Lost in Translation: 5 Over-reactions in the Missional Church

As I’ve been hanging out with missional communities I regularly find the same issues popping up as hurdles to their progress in community formation and witness in the neighborhoods. Much of these issues are overreaction to “non-missional” Christendom forms of church. I call these items “things that get lost in translation.” Here’s 5 things that (in my humble opinion) get lost in translation when we go from Christendom modern forms of church to post Christendom missional forms of church.
1.) The Ability to Lead: It is a principle of mission that leadership shall be non-hierarchical. Instead it shall be leadership in mutual submission to one another. This kind of leadership is based in the 5 fold gifting (Eph 4:11 APEST), and by definition decentralizes leadership. It spreads leadership out into the neighborhoods. But over and over again I see people interpreting this to mean “no leadership.” This is a case of leadership getting lost in the translation.

The leaders shall lead. In other words, the ones recognized for being gifted in teaching, evangelism, pastoral care, apostleship and prophetic work shall all lead in these areas, and foster more leaders in these and other areas in the neighborhoods. But they shall lead non-hierarchically in the pattern of mutual submission. Leadership will therefore sound like this: “I’ve listened and heard you all say _______ , I‘ve prayed about _________ , I’ve learned from Scripture _________ , and I believe therefore God is calling us to do __________,  and so I submit __________ to you. Where am I off? where am I on? The leader then leads a discussion which refines _____________ or maybe completely changes it. A good leader leads the group to a group resolution where everyone can follow the well-led discernment.

2.) Proclamation of the Gospel: We live in a world where the Bible and the church have lost its cultural authority.  Many churches still resort to reason as the currency of faith. Apologetics!! Let’s “win” people to Christ … literally! Missional communities often react to that by saying we need embodied witness in the new post Christendom culture. This demands we embody the truth in our lives. This is how the world shall see and know, become curious and seek what we have in the gospel. The Holy Spirit is at work in the world, we need only co’operate. But often times this has led us to be shy about proclaiming the gospel. We think it is coercive or abusive to proclaim the gospel to believers/non believers alike. I think this is another case of being lost in translation.

Proclamation is an epistemological shift beyond modernity’s rationality. We proclaim something out of ownership, our own history. We do not seek to prove, convince. It is something we do into contextual real life situations.  Among ourselves proclamation of gospel might sound like “we proclaim Jesus is Lord over …” “we declare … “ Among non-believers, when the door opens to proclaim gospel it might sound like “in relation to your situation I believe ….. “ “I am convinced …“  Proclamation is always followed by an invitation. Can you receive that? Does that make sense ? Can you open your life to that possibility?

Proclamation recognizes truth is a matter of narrative. And often the world is living a completely different narrative than the gospel. Yet because it is based in ‘Our Story,’ proclamation is never coercive. There is an epistemological humility among missional communities as we enter into the world. Yet we should not be hesitant to proclaim gospel out of our own lives and our history in Christ (the Scriptures). That is what God uses. Proclamation speaks truth in love allowing the Holy Spirit to convince.

 The Next Post I want to discuss 3 more overreactions.

3.) Gathering. The reaction against attractional forms of church often leaves us without the wherewithal to gather a social group big enough to be a presence in the neighborhood. We also worry a lot about our worship being too attractional  and so we unintentionally put up barriers for new people to enter.

4.) Engaging Community The tension between being present with the poor versus making the poor “a project” often leaves us paralyzed in terms of engaging the community.

5.) Sentness is Bad In reaction to “colonialism” we worry than any re-location smacks of presumption and an exercise of uni-directional power. As a result, church-planting efforts sometimes gets stunted.


In the meantime … how does your church handle these issues? What oither issues get lost in translation in your ministry work in the local church?

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