I was recently sitting down with a friend discussing different aspects of the ministries we lead. As we neared the end of the conversation he mentioned that Village Soul (the ministry I officially launched just over four years ago) had changed. This struck me as a little odd because, from my perspective, my vision and mission has not changed that much since even before I launched Village Soul. Some of the concrete outlets by which we may carry out the vision may have changed, but the vision itself is consistent.
This lead me to think a bit about the nature of a missional vision. Most people who are committed to a missional vision of church will tell you it’s about reproducing followers of Jesus in the context where people gather. As opposed to people coming to us to hear about Jesus, the missional believer and church bring Jesus to others on their turf in very practical ways. This essentially has been my vision for life for more years than I care to admit.
Since many of us, myself included, grew up with an idea of church as an institution with meetings and programs that you invite people to for them to learn about Jesus, it can sometimes be challenging to wrap that thinking around the liquid nature of missional church. It’s much like water will take on the form of the container (or context) it finds itself in. It falls from the sky as rain or snow; depending on the season and where you live. It runs off into a drain, stream, or river. Eventually, it makes its way to a lake, reservoir or ocean. Some ends up flowing through aqueducts and pipes to houses where it comes out of a tap into a glass, bowl, or pitcher. From the outside it may look like the water has changed, but it’s core nature is the same no matter what container it finds itself in. In the same way, a missional vision will be consistent even as it remains flexible to the context in which it finds itself.
This difference in perspective does not mean one interpretation or the other is right or wrong. It simply is a difference of perspective. For the missional practitioner, the challenge is to be aware of the context in which we present our vision and adapt the language of the vision to that context. It is also a challenge to be comfortable with others seeing change where we see a consistency. It’s simply the nature of the work we do.