A Recipe for a Missional Church

One of my favorite milkshakes of all time is Chef Michael Symon’s Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Bacon milkshake.  While you can have variations within its recipe, the right amount of elements will make for a rich and satisfyingly delicious milkshake.  It has to begin with a great tasting apple pie (anything less than that would affect the taste of the shake, of course), 3 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, 6 ounces of half and half and (the piece de resistance for me) two strips of cooked bacon!  Put them all in a blender and puree until smooth–serve immediately.  Out will come two servings of deliciousness! The end product is what we see, but the ingredients are very important to form the memorable impression of an enjoyable milkshake.  And so it is with a church’s governmental structure.  We should not be able to necessarily see the structure of a church, but the end result must be a missional church in having its greatest effect in reaching the lost. A simple definition of “missional” is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).  It is a process of bringing along new believers in Jesus Christ and developing them (discipling them) in order that they will grow within the body of Christ and carry on Christ’s Great Commission to others. Ed Stetzer correctly notes that “church governance should function like a human skeleton, as a necessity for structure and well-being but invisible to the naked eye.” (Stetzer, 92)  Any great organization must have a structure in order to maximize success.  A corporation starts with a mission statement and has a governing board and executives that carry out that mission.  A church, and a planting church, should have EXACTLY the same thing…a mission statement for guidance and a governing board consisting of visionary leadership.  Each person involved, in order to ensure a successful implementation of the vision, must be seeking the guidance of the Lord through the Holy Spirit and literally dying to self on a daily basis (Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 14:27). Without this, there will always be fleshly struggles and battles over the importance of carrying out agendas, which take away the focus from the quest to be a missional church and remaining focused on having a heart for God’s people. The type of governance for a church is as individual as the type of church plant for the target area involved.  While there is no equal in my mind to a Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Bacon milkshake, it is not for everyone.  A friend of mine tried one and acknowledged it was delicious but it caused a significant gastronomical discomfort–it is very rich.  We can agree that a church government should have a pastor-elder or a group of the same, or even go further within the New Testament examples of elders and deacons, but it really depends upon who God has called to serve and for each person involved to not count himself as more important than another believer.  Not all church plants need the same governing structure—there must be flexibility within the forming of the structure, but it must exist to fulfill the guidance and the vision of the plant.  The mission statement must reflect a missional church movement.  There must be a pastor to shepherd the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), and ideally a great supporting cast of at least one other like-minded person, but all involved must be willing, as noted earlier, to die to self and serve under Christ.  If you see a person or persons caught up in titles or accolades in order to project oneself as significant, we are seeing too much within that structure.  If the church government is transparent, like a good recipe, we will only “taste” the end results in that people will be reached for Jesus Christ and that God will be glorified.  Amen. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8 HCSB)   Ed Stetzer (2006). Planting Missional Churches. Broadman & Holman, Nashville TN Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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