Missional church movement has spawned a slew of misunderstandings and misapplications of mission. Over the next few days I want to suggest three ways to not do mission: 1) Event-driven Mission 2) Evangelism-driven Mission 3) Social Action driven Mission. Let’s think about Event-driven together:

Event-driven Mission: These are the churches that, in the name of mission, throw bloc parties, do Easter Egg drops from helicopters, hand out water at intersections, do gas buy-downs, or even, as was recently suggested to me, do coffee buy-downs.What’s wrong this this approach to missional church?

  • Event-driven Mission is works-based. It begins on the wrong foot, the foot of action instead of the foot of identity. It makes mission out to be an act of man, not a participation in an attribute of God. Mission is something we are before its something we do. Event-driven approaches to mission turn mission into an event, something that is optional for the super-spiritual, something that gets us points with God, that gets him on our good side. But God can not be bribed by mission or anything else. Event-driven mission builds mission on works not grace.
  • Event-driven Mission is very often Consumerist: The event approach to being a missional church often appeals to consumerism, not to genuine social or spiritual needs? It aims at the consumer-in-want-of-stuff, not the sinner-in-need-of-grace. These attempts at mission appeal to the consumerist longing for a deal, instead of the sinner’s deep down longing for redemption. They try to buy people off. I’ll give you an Xbox if you come to my church. I’ll pay for your gas if you visit on a Sunday. I’ll rent a helicopter if you will consider becoming a Christian. If you have to pay people to come meet Christians, something is seriously wrong with your understanding of gospel and mission. Event-driven mission makes appeals based on idolatry not to grace.
  • It doesn’t work very well. In urban contexts, people can smell a bait and switch a mile away, and that is exactly when they left the church (if they were in it in the first place). If we want to reach non-Christians in a post-Christian context, then we will have to prove to them that they cannot be bought off, that we are a real community, and that we care about them enough to live next door to them, eat with them, work with them, suffer with them, rock out with them, go be with them. Event driven mission is a bait and switch.

Adapted from my talk The Gospel: Conversion to Mission from LEAD ’09.