I have spent a great deal of time over the past several years working in a church that was purported to be a missional church, but have come to realize that the church I was a part of was more colonial rather than missional(Western Hanover Church). While it may seem rather obvious to most of us that there is a big difference between the two, in practice the motivations of the people running the church are what make the difference. I would like to illustrate some of the key elements about the difference in the hope that others do not make the same mistake.
A dictionary defines colonialism as:
- the control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent country, territory, or people.
- the system or policy by which a nation maintains or advocates such control or influence.
- the state or condition of being colonial.
- an idea, custom, or practice peculiar to a colony.
What I am talking about here is a church that moves into a community in order to exert their brand of faith on the community and make the community dependent on the system they are using. What this looks like in practice is a church that is not really interested in whether people are finding the true God, but are instead interested in finding a community that they can provide a version of their god and govern over the people to feel good about themselves.
This is in contrast to what I have seen from other churches that are truly trying to be missional. In the missional church, the focus is not on their system and their practices, the focus is on what the people want and what the people need. They will want to engage others not to teach them how to believe, but to help them find their belief. To go where others are.
Now, missional is:
- a group or committee of persons sent to a foreign country to conduct negotiations, establish relations, provide scientific and technical assistance, or the like.
- the business with which such a group is charged.
- a permanent diplomatic establishment abroad; embassy; legation.
- Military . an operational task, usually assigned by a higher headquarters: a mission to bomb the bridge.
- Aerospace . an operation designed to carry out the goals of a specific program: a space mission.
- a group of persons sent by a church to carry on religious work, esp. evangelization in foreign lands, and often to establish schools, hospitals, etc.
- an establishment of missionaries in a foreign land; a missionary church or station.
As you can see, the focus is less on control of the subjugated property, and more on providing relations and benefit to the community involved.
So if anyone is out there thinking they want to start a church in a community, please look at your reasons for why you are doing this. I was one of the person’s in a community that a church came in and was colonial, not missional, and it makes a big difference. We don’t want to be under your control. I want a place to find the true God.