Time for A Missional Reset

The Covid-19 pandemic is the largest societal disruption of the 21st Century. It is easily the largest church disruption. Covid-19 will reset our lives in many ways. I want to advocate for a missional reset that builds off the recent heroic efforts of our churches to serve their communities.

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay are missionaries. They are also trainers, authors and pastors. In their book, AND, they recommend that churches rediscover what they call the “Missionary Flow” of Jesus. They contend that Jesus followed a simple pattern in his ministry. He first engaged culture, he then formed community and subsequently his disciples structured congregations.

The Covid-19 circumstances allow us to reset our ministry activities and mindsets in the missional flow of Jesus. Consider the following five suggestions as guideposts for a missional reset.

  1. Engage Culture. The Gospels do not offer many details about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, but we do receive a glimpse of his interactions with his family and culture in the account of his visit to the temple in Luke 2. Verse 52 reveals this clue: “And as Jesus grew up, he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people.” The fact that Jesus was 30 years old when he launched his ministry shows that he spent a great deal of time immersed in his culture. The current pandemic offers church leaders a new opportunity to step back and examine our cultural engagement, to listen to people and to learn about the needs of our culture for the sake of kingdom mission. What can you examine about our culture? How does the kingdom of God relate to the needs our culture is expressing?                                                                                                                                                         
  2. Form Community. It is interesting that Jesus was never the pastor of a church. He embodied all the qualities we desire for and from our pastors, but he never led a formal institution. What Jesus did form and lead was a missional community. He called a group of disciples. He lived with them, traveled with them, taught them, prayed for them and empowered them to announce the kingdom of God. They were to teach, heal and invite others to follow God in the same ways Jesus did. Could the Covid-19 pandemic be your opportunity to appropriately de-emphasize the institutional and re-energize the communal? What is one practical way you can energize the community life of your church for mission?                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  3. Structure Congregations. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his followers engaged culture, formed missional communities and eventually structured or institutionalized congregations. Institutional maintenance is good and noble work but is it possible that, just like John Wesley and his Methodist reformers, this current crisis may prompt us to re-set our priorities as pastors and church leaders? Is it possible that the way through our current challenge is to ask this question: Will our institutions direct our mission or will our mission direct our institutions? How does this question challenge you and the missional work of your ministry and congregation?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  4. Launch “Pilot” Groups. Even In the midst of the “whirlwind” of institutional management (see the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution), we as pastors and church leaders can initiate a missional reset by launching experimental or pilot missional communities. We can utilize tools like the “Discovery Bible App” or Banding Together from our colleague, Jon Wiest. The key is that we form missional communities primarily for disciple-making, trusting that Jesus will build his church through this process. Do you see yourself as partnering with what God is doing or are you shouldering the burden by yourself?                                                                                                                          
  5. Embrace Organic Process. We must recognize that a missional reset using a missionary flow model is an organic process. Not every missional community we launch will “succeed” but when we fail, we learn, we pray, we improve and we proceed again. I encourage you to take time this week to contemplate how Covid-19 can be your opportunity to launch a missional reset for your life and the life of your congregation. In what ways has Covid-19 created opportunities to reset your church to become more missional?                                                                         

To learn more about helping people in need, see the following resources:

Halter, Hugh & Smay, Matt (2010). AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan.

Sanders, Brian. (2020). Lay Down Your Tools,” from the 2019-2020 Multipliers Learning Community at the Hub of the Tampa Underground. In this video, Sanders explains “The Underground” mission in Tampa, FL.

Van Gelder, Craig & Roxburgh. (2010). “What is Missional Church?”

Wiest, Jon. (2018). Banding Together: A Practical Guide for Discipleship. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. New York: Free Press


Intellectual contributor: Dr. Eric Hallett, district superintendent of the Central Canada District of The Wesleyan Church.

Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus

Curator of content: Dave Higle