If you’ve hung around the Christian internet for the past couple of years, you’ve likely run across the term “Missional” and wondered what exactly it meant. If so, look no further than the new blog Between the Times from professors at Southeastern Seminary.

Dr. Bruce Ashford posted yesterday about the strange experience of being in a coffee shop on the other side of the world with different groups of Americans all around him, all of which were radically different from each other. But in most churches, these groups would be lumped together as a single “culture,” and attempts to reach them with the Good News of Jesus would be monosyllabic. Ashford encourages us to think differently, or, missionally:

We most often use the term “missions” to denote the cross-cultural and cross-linguistic outworking of the church’s mission. It is for this reason that missions has most often been used to refer to international evangelism, discipleship and church planting. International missionaries cross vast cultural divides and overcome daunting linguistic barriers in order to share the gospel.

The point of this post, however, is that those who minister in the United States now must often cross subcultures and overcome linguistic barriers in their efforts to advance the kingdom.

A missional Christian in an American context is the same as one in the international context. He is first and foremost a theologian, but also is a student of other disciplines such as world religions, contemporary cultures and sub-cultures, and current affairs. In studying world religions, he learns to understand the core beliefs and religious practices of those to whom he will minister. In becoming a student of other cultures and sub-cultures, he learns to pay careful attention to the people group he is working amongst. He seeks to understand their beliefs, feelings, and values, as well as their patterns of behavior and material trappings. From current affairs, he gains an understanding of the broader regional, national, and international context within which he ministers.

The fact is, even here in our city, we at any given time are a stones throw away from a handful of different sub-cultures, of which we likely do not have much knowledge. Are we really reaching these people if we don’t know them? And are we incorporating them into our churches if we take no account of who they are and from what culture (and sub-cultures) they come?

So, take a look around, and see who you are standing next to next time you’re at the store or at the little league game. Next time you’re in church, notice that there are people who are different than you, and who think differently about reality than you do. Then make it your priority to serve them where they are, the way Christ served you where you were, and continues to serve you where you are now.

HT: Between the Times