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Missional Church indicators

Dale Zeimer, a member of the Gospel and Our Culture Netowork,compiled this list of indicators of a missional church. Although not exhaustive, it does give a fairly comprehensive look at some of the major threads of this movement:

The following statements of participating church leaders have been gleaned from a series of conversations and interviews. They indicate honest and candid reflection about what is occurring as they are cultivating their congregations to become missional churches. They are offered for encouragement to travelers on a similar path.

1. Efforts to become more faithful seem to start up and then fall, start up and then fall. Often, they are not consistent, met with resistance, hard to keep at center and as top priority, often crowded out by operational concerns for maintenance of present program.

2. Conversations are being held where people are beginning to realize that "Christendom is over and it isn't coming back."

3. There is ambivalence: People are sharing their interest in as well as their fear of change.

4. The conversation is beginning to move away from "bucks and butts" to "how can we become more faithful?"

5. There is movement among people from "giving answers" to "asking questions."

6. Existing groups are beginning to use their time together differently. Sometimes they're even choosing to meet longer or more frequently for study.

7. People are beginning to embrace the idea that we need to spend more time on issues that are of more importance than issues like "what doors need to be locked."

8. People are beginning to beg to talk about vision not in terms of programs, but of what God is doing in the world. Others are doing their best to try to understand that.

9. People are beginning to work through a lot of local church history and experience that seems not to have much to do with what we're facing now.

10. People are beginning to imagine about their church, "What if we were really chosen by God?"

11. It feels like we're putting some of the first few spades into the earth, turning the earth over just a little, little bit at a time.

12. People are meeting in small groups and find them to be very meaningful and important.

13. There are little bits here, little bits there.

14. People are sitting around the table talking about things they otherwise wouldn't talk about in church, they are in conversation and relationship with those they wouldn't be otherwise.

15. We're no longer talking about the "black hole of money" or the "black hole of the steeple."

16. New ideas are being entered into discussions and not swatted down immediately.

17. There are a number of people who are able to picture their church in their mind as a sent body of people rather than a place where certain things happen.

18. People are finding it difficult to pull away from the table because of the meaningful conversation and relationships that are taking place.

19. Church leaders admit that there is less resistance than they thought there would be to spending so much time.

20. It is being observed sometimes that those who have "always been there," and are dependable givers, are the biggest resistors to change.

21. Some people are willing to give time and thought to the question, "what's happening to the church today?"

22. Pastors are questioning all of their working assumptions, they are trying to distinguish between what is Christendom thinking and what is not.

23. When it comes to helping people move out of Christendom thinking it is like a redundant process–it tends to move two steps forward and three back.

24. People entrenched in Christendom ways of thinking about the church are leaving the church. And it's often a surprise about who those persons are. Not everyone is being converted.

25. Participants in the church are struggling with many other complex life issues and demands, and often make only sporadic time commitments.

26. Churches trying to become missional churches are looking for, finding, and discovering great collegiality with other churches looking for and struggling with some of the same things. They form a strong bond together, bonds that are not formed with other congregations.

27. An increased number of persons are willing to participate in Bible study, sometimes as much as 75% of the worshiping congregation.

28. There is ferment, the foundations are being shaken.

29. Old ghosts are being buried.

30. People are experiencing the benefits of praying together and meeting together over struggling alone.

31. Pastors are meeting together and are "pealing the layers off the onion," they are getting deeper into identifying their working assumptions and working theology, discovering what they really believe and how they practice that. They are beginning to share openly in a trusting group.

32. New behaviors are being tried in the congregation, such as dialoguing about core issues.

33. We are growing more comfortable with "kingdom" or "reign of God" language, that is, "bible" or "faith" language.

34. Older long-time members are becoming open to new experiences, but also report that they are scared. There is a lot of anxiety expressed about where this is going.

35. Pastors are preaching differently. They're asking for sample sermons on "missional church."

36. There are intentional efforts to expand the conversation and exploration, not just keep it within the confines of a few people.

37. Leadership teams seldom take votes and are becoming more comfortable with deciding most things by consensus; they're discovering "you can't find Robert's Rules of Order in the scriptures."

38. Church leaders are discovering at some point that they can't go back anymore to where they were.

39. Sometimes clergy are labeled by other clergy as having a certain way of thinking that is not acceptable.

40. It involves a lot of frustration at first, an unbelievable amount of frustration.

41. Church leaders are starting to have frank discussions about the church's past–what it was and what it wasn't.

42. Church leaders and members are moving beyond the blaming stage. (They are moving through stages of grief, a la Kubler-Ross when a death has occurred.)

43. Significant times are blocked out for conversation. They are structured, planned, and held consistently over a long period of time so that a pattern of expectation is slowly built up that we will talk together. After a while they reflect, "a year ago we weren't talking like this." They are able to talk about the changes that have occurred.

44. The church is identifying and prioritizing the strategic (most urgent, important, and significant) issues they are facing as a church.

45. Energy starts to snowball.

46. Persons are coming forward to contribute more money so that the process can continue.

47. A sense of great urgency occurred that preceded any change or even any movement or interest in change.

48. Bible study is going on everywhere. People are praying like they never prayed before–using what's familiar to their religious tradition (e.g. liturgy, free prayer, etc.)

49. Conversation, consistent conversation. The church is learning "you have to talk," "it takes talking and it takes time."

50. Great impatience and frustration precedes the change–people are "sick and tired" of those who are blocking and holding the church hostage.

51. Every meeting is started with at least a half hour of bible study and prayer. Nothing is done without it anymore.

52. A church does a 180 degree turnaround on willingness to be in meetings and acceptance of how much time it takes to be together.

53. People discover with thanks the difference they experience by engaging around the Bible as compared to engaging around the boiler.

54. "Not rushing to solutions"–people have a new appreciation of knowing the difference between operational band-aid applications and thinking strategically, with transformation in mind.

55. Sometimes there is six months to a year of work before an "aha" occurs. And there is indication that when the light turns on, it never goes off again.

56. There is now opportunity for conversations where deepest yearnings of the heart for the church can be expressed.

57. Churches that are or are becoming missional have leadership (the pastor) who gets it and is on board. Where the pastor doesn't get it, any efforts seem to get sabbatoged.

58. On our Mission Church Team we often do 90% study even while doing our business, wrestling with what we are to be about.

59. My preaching has been difficult. What I used to do, I can't do now. So much had been aimed at individualism, individual piety.

60. We're involved in lots of theological reading and study–it's now an ongoing thing in this congregation.

61. Some of the main obstacles have been time, lack of focus, and not being real organized about structuring time for conversation.

62. A major learning for us has been how much time actually is involved in discerning God's call as a congregation.

63. My mantra is this, "We're still learning the ropes." We're learning how to discern God's call. My other mantra is this: "We're learning how to sail this thing. And we're going to get to practice for the rest of our lives."

64. Definitely our church has more of a servant attitude. There's a change in perception about what we're after as a church.

65. Another outcome has been our insistence on consensus, listening to alternative voices and minority voices, not using power plays. We are more patient, we look for further wisdom.

66. Now we are doing something about learning to swim in these new waters that the world has cast us into.

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