The Missional Church and God’s Mission

There are quite a bit of misunderstanding about what is meant by the phrase “missional church.” Some emergent church leaders take it as a badge for the founding of non-traditional, anti-institutional church projects.

However, the missional church conversation is not about church planting per se, though it could fuel the planting of new churches. When I speak of missional church, I’m not primarily speaking about any church growth or church planting scheme. I’m not talking about a plan or a scheme at all.

The missional church conversation is primarily a biblical and theological conversation that starts not with the church or our culture, but with the mission of God as revealed in the Bible and then carried out throughout history through God’s gracious guidance of his people, the church.

Through the influence of many voices in this conversation, I have come to summary the mission of God in three steps. From the beginning of the biblical story, God’s mission has always been (1) to call a distinct people (2) to live his life (3) for the sake of the world. This mission is deeply rooted in the nature and character of God and those who join this mission will look increasingly like God.

To call a distinct people. Whether we are in the Old Testament or New, God seeks to call a people to be his own. In the Old Testament, God called the Israelites to live a life distinct in the Ancient Near East. True many of Israel’s practices were similar to the nations around them. However, what was distinct about Israel was their commitment to YHWH and to him alone. In the New Testament, we have a continuation of this story in the distinct life which Jesus lived and which he passed on to his disciples. Thus, the church was born to live out this life until Jesus returns.

To live God’s life. Part of the uniqueness of the Christian life is that at root it is a renunciation of our lives so that we can take upon the life of Christ. With the rhythm of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, our lives participate in the life of God by living, suffering and even dying for the good of others.

For the sake of the world. There are perhaps plenty of Christians who really do want to be part of God’s distinct people and think they want to live God’s way. However, the missing link is often today that we, in line with the culture in which we live, don’t understand that our lives are now dedicated to do good in this world and for this world.

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One thought on “The Missional Church and God’s Mission”

  1. Stan, I like your definition of God’s mission for us. The challenge is in the application, isn’t it. You are defining the ideal; God’s ideal movement on earth lived ideally by His people. I love it. Being missional about ministry is perfectly biblical and blessed. The challenge I’ve seen in ministry is in converting church leaders and core members to the idea – in existing churches.
    If it is true that churches do not characteristically grow over 100 without a mission which is somewhat inclusive; and if it is also true that over 80% of the churches in America are under 100, then it’s no wonder that people fresh out of school are planting missional churches or looking for young ministries where the ideal can be presented and implimented. Applying mission to existing churches whose leadership and core membership are caught in a natural vacuum of exclusivity can be disrruptive at best and often leads to the failure of the minister, ministry or worse, faction.
    I guess what I’m saying is that my perception is that missional ministry and church planting are interdependant and each cannot exist as a workable and productive and self-perpetuating model without the other. Yes, there are exceptions. But, these are rare.
    One exception that comes to mind is the servant leader who is willing to take several years to change the thinking and direction of a church so that a platform for the introduction of mission can be built. Growth can be very very slow and outreach is defined by converting people to Christ first, and then to the existing churches idealology second. More often than not, the servant leader evolves into a caretaker – forgetting to introduce missional thinking.
    Small churches need good healthy leadership. But, on the main, small churches are settling for ministers trained in schools who have dis-fellowshipped most of us who would dare to have this conversation.
    Stan, for a minister who has been thrown a few times it is important to get back into the saddle. I speaking about myself. And just as important as getting back on the horse is the choice of horses. Metaphors aside, ministers who are led by God to lead others must surround themselves with missional thinkers – idealists. Am I wrong? I mean, Jesus spent 3 years living the God-life in front of only 12 men and did so for their good and the apparent good of everyone He touched. So, whether planting or going in to an existing work, we need to immediately begin to find out who’s on the team and let that team really marinate in the ideal of mission before thrusting mission on the church’s existing idealology. How long does that take? I don’t know. How long till Jesus comes back? I don’t know that either. But, that wasn’t your point, was it. Nice going Stan!

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