As you may know, the term ‘missional’ has become something of a buzzword. It’s a neologism I personally quite like; it’s the adjectival form of the noun ‘mission’ and thus serves as a catchword for a certain way of both being and living in the world vis-à-vis the non-Christian society around us.
There’s a lot talk these days about being more missional. But in my experience these conversations tend, frankly, to focus more on form than substance. All too often I find myself left with the impression that being missional has more to do with lighting candles, playing cool music, growing a soul-patch, preaching in jeans, and generally being just a bit edgy – than it does with living a life that is “self-controlled, upright and godly,” as Titus would have us (2:12).
I’m sensitive to not overstating my case, so let me ask: When was the last time anyone attended a conference for ‘missional’ churches and church leaders and discovered there that the key to missional outreach is the renunciation of sin and the full-throttled pursuit of holiness?
Yet, as I read Titus, here’s the irony. According to Titus, the most effective missional and congregational outreach is a corporate devotion to good works. As New Testament scholar Gordon Fee has rightly observed, the letter of Titus is thoroughly evangelistic in its thrust: throughout this letter Paul encourages behavior that will be attractive to the world; thus good works are for the sake of outsiders.
So while I’m on board with the need to be more missional – that is, to take seriously the cultural chasm that has developed between contemporary forms of Christianity and the surrounding post-Christian culture – I’m nevertheless increasingly convinced that the most effective prescription for being and becoming truly missional in any recognizably New Testament sense is to cultivate zeal for good works within the life of the church of Jesus Christ. Zeal for good works is as missional as it gets.
Our study in the book of Titus will, then, help us as a congregation learn how better to do that most missional of things: “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:10). So that the gospel of God looks more attractive and beautiful and winsome and ultimately compelling to outsiders.