Tim Keller on the Nature of a Missional Church

Tim Brister —  February 17, 2011 — 5 Comments

From his lecture “Contextual and Missional” at Urban Plant Life Conference in London, Tim Keller talks about the nature of a missional church:

A missional church gears absolutely every single part of its life–its worship, community, public discourse and preaching education–for the presence of non-believers from the culture surrounding it. A missional church’s congregation reflects the demographic make-up of the surrounding community–and therefore it gives non-Christian neighbors attractive and challenging glimpses of what they would look like as Christians.  A missional church’s worship is ‘evangelistic’ in the sense that it makes sense to non-believers in that culture, even while it challenges and shapes people with the gospel. A missional church’s people are outwardly focused, so involved in the local community, and so alert for every opportunity to point people toward Christ, that evangelism happens naturally through relationships.  Because of the attractiveness of its community, the contextual nature of its message, and humility of its people, a missional church will discover significant numbers of people always in the midst, ‘incubating’ and exploring Christianity.  It must welcome them in hundreds of ways.  It will do little to make them ‘comfortable’ but will do everything to make its gospel message understandable.

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  • Can you restate this a little more directly, and maybe give some examples?

    “glimpses of what they would look like as Christians”?
    Do these Christians have it all together, or are they struggling earnestly to pay their bills and deal with their debt, hoping to next time take the 1 Corinthians 10:13 way out of sin when they’re tempted, love their kids without getting angry when they don’t see eye to eye, etc.

    “makes sense to nonbelievers in that culture”?

    “challenges and shapes people with the gospel”?

    “contextual nature of its message”?

    I’m not trying to be thick or difficult.
    It just seems so vague.

    I’ve been reading Whatever It Takes about Geoffrey Canada’s inner city work, and I’m trying to work through how the church would be doing this work.

    How would Christians do things differently?
    Or would we be doing things very much the same?

    Maybe I don’t do such a good job reaching out to my non-Christian friends and neighbors because the way I was saved and came to church is so different from the way it is supposed to be–at least the way I’m hearing it should be. It just happened when I didn’t expect it, and there was really no one taking that much interest in my spiritual life as far as I can see. It seems like I’m praying for people all the time, care a lot about their spiritual life, and take opportunities to talk to them about the Lord, and nothing happens…

    There has been different advice over the years:
    1. Talk about Jesus every chance you get because you might not get another chance.
    2. Don’t talk about Jesus until someone mentions how impressed they are with your life and ask you about it.

    One by one my relatives and neighbors are dying, and it’s so sad to be that close to them and not know the right things to say and do. I know it’s not a formula. I’m not saying that, but the way it is supposed to be–we witness, we pray, people get saved. It’s just not happening. Will the Lord say, “Well done”? Or do I really know him?

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  • I guess I should clarify–it doesn’t seem to be happening for me. I know there are a lot of faithful servants out there who are leading people to Jesus.

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