Interview: Matt Whitlock on the Missional Life

Matt Whitlock is a speaker, writer and co-founder of YWAM's The Tribe. The Tribe inspires, connects and equips people to join God's mission to restore all things.  At the tip of The Tribe's arrow is an initiative called V2A (Virtual To Actual). V2A is a global evangelism and discipleship strategy that seeks to finish the task of the great commission through technology and partnership in our generation.

What does living the ‘missional life’ mean, practically?

Practically, it comes down to a few core things. Prayer is a lifestyle. It's not just something that happens at church or prayer meetings. The Bible is something not only to be understood, but to be lived out. The missional life should be practiced in community, not alone. It's very counter-cultural to our current society: to keep our life we lose it, to be first we must be last. We are consumed with blessing anyone and everyone around us, not just our Christian brothers and sisters. The missional life is global in scope, so we engage in global opportunities. The core of the missional life is that we make disciples. This way of prayer, living out the Scriptures, the community we experience, this counter cultural life, the blessing that we give to others, we then multiply to others around us.

What are the greatest challenges for this generation to live out a missional life?

People are in more love with the idea of the missional life than actually living the missional life. This generation is more in love with the idea of helping people than actually helping people, and I think it's because media has inundated their lives. Everyday they're being sold a new lifestyle they're supposed to live. Whether it's having better apps, having the right girlfriend, wearing the right clothes, finding the right job-- there are so many options that it’s paralyzing. The same thing happens when it comes to helping people. Where do I begin to help? There are so many needs: these people need food, others need financial help, these others need the Gospel. This generation is extremely creative, but they have lost the tenacious commitment to seeing their ideas through to the end. I would say the average young person’s idea dies within 12-18 weeks. That's what we see because when the going gets tough, they just ditch it. Unfortunately. It doesn't feel right, so it must not be working. Young people are more in love with the idea of change in the world than actually being the change themselves because, in reality, they don't want to have to change themselves.

How do you see missions evolving in the future?

The traditional missionary role is going to become a very focused niche, such as translating the Bible into every language. By 2020, we will have started the final remaining Bible translations. We are the first generation in history that will actually have the Bible translated in over 6000 languages. Traditional missions is going in the direction of focusing on the unreached, and the follow-up is going to be making disciples. That is going to be the lifestyle missionary. The next wave of missionaries will serve as the inspiration for the people there to become missionaries to their own people. Nowadays, everything is becoming more integrated: travel is cheaper, everything is global. The missionary role in the traditional sense is changing fast.

What is the Tribe? What inspired the Tribe’s vision?

The Tribe is a framework for people we call “lifestyle missionaries,” who don’t necessarily feel called to be career missionaries but want to be missionaries in different careers. I worked in the missions sphere for the last 20 years and saw a lot of people who wanted to do missions but could not move their family to a different country. So we thought, ‘What if we took the principles of traditional missions and framed them in a new context of working professionals, parents, etc. who saw themselves as missionaries just as much as full-time missionaries in Nepal?’ They might not learn a tribal language in the Amazon, but they learn how to communicate in a post-Christian context at the park with other moms. Through the Tribe, these lifestyle missionaries can get together and receive the same kind of teaching and community that you have with traditional missionaries.

What has the process of driving Tribe’s vision been like?

Difficult. We’ve found the first thing we need to do is to inspire people to be missionaries where they are. We thought everyone would want to sign up--nope, we humans don't really want to do anything unless we are inspired! We found that people don't want to do it by themselves--they want to do it together-- so we equip them through teaching or videos. We are in the process of writing books and content. It's been difficult, but it started with learning that we need to inspire people to the call.

What can we expect from Tribe in the near- to medium-term future?

This fall, we're coming out with a 30-day devotional for people who want to be lifestyle missionaries. You’ll be able to download or sign up for a text-in devotional that lets them you the perspective of what God is doing around you. We're trying to make a short, power-packed, easily-understood devotional. Also this fall, we are coming out with a book called The Lifestyle Missionary and launching a new app that is loaded with digital content for small groups, churches, and individuals on how to be lifestyle missionaries.


Learn more about YWAM's The Tribe here.