The ministry of Jesus and the Twelve ramped to another level in the aftermath of what happened in Matthew 16: 13-20. It was a pivotal moment in their purposeful movement toward Jerusalem. Everything changed as a result of this inter-change between Jesus and Simon. Jesus showed them the heart of missional enterprise. Nothing was the same afterward. You see, when Christ's church fully comprehends the mission, every dimension of it changes. The missional heart moves the mission forward.
Matthew notes this shift graphically. The textual people annotate the Scripture with their chapter and paragraph divisions and separate Matthew 16:21 from the passage that precedes it. Of course, this signals the closure of one episode and the beginning of another. However, in this instance the texts are very clearly connected. What happens in verse 21 is a result of what had occurred previously. "From that time on..." (Matthew 16:21) announces a fundamental change in how they were accomplishing their Kingdom assignment. Prior to Simon's acknowledgment of Christ, and the Lord's establishment of the mission, the essential mission had been cloaked and hidden under what many biblical commentators call "the Messianic Secret". After the words of Matthew 16:13-20, the ultimate aim of Christ's mission was brought out for all to see. Henceforth, everything changed.
Missional congregations and leaders know that the organizational integrity of the church is not defined by flow charts, hierarchies, legal documents, staffing templates, or procedural savvy. Measuring the effectiveness of the church is simply ascertaining whether or not the mission is actually being pursued and how flexible the organization is to missional influences. From the time of Peter's confession of Christ through the ascension of Jesus, the mission of the Apostles and followers of Jesus shifted to a more specific announcement of what was coming, an unveiling of what was going to happen. The transfer of authority, and a very frank appraisal of what they could expect moved them to some organizational adjustments to accommodate the mission after his ascension. In the Book of Acts, the church remained solidly committed to the Gospel message while they adjusted to changing dynamics of their Kingdom assignment.
Missional congregations and leaders discern the subtle shifts and organizational changes necessitated by the vacillating realities of the times. When they fully comprehend the mission, they know how to adjust their organization to make accomplishment of that mission the ruling factor. Far too many leaders and congregations today rigidly cling to the wrong things as they seek to preserve their system rather than pursue their mission. This is a fatal error. Structure and forms must remain fluid in a world like this. The mission is not to mimic another, more successful system, or maintain the one that has been in use for many years. It is to adjust the system and form to the mission.
Missional is a buzz word of the times. Many of us seek this designation as a prize, the reward of good vision and slick management. To be missional has become a de facto goal. Bad. Jesus' mission to change the world through the announcement of the Kingdom of God is the mission. When we realize this, it changes everything.