Flowing vs. Striving in Mission

Charles Kiser —  August 7, 2012 — 6 Comments

A couple months ago Chris Chappotin asked me if I was interested to participate in his “What’s Missing in Missional?” blog series. The deadline came and went, so sorry Chris, but the question has stuck in my head.

My interactions with 3DM over the past 18 months have put the Triangle in the forefront of my mind as an evaluative filter. Simply, the three sides of the triangle reflect the sets of relationships that Jesus balanced in his life rhythms: 1) UP – his relationship to the Father; 2) IN – his relationships to the community of disciples; and 3) OUT – his relationship to the lost sheep of the world. The church, as a community of Jesus’ followers, should balance the same rhythms in its own life.

If “missional” is synonymous with the OUT edge of the Triangle, then churches need to be more than just missional. They also need to have rhythms for UP and IN in their communal life.

To answer the question: What’s missing in missional? The UP and the IN!


Recently I drove up to Norman, OK to learn from Ken Primrose, Pastor of Norman Community Church. I was impacted most to hear him talk about his prayer life. He commits to praying 3 hours a day (and, in fact, is trying to increase that to 4!). He prays two hours by himself and one hour with his church’s prayer ministry.

When I asked what motivated him to pray that much, one of the things he shared was a scripture that had impacted him many years ago: “You are…members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19-20)

Primrose highlighted that apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church. Apostles are those who start new things and push out in mission (the OUT). Prophets are those who listen to God and receive revelation (the UP). Both roles are foundational to the church’s existence.

Primrose then shared from his experience how important it is to balance the prophetic with the apostolic in the life the church. He recalled times in his ministry when he sensed his community had pushed out in mission beyond the depth of its prayer life – because it was much more difficult than usual. Things didn’t flow as easily as before. The sweet spot in dynamic mission, he said, was when prophetic and apostolic ministries were moving in sync with one another.

In other words: the OUT is only as deep and significant as the UP.

The church’s missional ministry is inextricably linked to its prayer ministry.

I later shared this line of thinking with my friend Tim Catchim, a great missional thinker and prolific writer about the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:7-11. He plugged Primrose’s thoughts into a matrix.

High prophetic (UP) and low apostolic (OUT) feels like floating: a great sense of connection to God but no traction in mission, no movement outward, no fruit in conversion.

Low prophetic (UP) and low apostolic (OUT) feels like stalling: the church is literally going nowhere.

Low prophetic (UP) and high apostolic (OUT) feels like striving: this is the sense that Ken Primrose shared about working really hard in mission and not seeing much come from it. His diagnosis was a lack of connection to God. I resonate most with this one and think that many missional practitioners probably spend quite a bit of time here.

High prophetic (UP) and high apostolic (OUT) feels like flowing: the church is hitting on all cylinders in the power of the Spirit. God’s presence is evident. There is deep and sustained practice in prayer. People are coming to the Lord. New missional communities are being started.

Why the correlation between OUT and UP? There are at least two reasons.

1) Because the OUT belongs to God. God is the author of mission. The Holy Spirit is the primary missionary in the world.

2) Because we need God in the OUT. Left to ourselves, our attempts at mission will amount to a few nice things we do for other people. But with the power of the Holy Spirit, they become transformative. We can’t do the OUT on our own. We don’t have the power to do it. We need help. The UP connects us to our source of help.

What connection do you see between the UP and the OUT?

Where do you see your own ministry or church in this Prophetic-Apostolic matrix?

Stay tuned for another post on the relationship between the OUT and the IN…

Charles Kiser


I’m a pastor, missionary, and contextual theologian in Dallas, Texas. I’m committed to equipping and coaching Christians to start fresh expressions of Christian community in Dallas County — communities of hospitality, inclusion, justice, and healing.

6 responses to Flowing vs. Striving in Mission


    Great reflections, Charlie! As you know, I am quite thankful for the Lord’s gentle correction(s) and redirection(s) in regards to my ”striving.”

    In the article, ”The church’s missional ministry is inextricably linked to its prayer ministry” struck the loudest chord with me. In my life, I am discovering that when I remain attentive to the Lord (UP) with a community of listeners (IN), the Spirit manifests missional opportunities all around (OUT); however, without the attentiveness to the Lord, it all falls apart. (That\’s called: ”speaking from experience.”)

    Furthermore, could we slip ”prayer ministry” under the umbrella of intentional times of worship? Lately, my experiences in corporate and individual worship are becoming collisions of UP, IN, and OUT. Just last night, I participated in a gathering where we sang, prophesied (yup) and read praises to the Lord (UP), prayed for and spoke encouraging words to each other (IN), and cried out to God on behalf of our city as a portion of an informal time commissioning each other to join Jesus\’ activity in the city. (OUT) For so long, personally, corporate worship has been a time of scrambling to ”get things done,” worrying about all the pieces coming together, or frankly, going through the motions. However, could it be that as we invite the Holy Spirit to stir among us (UP), we are activated into ministry for each other (IN) which can not be contained as it spills outside our Jesus communities into the margins where God dwells?

    I’m gettin’ fired up, Chuck! (”Up Chuck.” Now that’s funny right there. *Tow Mater voice*)


      Great thoughts, Chris. I like what you say about “without the attentiveness to the Lord, it all falls apart.” Reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 15 – “without me you can do nothing.”

      I think we’re using “prayer ministry” and “intentional times of worship” synonymously. And yes, I think the UP can happen in variety of ways – individually, corporately, with music, with contemplation – the whole spectrum of spiritual practices is opened up to us as a way of engaging the UP.


    It feels like you’re onto something here. I feel like I have been in a the quadrants of floating and stalling in my own ministry and recently have sensed God pushing me to more fruitful conversations with others encouraging them toward faith in Jesus. A couple things I am noticing in my own life. As I try and listen to God and work toward this end, I find the answer to my, “what do I need to do about it?” question being, press more deeply into God through prayer. A second thing, as I am reading Acts, I find the church/apostles being united in prayer while waiting for the Holy Spirit to do something. Then they get to speak and tell people what God is doing and why they should believe in Jesus.


    It is good to have you back as a blogger! Good insight. I like the urgency and feel God’s leading in these responses.


    Excellent! Gleaned a lot today. Desperately needed the revelatory insights. Thanks a million!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Wrestling with the Gospel of Luke (Part 4 *Final*) « Kingdom Clues - August 16, 2012

    […] your answer to the following question: “What’s missing in missional?” Mike Breen, Charles Kiser, and others are producing and encouraging reflective dialogue on this topic, and I would enjoy […]

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