Thursday, September 21, 2006

Being Missional

The current buzzword right now in the church is “missional.”

But what does that mean?

Friend of Missional describes a missional church:

A missional church knows that they must be a cross-cultural missionary (contextual) people in their own community.
A missional church is orthodox in its view of the Gospel and Scripture, but culturally relevant in its methods and practice so that it can engage the world view of the hearers.
A missional church seeks to participate in the work of God’s Kingdom in the culture in which it finds itself.

This sounds similar to the seeker sensitive approach. But it is rather different.
Mark Driscoll explains that the seeker sensitive church sees itself as the dispenser of religious goods and services. Then it tries to reach its market with those goods and services. The demands of the market determine its strategy and possibly even its message. A missional church, in contrast, is counter-cultural in nature. While it seeks to understand the culture and proclaim the gospel in terms of that culture, it maintains its essential cultural distinctives. The seeker sensitive church tries to bring people in to events. The missional church goes out into the community. (Here’s a bit more explanation of the differences.)

Tim Keller
identifies these characteristics of a missional church:

  • They use vernacular language.
  • They engage the culture and re-tell the culture’s stories in the context of the gospel.
  • They train their people theologically for public life and vocation.
  • They create a Christian culture that is both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. (It cannot be neatly categorized as “liberal” or “conservative.”)
  • They practice Christian unity as much as possible in the community.
Unfortunately, most Christians will see this as a new strategy for evangelism. It is more accurately, a new (newly articulated) strategy for being the church. In an “evangelistic” church, evangelism is an activity and a program. In a missional church, evangelism is a natural part of being the church. In an “evangelistic” church, compassionate ministries are done in order to earn an audience for evangelism. In a missional church, these ministries are done for their own sake.

Scot McKnight summarizes Rick Richardson’s book,
Reimagining Evangelism, which could be described as an outline of evangelism as done in a missional context:

  1. Evangelism is collaboration with what God is doing by listening to God, praying to God, and working with the Spirit.
  2. God is raising up witnessing communities more than witnessing individuals. Belonging comes before believing.
  3. Developing friendship through conversation is what it is all about instead of downloading information and content about the gospel. The current generation, we’ve been told over and over because it is true, does not trust the church; it will trust credible people. Become a friend. Do what you love with nonchurched folks.
  4. Tell a story of God’s power and gospel realities. Stories are containers big enough to tell truth. Logic isn’t as effective as it once was. Connect your story to the stories of others.
  5. Talk about a Jesus who is outside the box. Jettison the cliche Jesus. . . . He confronted religious elitism, consumerism.
  6. The gospel is good news for the here and now and not just the there and then. The gospel is spiritual and physical, individual and communal, personal and social, human and cosmic, people and nations. It is good news for all of this.
  7. It is an invitation to a wedding and marriage. He means it is a journey rather than an event. . . . If salvation is union with Christ, then a wedding is a good image for what we are invited to because it leads to a marriage.
In the developing word, the church is missional without being told to be.

Bob Roberts at the Glocalnet blog explains:

There are no talks, lectures, research, explanations or steps on what is “missional” and how to be more “missional” from the emerging church in the East—it’s just what and who they are. If you called them that, they wouldn’t know what you’re talking about. It’s fascinating. We’re dissecting the word and concepts, forming lectures and teachings on what it is, mapping out plans on how to be “missional,” and most of us have never even experienced it.
Their philosophy is based more on discipleship where people know who Christ is and follow it together—never expecting big results. In the West, we fund, plan, and strategize our focus on starting something that grows into a movement from a single church, be it big or small, and often we get the growing church—yet, not the movement.
Being missional is not a strategy for building your church. It is a strategy for being the Church and building the Kingdom. Being missional is not a strategy for being more effective in doing evangelism. It is a strategy for making evangelism a natural expression of living among a post-Christian culture. Being missional is not a new system of programs and strategies. It is a mindset that allows each congregation to incarnate the gospel in the culture in which it finds itself.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

Update: Here’s some more excellent information from (HT: The Blind Beggar).

Many missional congregations are growing in numbers. But the missional church vision is not a technique or a way of increasing market share; it is a way of understanding the true calling of the church. It is a way of life for the church. Rather than merely focusing on a congregation’s size, the missional church vision calls us to focus on the reign of God.

Key to the identity of a missional church is being an alternative society within the dominant culture. When the church proclaims and is a sign of the reign of God – whether by loving enemies or welcoming those on the margins – it will be a contrast community in the eyes of the world.

Churches that are in the world, but not of the world, take a lot of risks – physical, financial, social. They are not universally liked. These churches are able to take risks for the sake of the reign of God because they depend on the Holy Spirit for power to witness. These congregations spend a lot of time in prayer. They also know that, even if they experience rejection in the short run, the final victory belongs to God.


Missional Jerry said...

Excellent overview.

It's great to see the missional conversation growing.

Pastor Rod said...


Welcome. Thanks for the kind words. I welcome your contribution to the discussion here.


blind beggar said...

Rod: I agree with Jerry's comment, excellent overview. I like your point about missional not being a new strategy for evangelism, but a Biblical approach to being church. I need to work that thought into the Friend of Missional statement.

Pastor Rod said...


Thanks for the compliment.


mark o wilson said...

Excellent post! I see "missional" as an outward focus -- being salt and light in the community (rather than a cloistered community hiding from culture.)

Glad you found Bob Roberts! He's really onto something.