The Meaning of Missional when only 9% of Americans have a Biblical Wordview

10 03 2009

Barna recently released a survey demonstrating that less than 9% of Americans have a biblical worldview.

This is why I canNOT agree with statements like –

“The last thing Christians need is more training.” or

“Being missional means mainly reaching those far outside the church”

When the question was narrowed to people who considered themselves “born again” (evangelicals) the number with a biblical worldview was only 19%.

A biblical worldview was defined as –

believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.

I can’t help but feel that those who go outside the churches in their community to make disciples are like a doctor who has a thousands patients dying of preventible diseases in a hospital yet, instead of curing them, he chooses to spend 90% of his time going door to door to look for more sick people.  This is what my missional friends are missing.  We must put our own house in order.



12 responses

10 03 2009
Jason Diffner

I’ll stand for the record that I couldn’t agree more. Most of my brothers and acquaintences in kingdom leadership are on the “missional” kick and this critique I expect should feel threatening. They say, “get out there undiscipled Christian, invite your neighbors over for a barbeque.” Presumably by virtue of proximity to the message of the gospel they are supposed to become converts. I ask, then what? What will the undiscipled Christians do with the new converts? The answer is they can only “disciple” them in the same pathetic condition they are already in themselves. If you say, “but ah, won’t some become Christians?” to which I say, how do you know that a non-discipling, “convert-making” strategy creates just as many unregenerate, nominal “believers” that are forever hardended to true conversion?

I’ve resonated with Dallas Willard’s statement that pastors today need to neglect the lost as much as they are currently neglecting their own flocks. The believer’s maturity is their primary responsbility.

My opinion? Where might the most stategic mission field today? Look at the pews. If we REALLY disciple them, the most fruitful multiplication of new believers will take care of itself.

10 03 2009
ford knowlton

well said Jason,

It makes you wonder why there aren’t a great deal of ministries that are on mission to the Churched population.

11 03 2009
Jonathan Brink


I think what is missing for most people is the idea that missional is both an inward and and outward process. But Jesus took the disciples inward for three years, almost never sending them outward. We miss this process of discipleship because it’s hard. It doesn’t look like what we do on Sunday, and doesn’t feed the ego.

But at the same time Jesus left after three years and then empowered them with the Holy Spirit. He kicked them in the pants and said, “Now it’s your turn.”

Rarely do we create the space in churches to go deeply inward and deal with the crap that is our brokenness, which is sad. We get stuck in an immature way of operating and then never know it can be better.

What I hope doesn’t happen is that the missional idea gets thrown out simply because we miss the deeper meaning of it.

Much love


11 03 2009
Bob Kuhn

Hey Jonathan,

You wrote: “But Jesus took the disciples inward for three years, almost never sending them outward.”

I’m glad you said “almost never” – because it seems that a part of the discipleship process used by Jesus was to “send them out.” However, those he sent were already following him. There may be many good church goers who can give correct answers but have never begun to be transformed by Jesus. Let’s make sure the ones we are sending are followers of Jesus & not just followers of our church or our doctrine. What we need is less “indoctrination” and more teaching & training.



12 03 2009

” …can’t help but feel that those who go outside the churches in their community to make disciples are like a doctor who has a thousands patients dying of preventible diseases in a hospital yet, instead of curing them, he chooses to spend 90% of his time going door to door to look for more sick people…”

I’d agree that we shouldn’t exclude reaching those who are within the boundaries of conventional churches, but it strikes me that if only %19 of those people even believe the fundamental truths of the gospel, then it seems safe to say that most of those people are probably not actually a part of the Church

Jesus said it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… While the reality is that there are scores of sick people within evangelical churches, the major obstacle is usually that they tend to believe they are actually completely fine (because they see themselves as fulfilling all their religious obligations), and that is why it does make a lot of sense to seek out those who are ready to acknowledge their need, who are ready to listen to the world-shattering truths of the Gospel… I’m grateful that God doesn’t abandon those who’ve spent their lives sitting through church services (otherwise I wouldn’t be here…), but I can also appreciate the incredible difficulty that lies in teaching someone the essence of a gospel message that they believe they already know… Jesus did spend much more time reaching out to those who could put no confidence in their religious credentials, or social standing, and it would seem that should be an instructive example for us….

13 03 2009

Jonathan, very well said. I agree 100%. I don’t think I can justify focusing on anything else until we are consistently training disciples but that must ultimately result in going outward.

Bob, yes a big part of the apprenticeship process is learning to actually do the stuff as well.

Daniel, dangerous statement but I have to unfortunately agree that we have done an amazing job at populating the Matthew 7:22 crowd.

13 03 2009

I love what Neil Cole said in Organic Church, “We need to lower the bar of what it means to do church, and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple.”

We find that our small group discipleship times, called Life Transformation Groups, is where we are truly seeing both strong believer and those on the edge of faith growing towards Jesus…together!

I think discipleship is a “both/and” thing rather than an “either/or”. I have seen people on the edge of their faith challenging long-time believers to a higher standard. I honestly don’t miss the days of not having my “Church Family” mixing with my “Outside Friends”.

15 03 2009

I’m with Daniel. Just as the Jews thought they were fine because they were the “children of Abraham”, our churches are filled with people who think they are just fine (but the surveys, such as Barna’s seem to tell a different story).

Some are called to go to these religious people who are not really just fine. Some are called to go to the people in the culture who are not the least bit interested in the Christian religion. (These word are carefully and intentionally chosen.)

How about we each go to whom He sends us, rather than to whom you or I or some other person thinks we should go?

15 03 2009

Sam, I almost said that when I posted because I was thinking about the roles of Peter and Paul, and how they had very different focuses and spheres of influence.

18 03 2009
Luke Crook

I am totally sympathetic with the notion that discipleship is more central to our mission that being missional. But one certainly cannot separate the two…I’m sure you are not, Jeremy. I think that the challenge to walk in Jesus’ steps in terms of living a missional lifestyle is one HUGE way to see people recognize just how immature they (we!) actually are. In this sense, one could say that being missional is indispensible to making disciples. I think Jesus thought so too.

18 03 2009

I think part of my reaction to the both/and approach to this question is that I’ve not seen a great example of a highly missional focus consistently produce disciples. I have seen a high discipleship focus produce effective missionaries. And I hasten to add that by discipleship I don’t mean simply teaching. I have seen many examples of endless teaching NOT producing a missional people but I’m talking about discipleship training. If you train disciples correctly they will become missional but if you lead new believers out on mission they will not necessary become highly trained reproducing disciples.

18 03 2009
Jonathan Brink

Jeremy, I would agree with your assessment and suggest that what is almost ALWAYS missing from the traditional missional approach (is that an oxymoron) is the inward part of working out our salvation. What I typically see is people being thrust into a missional context and then having no really space to work out what it all means. In other words, imagine Jesus gathering the disciples together and then sending them from day one. He didn’t do that. He provided them a significant period to follow, ask questions, wrestle, practice, struggle, fail, experience…and then he sent them out.

So when I say both/and I mean the inward part and the outward part of the process. And that outward part didn’t just mean going out and serving the poor. It meant stepping into leadership to discipling other people.

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