What is Missional? SynchroBlog – The Long View

kinnon —  June 23, 2008 — 12 Comments

I wrote my first response to Rick Meigs’ call for this SynchroBlog a week ago: What is Missional? or A Little More Missional Shampoo. (Exuberance and an inability to read a calendar saw me publish a week early.)

The Missional Long View
Early this year, Imbi and I spent a number of weeks in the UK shooting a documentary on Fresh Expressions – the mission-shaped church movement that is significantly impacting the Verdant Green Isle. One of the things that struck us was the long view of the people. Theirs wasn’t a “just add hot water and stir” approach to “growing the church”. They had a real understanding that re-establishing the church in a post-Christian nation might well be a Hebrews 11 experience.

We spent a number of days with Pete and Kath Atkins in Lincolnshire. (We could have easily spent weeks with them – gracious hosts that they are.) Pete drove us around the area, introducing us to the new life of the church that is being planted in the towns and villages of rural England. He also shared the incredible Christian history of the region – the reality that expressions of the church have existed in Lincolnshire since the 2nd Century. And that sense of history informs the FX approach to mission-shaped church. They recognize their place in the continuum of time.

Those of us brought up in North America normally often lack a sense of history. We live in the immediate. We expect instant gratification. Fast food, fast cars, high-speed everything – we want to get to the future, now. Our approach to the kingdom reflects this. That is to get as many people to accept a “ticket to heaven” as quickly as possible using the most modern Methods-Time Measurement techniques. If putting on a show will get them to accept that ticket quicker, then dammit, we’ll rival Las Vegas in the shows we put on. It’s all about the efficiencies of delivering services that convince people to accept their tickets.

A missional understanding of the church places us within a historical context. It removes the ticket to heaven pressure that the Western Evangelical Church has placed upon itself. Missional people recognize that God is on the move in our villages, towns and cities. We need to engage with Him in what He’s doing. Rather than building big box church warehouses that “vacuum cleaner up all the surrounding Christians” (to paraphrase Al Roxburgh @ the end of the video, Three Churches and a New Age Mall) and calling that the Church, we are to be the leaven that permeates our neighborhoods with the lived out good news of Jesus Christ.

This is not a two-year, three-year, five-year or even ten-year plan. This is a lifetime’s engagement with the communities where we have been strategically placed by the hand of God. We may see a great awakening that happens in our very midst – or we may be like David Livingston and Hudson Taylor – who never got to see the incredible harvest that came from the seeds they planted. But our call is to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus as we live amongst the people who are our neighbors. I believe that is what missional is.

Please check out my first response to the What is Missional? SynchroBlog. Also read the posts from these fine writers:
Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Barb Peters
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner



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.

12 responses to What is Missional? SynchroBlog – The Long View

  1. Bill, I love your comment about it being a Hebrews 11 experience. That’s a perfect chapter and yet one that I’ve not heard applied to being missional. Mostly I’ve understood it applying to my personal faith and hope and God’s work in my life. But that’s not really the point at all. Those in that chapter who had real faith were people expressing the work of God to others. They were reflections of his work, warriors, prophets, proclaiming through both words and actions that God has a mission in this world. They proclaimed who he was, often to people who did not want to hear it.

    What hits me too is another way we North Americans approach missions. We normally often demand quick results and see struggles as outside God’s work. And yet, that chapter isn’t always about the immediate victors and those who experienced God’s quick victory. Also mentioned are those who fought, and who struggled and sometimes lost, they encountered difficulties and disasters. Faith isn’t measured by what we see but by our commitment to the God who is. Having that chapter as a key passage, I think, re-orients us from being results oriented back to being continually God oriented.

  2. Great reminder on the historicity of faith and missionality. Great post!


  3. bill, I went to bed last night running two different quotes in my head. One is from Peterson in “Christ Plays” where he writes, “We give careful attention to spirituality because we know, from long experience, how easy it is to get interested in ideas of God and projects for God and gradually lose interest in God alive..” And the other is from Punk Monk, “It is popular to say that the Church exists for mission, but this is only a half truth, for the Church exists to worship God and to glorify Him.” Mission is prior to the Church because it is founded in the self-giving nature of the Trinity. So then.. what’s our hurry? 😉

  4. Bill, if the “missional” church seeks to “be the leaven that permeates our neighborhoods with the lived out good news of Jesus Christ,” what would it say is that “good news”

    In other words how would the “missional” church or those folks you listed define the “good news of Jesus Christ”

    How would you define the “good news of Jesus Christ?”

  5. Bill, I love your thought of ” Missional “, being a ” long view.” Alot like farming the preparation, cultivation, the nurturing…a world of seasons. I thinks alot of times we settle for short term, when I’m discovering it can be years of hard work. Developing a long view…I like that.

  6. Thanks, Bill. Your reminder to take the long view came to me as a word of grace today.

  7. I LOVE this viewpoint–missional being engaged for the long term. I know I am still so “microwave” about my own sense of mission and the results I want to see. But I hunger to live more in the reality of this “long view”. Excellent post.

  8. Bill, dear friend, thank you. First of all, for inviting me to the synchroblog party. I am working my way down the list tonight reading everyone’s posts. My throat is thick with emotion as I read, and am so enriched.

    Your post on taking the long view is so helpful in my opinion. This path teaches us to dwell in the land, raise kids, work hard, and it is what you have been doing down on the Danforth now for a couple of decades (with minor diversions south and west).

    Today as our board met, we adopted a mission statement that ends with “to sow seeds of transformation in communities”. This is what you are doing, and what you are proposing in your post. Sowing seeds means we may never see the fruit. But we are faithfully preparing ground, and casting seed. And waiting, cultivating.

    To be missional requires the patience of Job.

  9. As I read your post, the thought came to me that we are trying to be too self-conscious in creating the future. We make being missional, just like being contemporary, or ancient-future or whatever the topic of the day is, too intentional. As human beings created in the image of God, we love to create and to be in control of what we create. It seems that all these movements are really correctives, not directives. We are not missional enough, so we need to be missional. We aren’t spirit-filled enough so we need to be charismatic. We aren’t worshipful enough, so we need to worship more. I don’t know where Megachurches fit into that scenario, however.
    I feel a sense of exhaustion that comes from trying to continually recreate what the church should be. I like the missional idea a lot. However, we need to incorporate a broader view of the church as a worshiping community into it. The way I see that happening is by embracing the idea that the church is one, yet we are all called to mission in our own way. Sort of a big tent idea of being one in worship and many in mission.
    I see this in my church. We have people whose calling is music, others building houses for the poor, others caring for the homeless, others the care of children, and others to teach, pray and worship. Each does what they feel called to do, though they would not use that term, but the diversity of gifts creates a dynamic which is the church. There isn’t much self-conscious awareness that who we are is special. We just do it, and praise God for the opportunity to make a difference.
    Finally, I’d say that the core value of being missional is that of being outwardly focused. It isn’t self-serving, except in some secondary sense. For that reason, I think it is a term that we should embrace, though not as one that encompasses the whole of the church’s life.

  10. What would be the goal of the “missional” church in a community?

    Anyone? Bill?

  11. Bill –

    Excellent post. We are changing the way we are doing things at our church to become more outward focused. That is to be used by God as His instruments to transform our city. Someone one time made the comment along the lines that she thought that it would take a year to see change. Though we started a year ago it will take my lifetime of praying, networking, and teaching to truly affect our city government, our school systems, and the business community.

  12. Bill, great comment on Hebrews 11 – it scares me to think that “they did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” and “these were all commended for their faith yet none of them received what had been promised”. As you say, in the UK (and Australia and Canada too I think) it seems to be easier to grasp this, as we’re already in that post Christian culture. We’ve stopped fighting that fight, which does make you think what is it that we’re really about. The long view on missional is one I’d like to see more on, one of the accusations levelled against it is that it’s a fad and just a trend in the church and will die out. I hope that’s not true but maybe to encourage the longevity and centrality of missional we need to encourage deep teaching of it, and build a missional heart into our whole being individually AND corporately.


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