Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Difference Between a Missional Church and a Soul Winning Church

I think that the two related issues in all of ministry that has perplexed me the most are the issues of evangelism and missions. Like any truly born again believer, I desire for the good news to be spread far and wide. In our natural zeal, we Christians often run headlong into trying to accomplish the great commission without often understanding that the methods we use can often do more harm than good. Thankfully our sovereign God even uses our worst efforts and still draws His elect to salvation through them.

Growing up as an Fundamental Baptist, it was ingrained in me as early as pre-school to be about the business of winning souls to Christ. When I was a little kid, I would meet other children on the playground at the public park and tell them about Jesus and even get them to pray and accept Jesus in their heart before parting ways.

Without getting into all the details, it was after graduating Bible College that I began to see my way of "soul winning" as problematic. When learning of the doctrines of total depravity, election and the Lordship of Christ, my methodology of soul winning had been completely dismantled, but unfortunately, I was left with the big question: "Well, then how do I go about doing evangelism?" Just preach the gospel at church and hope the elect show up after passing out invitations? Do I knock on doors, give someone the gospel data dump and hope God saves them?

After having read everything I could get my hands on about evangelism from Ray Comfort and Charles Spurgeon, I still felt somewhat frustrated. I had already rejected the seeker-sensitive version of evangelism because my theology required it: "There is none that seeketh after God..."(Rom.3:11).
I knew instinctively that I couldn't just sit on my behind and become a practical hyper-Calvinist, waiting on God to save people. I (and we the church) have to tell the good news! But how do I do this faithfully, effectively and powerfully? The only tool in my bag was "soul winning" as I was taught as a Fundamentalist. I felt like I was stuck in first gear with no other options! A few years ago, I attended a "Striving Together" mini-conference here in the Bay Area and heard R.B. Oulette and Paul Chappell refer to the Missional movement as just another new-Evanglical excuse to be worldly. Naturally, that got me curious to find out what it really meant to be "Missional". It has often served me well to take whatever my IFB background declares as wrong and investigate it only to find out that they are usually wrong and that what they are against is actually more Biblically faithful than they are. Obviously Chappell and Oulette had no idea what they were talking about when referring to the Missional church.  These aggressive "soul winning" ministries think they have the corner on mission and so they have nothing to learn from anyone else.

After studying various voices who consider themselves "Missional", I think I have a clearer understanding of mission in general and evangelism in particular. Among those I read were: Tim Keller, Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll, Alan Roxburgh, Alan Hirsch, Jeff Vanderstelt, David Platt, Scott Boren, Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer.

Here are the differences that I have found:

1. Soul Winning - Is concerned only with making converts.
Missional - Is concerned with making disciples.

2. Soul Winning - Is concerned about getting people information about Jesus so they can make a decision to become a Christian.
Missional - Is concerned about making Christ known to people so they will experience Him through the lives of His people and decide to follow Him as well.

3. Soul Winning - Sees evangelism separated from discipleship.  This comes from a faulty theology that accepts Jesus as Savior but not as Lord.
Missional - Sees evangelism as part of discipleship. There is pre-conversion discipleship and post-conversion discipleship. This comes from Jesus' own example of discipling the 12 for three years before most of them actually believed.

4. Soul Winning - Is primarily concerned about a person's afterlife.
Missional - Is concerned about the whole of a person's life. The gospel is not just the ticket to heaven, it's applicable and essential to all of life.

5. Soul Winning - has one approach: confrontational evangelism.
Missional - has more approaches: incarnational as well as confrontational evangelism.

6. Soul Winning - is the approach to evangelism that assumes a Christianized culture that understands and accepts most of Christianity's presuppositions. They just need the right information about Jesus and Salvation to convince people to believe.
Missional - is the approach to evangelism that assumes that we are missionaries in a pagan culture that knows little or nothing about Christian presuppositions. The culture needs to be understood before we can effectively communicate the gospel in their context.

7. Soul Winning - assumes that we have the credibility to be heard because we are Christians in Christendom.
Missional - seeks to earn the credibility to be heard based on humble, Christ-like service to those who need to hear.

8. Soul Winning - Evangelism is a program and a planned event that only the elite participate in.
Missional - Evangelism is a way of life that every Christian can do. Programs and events are only an outgrowth of evangelistic disciple-making that is already happening in the life of the church.

9. Soul Winning - Missionaries evangelize as foreigners in strange, non-Christian countries and do mission overseas while soul winners evangelize unsaved people in a Christianized society at home.
Missional - Every believer is a missionary in whatever place God has placed them. All of the world is non-Christian and therefore, our engagement with people needs to be like a that of a foreign missionary.  We are all foreigners in a strange land.

10. Soul Winning - Is interested in building up one's own local church.
Missional - Is interested in building up the Kingdom of God.

I could say more and give more detail, but these are the differences that I am observing and a holistic view of disciple making that the Missional vision of the church offers empowers every member to be on mission with or without an evangelistic program. Every member can participate in mission through everyday life situations and through their own unique vocation.

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