The Cool Kids of Mission

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Sometimes I feel like “missional” is the new cool kids club.

Maybe I was the only lead pastor in the world who was not “in” the cool kids club in school but if I was not maybe you can resonate. I really wanted to be in the club. I tried hard to be in the club in fact, especially trying to do and wear the right things.

So in the mid 80s, to be in the club, you wore Sebagos, Polo shirts, tight rolled jeans (which if you were a girl were Guess and if you were a boy were something other than the Lee jeans I wore) and had a perfect yet flowing part in your hair.

I was raised by a single mom with very little money and although she wanted to be able to give me those things I found that by the time we were able to save up and buy that stuff it was the late 80s and the requirement was parachute pants, suede Pumas with fat shoelaces and a boom-box that you could hold on your shoulder. It was so hard to break-dance in my Sebagos, but we had just gotten them.

Then by the 90s, when my grandfather had built me a break-dancing stage out of linoleum in my backyard and I had finally gotten the guts to sneak an EZ-E tape into my room, low and behold some band named Nirvana was on the scene and I needed to get a flannel shirt and some Converse All-Stars. Jeesh, I just could not keep up.

No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like I could never keep up with the fact that in some room somewhere the cool kids club had changed the rules and now I was not doing the “right thing”.

Even as I write this, I know that this is more my issue than the cool kids club, but sometimes I feel like in some room there is an elite team of super-missional people who keep changing the rules on what it means to be missional in the church. Jeesh, I just can’t keep up.

Sometimes as I read articles, books, and blogs I start to get frustrated and even feel like certain forms of missional are now the 1985 Sebago and the cool kids club is on to the 1990s missional Nirvana. I hear about churches who are trying to be missional, giving away book bags, maybe even having an event for their community or serving in some way that apparently stopped being cool in 2009, and I get excited only to find out that there is a new and right way to be missional. Didn’t you read the latest book that tells you what missional really is, Pastor? Uggh.

It becomes frustrating where the boots are on the ground because what I see is that churches all over the country have finally cast vision for actually caring for the people who don’t attend their churches. They are learning from other churches and even sometimes (gasp, oh the horror) just copying them because at least it gives them a head start, and now it’s not “it” anymore, well unless you do “it” the new way. And it may just be me but I feel like by the time some churches are able to turn the ships towards the new thing we will be onto a “new” new thing.

I own my dysfunction, my desire to be in the club and even my desire to have people think we are the “fill in the blank” of the latest cool kids label for churches. I also own the fact that sometimes (but I don’t think often) I and other pastors do the right things for the wrong reasons—but now it seems I can’t keep up anymore with what the right things are. So after I break through that part that is just me and my idols, I wonder if we could just concentrate on doing something for the right reason—which is a love for our communities.

Would God be displeased with a church that serves through an antiquated method, maybe even holds a break-dancing competition, with a heart that breaks for lost people? In fact, it may be that God is not using people to get the mission done but that molding the hearts of his people is the mission.

I will never forget the day that my mom took me to Barron’s Shopping Store to buy me my Sebagos. I was old enough to know the tide had changed and they were really not popular anymore. But I knew that my mom cared enough for me to save her money and give me something of worth. I think there are a ton of churches offering 1980s Sebagos in mission and God is very pleased. Hopefully they'll learn to break-dance soon, even if the cool kids have moved on to Nirvana.

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Shawn Wood planted Freedom Church in Moncks Corner, S.C. in 2011, and is the author of two books: 200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One and Wasabi Gospel.

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