Honestly, have you ever heard of “epigenetics”? If your answer is “no,” then I suggest you turn to 2nd Hallucinations 3:9. Just Kidding. According to Daniel Goleman, “Epigenetics is the study of ways the experiences we undergo change how our genes operate – without altering our DNA sequence an iota.” Before you dismiss this as insignificant, hear this out. “It is biologically impossible for a gene to operate independently of its environment: genes are designed to be regulated by signals from their immediate surroundings.” There is more to behavior than just the genetic composition of someone. Says Goleman, “It is not just which genes we are born with, but their expression, that matters.” Now consider the significance of this to our discussion about the missional DNA of a church.
We get our word dynamic from the Greek word dunamis. I am creating my own word from the Greek to suggest Holy Spirit dynamic. When a church is functioning as God intended, it is a living organism which often expresses itself as an organization. The degree to which it operates as an organic body is determined by how much we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. We have already said that God is a missionary God. The Holy Spirit is God. His DNA is missional.
As a church interacts with its environment, I believe God desires it to operate more like a thermostat than a thermometer. Too often, however, our environment impacts our basic DNA. We may retreat from hurt, embrace pleasure, and interact with aspects of our environment that impact our basic DNA and weaken our missional activity. Every local congregation will have cultural factors and historic events that shape its environment. Those variables may be language, ethnicity, economics, and a wide variety of experiences over the years. To the degree that the local church body operates as an organization independent of the Holy Spirit it will express its basic DNA in a different manner from God’s norm. The Holy Spirit’s basic DNA is missional. The more we are able to Unleash Him from the restraints that we create, the more the Gospel will be proclaimed without hindrance.
When we relate the concept of epigenetics to the church, we are reminded that the church, while Holy Spirit empowered, is still made up of people. Each church will develop its own personality, and that is not eliminated by the fullness of the Spirit. Instead, it is actually enhanced. When the people, however, become more important to the functioning of the church than the Holy Spirit, however, we will have a suppression of the Acts 1:8 DNA. To release the Acts 1:8 DNA we must be filled with and directed by the Holy Spirit.
Assuming there are true followers of Jesus Christ in a congregation, then the presence of the Holy Spirit is a given. Because He is missional in His essence, the church will have an Acts 1:8 DNA. The behavior of any given church, however, will be determined by the impact of the cultural, historical, and very practical circumstances of the church. If the congregation is grieving or quenching the Spirit, or for that matter even lying to the Spirit, then the Acts 1:8 DNA will not be given freedom of expression. However, as the congregation is filled with the Spirit, the true mission nature of the church will be exhibited in all the church seeks to do.