Thursday, March 8

Maintenance or Missional

Rick Meigs recently quoted the Rev. Canon Dr. Harold Percy, Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, who wrote “Good News People: An Introduction to Evangelism for Tongue-Tied Christians,” (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1996). The book is an introduction to evangelism in the context of the local church and its ministry.

In "Good News People" the author articulates questions that contrast the difference in thinking between a church in maintenance mode and one in mission mode. What follows are some of Rick's adaptations of these questions...

Rick writes, "...more important than getting the right answer is asking the right question. These questions can help us understand missional, show how important a shift in thinking is when understanding and being missional, and can help train us to actually think missionally."

Maintenance or Missional

1. In measuring its effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, “How many visitors have we attracted?” The missional congregation asks, “How many members have we sent?”

2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, “If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won’t do it.” The missional congregation says, “If this will help us bless and touch someone outside of our faith community, we will take the risk and do it.”

3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, “How will this affect me?” The majority of members in the missional congregation ask, “Will this help align our activities around the missio dei — the mission of God?”

4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our past.” The missional congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our future.”

5. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running smoothly. The leadership style in a missional congregation is primarily transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the map in order to bring the vision into reality.

6. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The missional congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.

7. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks, “How many Christians, who aren’t currently members, live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?” The missional congregation asks, “How many unreached people groups live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?”

8. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, “How can we get these people to come to our church?” The missional congregation asks, “How can we go and be engaged with these people?”

9. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their congregation. The missional congregation thinks about how to plant new missional communities to extend the Kingdom of God.


Missional Jerry said...

wonderful list

S.A.M. said...

That is some great stuff. Question 1 is a little contradictory. I think it is important to ask both those questions in a missional church. You outreach in order to bring those in the community through your doors, and connect them with what God is calling them to do. Once that is done, they are sent out. Therefore, both questions are asked to measure their effectiveness. It takes a God-led church staff to be able to step out in these areas and ask these questions. Some of the questions might step on some church leaders toes!


Rick Meigs said...

Guy: Thanks for the shout-out. Love Guayaquil and pray that your work will continue to be blessed.

s.a.m. I'll have to disagree with you on question #1 :-). Missional is never about bring people from the community through the doors of the church. It is always about "going" and being Christ in the world. Once a person become a Jesus follower, they are then part of the church and need to be brought into a community of faith.

I'm not suggesting that inviting people to church is wrong. On the contrary, we should do so more often, but "come and see" that is not the biblical model. "Go and be" is.

S.A.M. said...

Rick, I appreciate the dialogue, and your disagreement. Would "going and being" help if you were connected to a body of Christ? One that helped to develop your spiritual gifts and realize the talents given by God? The lost are out there and we do need to get them into a setting where they can worhsip and see that this "religion" thing is not really about religion; It is about a relationship with Jesus. They can then grow in the knowledge and empowerment that they have, among other Christ followers as models and while growing begin to reach those outside the church. So I think both questions can be a good measure of effectiveness, maybe the missional question more than the other.:)


Rick Meigs said...

SAM, I too appreciate the dialog.

Question #1 deals with the difference between an attractional ministry and a missional one, but I see your point. I may be reacting to what often is an attempt to make the "come and see" invitation the initial and only contact with Christ followers and not-yet-Christians.

There is a point where they do need to be incorporated into a loving body of Christ followers so they can fully experience the love of God. But that will generally only come after members have been sent into the world to build trusting relationships with not-yet-Christians.

So maybe what we could say is that the missional congregation asks, "How many members have we sent, and as a result of that sending, how many of those cultivated relationships have resulted in someone attending our faith community?"

Just some rambling thoughts.

S.A.M. said...

Ramble on! Thanks for the comment!


GuyMuse said...

SAM and Rick,

I think what Rick is trying to communicate is further clarified by his latest post here. I think one of the big obstacles we have in today's Church is one of definitions and understanding of terms. Sometimes we think we know what one another is saying as it passes through our filter systems, when in reality we are often saying something quite different!

Several posts earlier I linked to an OnMovements post entitled "The Curse of Knowledge" which deals with this communication barrier. We THINK we are clearly communicating our thoughts, when in reality something quite different is often being understood by those we are relating to due to their worldview, upbringing, defintion of terms, etc.

Anyway, thanks to you both for chiming in.

S.A.M. said...

That is true. Rick and I are from different backgrounds and live in different areas. The church I attend does both in our community. It draws people in the doors and also challenges those to make a committment to grow and then to serve in the Lord. The membership is encouraged to grow in a personal relationship with Jesus and in that growth, your spiritual gifts are realized, instead of sitting and soaking. A few years ago, our church also became globally minded, and began partnerin all over the world, as well as in our own back yard. I'm not saying that Rick is not part of a church body that does this, but I am, and I see the vision cast by its leaders. I hope MY ramblings make sense!


S.A.M. said...

Sorry Rick, that was not a slam on your rambling thoughts. I sometimes have trouble understanding my own!


Jeff W. said...

Great post!

Last summer I left a "maintance church" (after a very short pastorate) - your post defined it perfectly. I was trying to lead it to be missional, without ever having really seen the word used in this context. For some people "church" only exists as a maintance organization. They have no vision beyond "come and be like us." They would rather destroy the place before seeing it change from an organization to a living organism.

Thanks for the post.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the good comment. Sadly, many churches are just that--maintenance oriented. But Christ has called us to be on mission with Him and go out into the world as salt and light in the midst of darkness. Or as He puts it in Luke 10 "I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves." Somewhere along the way we have abandoned this missional call and substituted a "y'all come" approach to being the Church. Is it any wonder we do not see more Kingdom fruit than we do?

Aaron K. said...

Hit the nail on the head!
Thank you for posting this list. It provides a great description of what we should be and a very descriptive indictment of what many churches are. It's not about preferences but about the mission of God.

Aaron K.

Darrell said...

I got this from:

This is the reality in the USA. May God have mercy upon us!

Well-known church researcher and author Thom Rainer notes that the failure of churches to keep up with the population growth is one of the Church's greatest issues heading into the future. In a 2002 survey of 1,159 U.S. churches, Rainer's research team found that only 6% of the churches were growing—he defines growth as not only increasing in attendance, but also increasing at a pace faster than its community's population growth rate. "Stated inversely, 94% of our churches are losing ground in the communities they serve," he says.

jeff w. said...


The differences between missional and maintenance demonstrate the different idea that people have of what the church is, its purpose and its manner of operation. I think that this is also demonstrated easily in the SBC.

I suspect that Lifeway’s two biggest sellers in the last 15 years are Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God and Bobby Welch’s F.A.I.T.H. Now, I think that both men are men of God and have done great work, but the assumptions behind the two products are enormous.

In F.A.I.T.H., the pastor of the church must be behind the program. It is identical everywhere and uses a canned gospel presentation. It has a Sunday School “testimony” and so supports a program. It is top down, structured, program oriented, and designed to be copied word for word. It is a McDonald’s approach and is designed to grow the local church. It has worked.

Blackably’s Experiencing God provides almost the exact opposite approach to church. The idea behind the study is that God seeks a love relationship with individuals and speaks individually and uniquely to each of His children. Blackaby states that you should not do something just because it worked somewhere else. The idea is that God will speak to each person and thus to the church through its members. It is decentralized, relational, and designed to grow the church by growing the kingdom.

The problem I see is that people come to expect the church to look like a top-down organization or as a living organism. It is generally an either/or proposition. Those who see church as a structured, program-based organization can’t survive in a decentralized, relational group – they don’t have the structures that they need for comfort and survival. It is possible, however, for those who want a relational based organism to survive in the more structured environment – so long as they keep a low profile.

Anyway, just a few thoughts to add to the discussion.


Rick Meigs said...


Not a problem at all. I didn't take you comments as a slam, but as good healthy dialog.

GuyMuse said...

Darrell and Aaron,

The article that Darrell links us to is very much in line with the general tone of the post. We are indeed in a church crisis and the way out is to begin to reach out to those around us instead of trying to maintain what we already have.


What you write is interesting. I am about half way through with a fascinating book entitled, "The Starfish and the Spider" which talks about the power of decentralized organizations. Even though it is a business book, the applications for church are clearly evident.

SAM and Rick,

Thanks for all you two have added to the dialogue.

Tim Patterson said...

Great discussion Guy! This is really good stuff.

Church should be organic but every organism has organization! The organic should be primary and structure comes from that. The church is described as a body... but also as a building. Peter refered to the church as a spiritual house built with living stones. The living aspect - the organic, the stones aspect - the organization.

Maintenance is not all bad. It supports the primary organic missional purpose of the church. It is only bad when it becomes the end, not a means to fulfill the purposes of the church.