined.
The missional movement is being re-birthed right here in the United States and its time for the church to take notice and it’s time for the church to be awakened.
– By Kevin McDonald