EBC is committed to a training that is aimed at getting God’s people out into a dying world to reach men and women with the good news of Christ
Let me say straight away that I am instinctively averse to ‘trendy’ words that mean different things to different people; words which you have to spend inordinate amounts of time explaining. That made me somewhat reluctant to use the term missional. However, it does convey a vitally important truth and emphasis that is at the heart of what we seek to do at EBC. So, let me take a moment to unpack the term so that you at least know where we are coming from when we use it.
In many ways the word has been in popular usage only for the last 20 years or so and has been popularised by such luminaries as Tim Keller in the States. For me, missional means the developing of a culturally appropriate approach in terms of thinking, communication and practice in order to effectively engage people with the message of the gospel.
It is predicated on four key biblical principles:
1. Every believer is called to go.
Mission is not a task reserved for professional missionaries; it is a task for every believer. “No one can say: ‘Since I’m not called to be a missionary, I do not have to evangelize my friends and neighbors.’ There is no difference, in spiritual terms, between a missionary witnessing in his home town and a missionary witnessing in Katmandu, Nepal. We are all called to go—even if it is only to the next room, or the next block.”” 1
Sometimes people say to me, ‘I don’t know whether I’m called to be a missionary’. My answer is always the same, even if I have never met them before or know virtually nothing about them: ‘Yes, you are called. To be a Christian is to be called. The question is simply a geographical one – where am I called to?’
2. The church is called to be missional rather than magnetic.
Of course, there is, or should be, something instinctively attractive about individual believers and communities of Christians, but it is a misconception under which the church in general has been labouring for far too long that if only we lived in a certain way and held special meetings and events unbelievers would be drawn in and we would have the opportunity to share the gospel with them. The truth and reality is that is just isn’t so.
The whole tenor of the New Testament, and the example of the New Testament church is that we are to be missional not magnetic. We are to go and not wait for unbelievers to come to us.
3. The church is called to be cross-cultural.
In one of the best books on missions ever written, George Peters, writing more than 40 years ago, said, “If man is to be reached, he must be reached within his own culture.” 2 For far too long, Christians and churches have expected non-Christians to cross the threshold of their Christian and church culture whereas the call of the Scriptures is to cross over from our own culture and engage with and enter into the culture of those we seek to reach with the gospel and win them for Christ there.
Though the term has all too often been misused, the concept of contextualisation is a good one. We need to identify, learn about and appreciate the culture, language, worldview and mindset of those we want to reach with the good news of the gospel and not shout at them from a cultural distance, speaking in a language that is unintelligible.
One of the tragedies of the failure to recognise this is that the church has replaced the biblical goal of Christ-likeness with the inherently inferior goal of us-likeness. We have, albeit implicitly, embedded into our evangelistic strategy and endeavour, the expectation and goal that converts will become ‘like us’, and have measured the genuiness and depth of their conversion by their conformity to our so-called Christian culture, worldview and language. The truth is, of course, there is no such thing as a Christian culture, which is one of the factors that has made the church the radical globalisation force that it is. It also has to be said that there is a considerable amount of our church and Christian culture that is at worst unbiblical and at best abiblical.
Here in the west today we must adopt truly missional and cross-cultural attitudes and approaches if we are going to be faithful and effective to our commission to go into all the world, including our own communities, neighbourhoods and places of work. That’s not a pragmatic argument, that’s a biblical one.
EBC wants to train, equip and prepare men and women to instinctively think and act missionally and cross-culturally, so that wherever God calls them to serve him, they will be effective communicators of the greatest cross-cultural message ever.