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What does “going to church” have to do with being missional?

I have put the phrase “going to church” in quotation marks because on the one hand, we all know that we don’t go to church—we are the church! “Being the church” is a way of life we embody 24/7 that bears witness to God’s loving reign (sometimes very well, and other times not so much).

On the other hand, what we mean when we say we’re “going to church” is important. Moving toward being missional changes our understanding and practice of “going to church.” If we’re honest, most of us go to church to “get something out of it,” and we complain when we don’t. We grade the music, the message, the ministries. And when we’re busy, don’t feel we need church, or don’t feel it’s meeting our needs, we skip it. Gone are the days, in most contexts, when guilt or legalism may have obliged us to attend.

But what if we gathered for worship to be equipped, encouraged, and sent? What if “going to church” was about acknowledging and yielding to God’s bigger plan, God’s greater ways? What if Sunday morning was our “missional training station” where we are (re)oriented again and again and shaped more and more into people who are discovering and cooperating with what God is already doing in our neighborhoods and communities for the sake of God’s kingdom?

When we go to church with the first perspective—to get something out of it—it is the main—and perhaps only—specifically Christian act in our week. When we go to church with the second (missional) posture, we come to offer ourselves as followers of Jesus, to discern what God is saying, to be nourished for the daily journey of participating in God’s work of renewing and reconciling the whole world.

This understanding of “going to church” is about formation into the reality of what God is doing in the world. Our missional posture then arises out of and is expressed in living every day as those who have received and want to point to the One who gave his life for the world.

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