Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Back in 2005, Stephen Colbert, head of the satirical news program The Colbert Report (on Comedy Central), came up with a word to describe a phenomena he was observing in public discourse: truthiness. I'll let him explain it:

It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything... What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?...

Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.

I'll discuss truthiness more at a later date (suffice it to say that while our politics may or may not agree, I think Mr. Colbert has hit the nail on the head about a major issue for the way we view life & our decisions)... but all of this froo-froo about Comedy Central is really just introduction to what feels like another made-up word: missional.

Last Friday night at the NewLife Family Dinner, I used this word to set out a vision for the kind of church I believe God means for us to become. And, because it's become kind of a buzz word in church leadership circles, I tried to define it as clearly as I could in "real live people" terms, rather than "look at our hip lingo" terms.

My definition is culled from a lot of study... but mainly influenced by Ed Stetzer. I believe, as Ed says, that missional is the adjective form of the noun, missionary. In other words, if a church is missional, it is choosing to do things like missionaries would. The people of the church see themselves as missionaries, called to a particular place & people.

When you hear me use the word "missonal" (and you will), I'm not talking about sending money to the Cooperative Program to support missionaries overseas. That's a very good thing, by the way. I'm all for that - but the heartbeat of a missional church is not supporting missionaries, it is being missionaries.

So what do missionaries do?
  • They get to know the culture, language, & history of the area & people they're called to.
  • They live amongst the people, not set apart in some kind of protective bubble.
  • They communicate in ways that those people can understand.
  • They go out & live the truth of Jesus Christ in the middle of everyday routine, rather than simply wait for folks to show up on Sunday morning at 11 am.
  • They are not as concerned about their comfort & preference as they are about what will help people cross the line of faith.
I can not tell you how much I long for the heart of our church to be missional in nature. When that happens - watch out! We'll have the wonderful opportunities to make a God-sized dent in Easton & in the surrounding communities.

The question facing each of us today is: "What's the next step that will make me more like a missionary & less like a spectator?" So - what is it?

Honestly, there's a lot more to the missional discussion than I can (or want to!) cover in this short article. If you'd like to know more, check out

I also know that some of you who read this blog are quickly offended by the word "missionary" - because some people who claimed Christianity & operated under that title were primarily interested in converting native peoples to their economic way of life & European social structure. That is not what I or my denomination (Southern Baptists) believe or practice. The dream is, overseas as in the U.S., for indigenous churches that teach & live out the gospel in their cultural context. As always, I'd welcome more conversation on this subject.

A version of this article originally appeared in the October 16, 2007 issue of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

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