AHH has been reading and occasionally commenting on the Jesus Creed blog since Fall 2008. He lives in Colorado where he works at a government science lab, and he is ordained as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He is a little publicity-shy, but to find what the initials stand for and other info, you can see his website here. We are looking for more submissions from you for “Friday is for Friends.”
The Missional Inigo Montoya
One of my favorite lines from The Princess Bride comes when the
swordsman Inigo Montoya, after witnessing several events his boss calls
“inconceivable,” says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it
means what you think it means.”
I had an Inigo Montoya moment at church recently. In a series of
sermons on a new expression of vision that I find promising, one Sunday
was devoted to the phrase “Missional Outreach”. The sermon examples,
while representing good ministry (how someone had invited the speaker
to Fellowship of Christian Athletes long ago, kids being invited to
meet Jesus in our High School ministry), included nothing I recognized
In fact, the speaker said something at the start like
“serving our neighbors is good, but it’s not what I’m talking about
today.” This reinforced my feeling that, at many churches, “missional”
gets applied to anything directed at non-Christians, including “come
inside our structures to meet Jesus” programs that are the antithesis
of the ideas in The Missional Church. I wanted to say “I do not think
Missional means what you think it means.”
Am I wrong in wanting to reserve “missional” for the ideas described for example on www.friendofmissional.org? How far can the word be stretched? Has it been stretched so much that it is no longer useful? Is different language (like the “exile” metaphor) needed to replace or supplement “missional”?
This experience got me thinking about other Christian words that seem to have lost their meaning. Words like “creation” (spoiled by fundamentalist pseudoscience, perhaps making a comeback with “creation care”) and “Evangelical” (often seen as a political label, although I still hope it can be reclaimed). I remember as a new Christian in the late 70s avoiding the term “born again” in an attempt to avoid guilt by association. Some now avoid calling themselves “Christians” for similar reasons. Maybe these are just words, but words are a large part of how we express our faith.
How hard should we fight to reclaim tainted or misused words?