Thursday, August 02, 2007

Definitive Missional Definition

I have heard complaints about the word "missional."

  • Some say that it has become just another buzz word.
  • Others say that it is only a "code word" for post-modernism, the emerging church or the social gospel.
  • Many express their frustration at the lack of a clear definition for the word.

Wikipedia has a definition that is neither helpful, nor objective, nor accurate. Alan Hirsch has a "working definition" of missional church. As helpful as I've found his books, his definition was inadequate.

So I decided to formulate a more robust definition. Of course, this is my definition. Other people may mean different things when they use the word.

Missional Christianity is the view that being a follower of Jesus Christ involves both an inner transformation toward Christlikeness and an active participation in the mission of God's kingdom as it overcomes evil in every part of creation.

While this captures for me the essence of missional Christianity, it leaves room for misunderstanding about the nature of the inner transformation and the mission of God's kingdom. To help refine this even more, I offer the following statements:

  • Missional Christianity is not tied to any age group or any particular style of doing church.
  • Missional Christianity is incarnational rather than attractional.
  • Missional Christianity sees evangelism as a part of the mission, not the entirety of the mission.
  • Missional Christianity sees making disciples as much more than getting people signed up for heaven.
  • Missional Christianity does not rely on strategic planning.
  • Missional Christianity does not rely on marketing.
  • Missional Christianity opposes a consumer mentality.
  • Missional Christianity believes in the sacredness of all of life (no sacred and secular parts).
  • Missional Christianity is culturally aware.
  • Missional Christianity seeks to serve rather than to be served.
  • Missional Christianity focuses on building the kingdom rather than on building a congregation or a denomination.
  • Missional Christianity does not seek power, wealth or popularity.
  • Missional Christianity takes discipleship seriously as essential for all followers of Christ rather than something optional for more advanced followers.
  • Missional Christianity believes that a congregation's job is to participate in God's mission in the world rather than to formulate their own mission and ask God to bless it.
  • Missional Christianity believes that God tends to work at the margins of society.
  • Missional Christianity believes that ministry should be concentrated at the margins of society.
  • Missional Christianity believes that God works most often through weakness, rather than through human power.
  • Missional Christianity believes that the gospel is good news to be proclaimed, rather than an "offer" to be marketed.
  • Missional Christianity believes that true holiness is the most powerful form of evangelism.
  • Missional Christianity realizes that there is no culture-free expression of the gospel.
  • Missional Christianity believes that the gospel is for all peoples, in every culture, at all times.
  • Missional Christianity believes that "epistemological humility" does not weaken the truth claims of Christianity.

I don't know how complete this list is or how helpful others will find it.

Let me know what you think.

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"


Uncle Ben said...

I find it very helpful. I'm a student at Luther Seminary in Minnesota and last semester I had to take a class called "Reading the Audiences" which focused on the missional church. The problem was that it sounded like a buzz word and the church was front and center while Christ was in the background. I'm glad to hear your definition which rings true.

Chris said...

Missional - a Kingdom-focused perspective that recognizes the transformation of a life, i.e.- Christ's life for our own which expresses itself in many ways that honor God, edifies Christ's body- the Church, nourishes the disciple, and denies the flesh.

Pastor Rod said...


I'm glad you found this helpful.


Pastor Rod said...


Sounds good to me.


jeff franczak said...

Rod, I found your list very helpful. I think I am in agreement with every point. Regarding focusing ministry at the margins of society, I primarily see this as reaching out to the marginalized people that are already in my current circle of influence rather than going somewhere external to me to seek out marginalized people.

At some point, what was considered to be orthodox ministry took on a different aspect for us, and we began to see the church outside the church walls. I believe our change helped Rachel to have the confidence and courage to step outside the traditional boundaries and embrace a Christian lifestyle that did not limit God. We were pleased and proud of Rachel’s exuberance to explore her faith in a real world with real people.
Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott, parents of Rachel Scott, Columbine martyr

Pastor Rod said...


I think I agree with your point, but many people might use similar words to ignore people that should be in their current circle of influence but aren't.


Vasile Tomoiagă said...

Can I translate this for a Romanian evangelical blog? With link reference, of course.

The blog is

Pastor Rod said...


Absolutely! You really don't need my permission for that.

God Bless,

Pastor Rod