When Churches Forget What it Means to be Sent


The Western church "may very well be becoming more self-centered, individualistic and, perhaps, even narcissistic," Haugan says. (Photo: Lyricmac / English Wikipedia)

"Missional" is a bit of a buzzword these days in Christian thinking circles, as churches struggle with what it means to be "the church" in the 21st century.

For sure, Christ wasn't mincing words when he spoke the Great Commission just before he ascended to heaven. Fulfilling this job is the primary work of the church.

"Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians" by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw picks up on the "missional" theme, emphasizing that all Christians need to see themselves as sent into the world to share and live out the Gospel - thus, "sentness."

This rather pointed quote highlights the need to retain Great Commission priorities for the sake of the Kingdom.

"People who have lost their sentness expect their church to deliver on its promises to meet their needs, to care for them, to make them feel good. Pastors who have lost their sentness see their primary responsibilities as organizing services and meeting the needs of the people who are paying the bills," Hammond and Cronshaw wrote.

They added, "People who have lost their sentness gauge the success of their pastors according to metrics related to sales: more customers, more money and, ideally, a more fancy showroom. In other words, we measure church success by building, butts on seats and bucks in the offering."

This quote comes in the "Beyond Consumerism" chapter at the beginning of the book. I admit I like the quote. I also hate this quote.

I like this quote because it really does shine a mirror on how we in the Western church have allowed consumerism to creep into our church life. It echoes 2 Timothy 4:3-4, which warns about "tickling ears."

We may very well be becoming more self-centered, individualistic and, perhaps, even narcissistic. I often find the need to help people focus on others: others in the church, others in the community and others in the world.

Granted, this isn't exactly a new problem, but it does seem to be worsening as our culture becomes more individualistic.

When we accidentally shift our church focus from others to ourselves, we begin seeking answers to the wrong questions.

The wrong questions include: "What is in this for me?" or "How did I like the church service today?" or "Was I comfortable today?"

A "sent" mentality starts asking, "How can I serve others?" or "Where is God at work in my neighborhood?" or "What areas of discomfort is God asking me to explore?"

As a pastor, I often get asked, "How big is your church?" I now usually answer with, "We average around 169 pounds."

I then get blank stares. Really, though, it is a consumeristic question.

I hate this quote because I find myself worried about the very things listed: numbers, funds and Sunday service performance.

Is it because I was trained that way? Am I "missionally immature" for worrying about that stuff? These are questions that gnaw at me at times.

I don't like being gnawed.

Focusing on our "sentness," while not being the magic bullet, is a step in the right direction, for both pastors and churches.

Joell Haugan is Heartland Church Planting Director at Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC). A version of this article first appeared on the CBWC church-planting blog and is used with permission. You can follow CBWC on Twitter @TheCBWC.

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Tags: Church Trends, Consumerism, Great Commission, Individualism, Joell Haugan, Missional


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