An Attempt @ Defining Missional

kinnon —  August 15, 2007 — Leave a comment

Ed Stetzer begins his series on the word "missional."

…if the word does not have a clear definition, should we even use it?

Obviously, I think so, though I have seen the term be used in some ways that concern me. Even though I might disagree with some emphases, I believe we can learn from the ideas of others in the missional conversation without having to agree with them on every point.

Missional-ChurchStetzer acknowledges the influence of the Gospel and Our Culture Network and Guder et al on the usage of the word "missional".

The book that came out of the GOCN conversation, The Missional Church was Stetzer’s "introduction to the ideas of church and mission" but, he states later, "Charles Van Engen and Francis Dubose both indicate a different starting point, and a somewhat different emphasis, in their understanding of "missional."" (This past Monday, Stetzer introduced us to Dr. Dubose and his book, God Who Sends, written in 1983.) Stetzer will unpack more of this next Monday. Perhaps this is the discussion that Drew Goodmanson referred to that prompted my missional shampoo post.

Brother Maynard posted a 3000+ word "essay" on" missional", on Tuesday of this week – a continuation of his missional thoughts from the previous day.

Yesterday I said that there are two essential facets to the term missional — a missional church is missionally-purposed and incarnational. In considering these further, I believe it may well be the case that almost no usage of the term exists which is limited to just these two qualifiers with a varying set of outworkings arranged under each. That is to say, most or all uses of the term include a third set of distinctives which are typically informed by the ecclesial background or perspective of the person using the term. This third component to the definition is where the nuance lies, so we might say that all uses of the term missional mean:

1. Church is missionally-purposed (its purpose is the Missio Dei)
2. Church is incarnational (it sends itself to the lost rather than attempting to attract the lost)
3. [Nuance: reasons to be missional, methods for being missional, and other values]

Both Ed Stetzer and Brother Maynard are encouraging discussion. Please join in the conversation at their blogs.

Wimc-With-VangelderRather than me step in just yet, I’d like to point you to the series of videos on "What is Missional Church?" that I’ve produced with Alan Roxburgh for Allelon.

Alan was one of the writers of The Missional Church, as was Craig Van Gelder, one of the WiMC? interview subjects. Fuller Professors, Ryan Bolger & Eddie Gibbs, and Luther Seminary Prof and Church Innovations President, Pat Keifert are also interviewed in this series.

Cray-Roxburgh4StillvideoYou might also want to watch Al’s short interview with Anglican Bishop Graham Cray who led the team that produced the Mission-Shaped Church document and leads Fresh Expressions. As well, Pete Atkins, one of the Fresh Expressions team members (with his wife, Kath) is featured in this Roxburgh Journal podcast. Pete is a medical doctor and a mission-shaped church practitioner in Lincolnshire, UK. (The interview with Pete never fails to bring tears to my eyes.)

The discussion of the word missional is important. More important, however, are Christians engaged missionally in their communities. (INFP’s like me can dream about the word "missional" and its meaning all day long – without ever getting off my derrière to engage with the community where God has seen me planted.)



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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