Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Whatever you do will fail if…

Posted on 10 Jul 2014 in Leadership, missional theology | Comments Off on Whatever you do will fail if…

Many churches are working towards being missional:

  • They are going through their budgets to reflect their desires to give back to the community.
  • They provide training and resources to equip people for mission in their neighborhoods.
  • They teach people the importance of mission and have adapted their sermons and gathering times to reflect this desire.

Other churches are having the conversations:

  • How do reflect our stated desire to reach this community with actual results?
  • What does faithfulness look like with such limited resources and a large scattering of people across our city?
  • How do we get people to buy into this new direction?

And sadly, I think there are even a few churches working on becoming anti-missional and trying harder to stay institutional:

  • If one fog machine doesn’t impress them anymore, maybe two will!
  • Forget orphans, let’s buy a bigger screen for the sanctuary, complete with 3D glasses!
  • I’d love to reach my neighbors for Jesus, when are we hiring the new pastor?


Okay, okay, I kid, I don’t think there are any people in that third category (at least I really hope not).

But the conversation of ‘What does missional look like for us?’ is happening in churches, small groups, and neighborhoods all across America.

I’ve seen churches successfully make the transition and talked to leaders that quite literally saw the church die trying. There seems to be one key distinction between those that make a successful transition and those that don’t.

HeartVerse cards

This one key is so vital to the missional movement; I see three big ways it plays out.

  1. The heart of the pastor(s). While the missional movement is essentially a movement of the people, the reality is that most church members have been so engrained with consumerism that they cannot think of church any other way. To talk about being ‘missional’ or ‘a missionary to your neighborhood’ is like speaking a foreign language. People just don’t understand it. The heart of the leader is vital to the transition. Being a person that can love, critique, encourage, empathize, and extend compassion in the midst of the movement is vital to success. Any leader that just carries passion for mission will ultimately lead the church to failure, burnout, and probably closure. Only great leaders, with great hearts of love and compassion can help paint a picture for people to buy into.
  2. The hearts of the leaders. Every church experiences this one differently, because it can come from two potential sources: the group already serving in leadership, or a new (perhaps younger, but not always) group that catches the vision first and agrees to move forward. The first group, those already established in leadership, have the benefit of often being change agents within the church structure. They carry clout and when they talk, people listen. When the pastor(s) can gain their respect and get them headed in the right direction, change can often happen quickly. The second group, a new group of leaders that catches the vision, is also a possibility. Perhaps a young adult small group or Bible study, maybe it’s a group of parents that feel a burden for their children’s school or the level of crime in the neighborhood. Whatever it is, those that spent time in a church that hasn’t been working for them are often some of the quickest to grab onto the missional movement because they experience it as a breath of fresh air, a sort of “I knew there had to be more to Christianity!” moment. Empowering these new leaders provides a living and tangible example to the rest of the church and gives them a flesh and blood experience of what missional looks like.
  3. The heart of the people. Let’s face it, you can’t force anyone to be missional, much like you can’t force anyone to be a disciple. The great debate seems to be “Missional vs. Institutional” as if one is inherently right while the other inherently wrong. While it should probably be more formed in the “Missional AND Institutional” conversation (or rather, how do both help us be the most faithful), the reality is that either will fail if the people’s heart isn’t into it. The best laid missional plans will fizzle with little kingdom impact if forced upon people without time for them to change their heart and perspective on years of ingrained methods of church (and hence why the heart of the leader is so important). The flaws present in the current state of the institutional church will become evident in the future of the missional church if all that changes is language, programs, and budgets. For the missional movement to succeed in changing the way church is thought of in America, the first thing that needs to change is the heart of the people that are going out on mission, anything else is a foolish waste of time.

I believe in the future of the missional movement and have heard great stories, and seen great acts of faith when people have decided to step out and try something different; but each time has been because the hearts inside the church were the first to change.


Have something to add? Want to offer your opinion? Enter the Discussion Below.

Question: How have you seen churches struggle and overcome in the transition to missional?

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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