MT 5: From Institutional Programs to Incarnational Practices

Missional Transformation is a process where believers align themselves (passions, desires, behaviors, habits) with the redemptive mission of Jesus. It’s becoming a missionary everywhere you are! It’s adopting the posture of a missionary in order to engage those in the culture with the Gospel message. It’s recognizing that every believer has been sent by Jesus as Christian missionaries with the Good News of Salvation together in community with other believers to their specific geographic and cultural context.

Missional Transformation requires significant shifts in the way you participate with Christ and His kingdom.

Shift 5: From Institutional Programs to Incarnational Practices

Why are churches so program driven? I remember when one of my friends became pastor of a church that had an AWANA program. I had never participated in Awana, so I did not fully understand the ramifications of pastoring an “Awana church.” Essentially, the program ran the church. It sucked up all available volunteers and resources. The church calendar revolved around the Awana program and activities.

I am not suggesting that Awana should be removed from local churches or that the program itself is inherently evil. However, programs should not become the main focus of any church. Whether it is the youth program, music program, evangelism program or any other program invented to expand ministry effectiveness, great programs are not the mission of the church.

What the church in America needs today is not better programs, methods and techniques. Programs always expand the institution of the church. They feed the machinery, yet often fail to bring life transformation.

The church today needs to de-emphasize a programmatic approach to ministry. Instead, there needs to be a renewed emphasis on spiritual practices that promote a passionate spirituality in the lives of believers to engage those in the culture around them. It’s not enough to ask, “What would Jesus do?”; Christians need to discover how to imitate what Jesus did.

While He was on earth, Jesus invested Himself in close relationships with men and women. He experienced authentic community. This is a spiritual practice that is critical if Christians are going to fulfill the mission of the church. However, community is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The mission is best advanced together in community with other believers who are aligned with the redemptive mission of Jesus. Christians cannot neglect the habit of meeting together in genuine fellowship with other believers.

Jesus also made it His priority to cultivate a love relationship with the Father. He talked to the Father often, starting from the first moments of His day. He only did what He saw the Father doing. Because of His daily practice of listening to the Father, Jesus was able to complete the work He was given to do. Christians need to cultivate this same daily habit in their lives.

Jesus was a disciplemaker. Discipleship was not a program, it was a pattern of His life. As He was going through the villages of Galilee, He invested in the spiritual development of those with Him. Discipleship has to be more than completing a course or a program. It must be a practice of spiritual reproduction. Jesus didn’t just care for the spiritual needs of people; He also cared for their physical needs. He healed the sick, fed those who were hungry, and defended the oppressed. He told His followers that when they feed, clothe, visit and care for the least, they are serving Jesus. The least of people in a local community must not become the target of more programs. Christians need to develop spiritual practices that reflect the heart of Jesus for the poor, oppressed and disenfranchised.

God loved so much that He sent His only Son to earth to become a man – to be God with skin to demonstrate His great love! And Jesus loves so much that he sent His followers to “be Jesus” with skin to demonstrate His great love!

The church needs to experience Missional Transformation – becoming Jesus to everyone everywhere. This requires a shift from institutional programs to incarnational practices!

What missional practices will you embrace?

Author

Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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