Thursday, February 04, 2010

Gordon MacDonald on Missionalism

Pastor and author Gordon MacDonald warns of the dangers of missionalism to committed Christian leaders. It's missionalism, not missional.

Dangers of Missionalism
Even the best causes can become cold, prideful, and all-consuming.
Gordon MacDonald | posted 1/01/2007 on Christianity Today online

I've added a new word to my vocabulary: missionalism. In fact I may have coined the word. All I know is that my spell-checker never heard of it before.

Missionalism defined: the belief that the worth of one's life is determined by the achievement of a grand objective. Key word: worth.

I don't know how long the word missional has been in use. I only began to hear it in the last few years as in "we're a missional church." Is missional really that different from being purpose-driven? I like both terms, but I know lots of churches (including ones I pastored) that were acting missional and purpose-driven long before the two words became popular. I remember thinking one day that missional sounds a bit Catholic, and purpose-driven sounds more Evangelical Protestant.

But missionalism is something else. It's a leader's disease. Like a common cold that begins with a small cough, missionalism catches on in a leader's life and seems at first so inconsequential. But let this disease catch hold and you are likely to have bodies strewn all over the place, the leader's and some of the leader's followers.

and then he highlights the lure of missionalism

Missionalism—the passionate need to keep things growing and growing so that one proves his/her worth—can catch hold from various sources. For some of us, it came early in life when we discovered that we got a lot of love when we went forward to dedicate our lives to Christian service.

We were awash with the call to a kind of heroism. If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times, "The world has yet to see what God can do through a person totally committed to Jesus Christ." It was an inspiring statement, and it conjured dreams of whole nations converted to Christ through preaching. How many times I knelt at altars and begged God for a fervency, an overcoming of the power of the Holy Spirit, a sense of abandonment that would make me willing to take up the cross to follow him. I wanted to be that one person.

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