Archives For Missional Tribe

Ed Stetzer has rightly become concerned with how the word “missional” seems to have become a buzz word – rather than an actual theological term with legitimate meaning. To that end, with a number of colleagues, Ed set up missionSHIFT to explore how best to frame our understanding of “missional.” A number of us, who were part of the What is Missional Syncroblog? that Rick Meigs (The Blind Beggar / Friend of Missional / Missional Tribe) instigated, began talking with Ed about how blogdom could aid this discussion. This first post, instigated by Rick is the beginning of that “bloggers live aid”.


David Fitch once said that most missional thought leaders “emphasize incarnational forms of church over attractional; the church as Missio Dei over mission as program; organic forms of missionary living in neighborhoods over ministry set in a building.” Yet many others seem to add the term to the current program they are attempting to promote or make cool sounding. As Ed Stetzer noted, “The word missional is used to bludgeon legalism and antinomianism alike. To some it is a sign of freedom from all established forms of the church and to others it is a degeneration into syncretism with the world.”

So, do we abandon the term and move on? Not yet, because the concept behind missional is really big and words help us when we can agree on their definitions— or at least we can agree what we mean when we use a word.

Over the next few weeks, we want to discuss how “missional” happens in our lives and in the life of the church. It will be discussed here as well as at other places including the blogs listed below. As the conversation moves forward, we hope you will move from blog to blog and offer insights from the scriptures and how you see missional happening in your local community.

By doing this, we can all be a part of a specific missional conversation. As many of you know, there are several working toward a “Missional Manifesto” that will be rolled out as a part of the missionSHIFT conference on July 12-15. The intent with the manifesto is to say, “This is what we mean when we talk about being missional.” It is not the manifesto’s intent (or within its ability) to say this is what everyone should think or say about the term, but reflects a hope that it will help us all be clearer and more mission-shaped in our own thinking and practice.

Conversation on the grassroots level is important, so be sure to join in here and at the other blogs and let’s see where God take us. Here is the team that will be leading the conversation:

Rick Meigs: The Blind Beggar
Bill Kinnon:
Brent Toderash (Brother Maynard): Subversive Influence
Scot McKnight: Jesus Creed
David Fitch: Reclaiming the Mission
Tiffany Smith
Jared Wilson: The Gospel-Driven Church
Jonathan Dodson: Creation Project

So for the sake of conversation today, leave a comment about with your own 1-sentence definition of “missional.” And, in the weeks to come, we will be addressing certain points or issues in the missional conversation that need consideration and perhaps clarity.

You Might Not Be Missional…

kinnon —  January 26, 2010 — 24 Comments

…if your response to the term is to see it as a liberal/progressive plot to move the church into the purely social gospel column.

[Note that I've edited this post for clarity and updated it with a few more links since first published earlier today.]

I've been away from the blog for a while. Mostly tweeting and retweeting 140 characters of limited wisdom. In that Twitterverse, someone noted Brent Thomas' response to Jonathan Leeman's 9 Marks post, Is The God of Missional Gospel Too Small?

Leeman begins his cautionary tale with this;

It's been said that liberalism often creeps into the church through the doorway of evangelism and mission work. I think that's right

And shortly thereafter,

More and more evangelical and missional leaders have begun to characterize the gospel of justification by faith alone, penal substitution, and the salvation of souls as a "small gospel." [emphasis added]

One might reasonably ask who the "more and more" are – though it's probably just easier for Leeman to refer to the amorphous "they" to make his point – stats and facts being optional.

Thomas, who like Leeman writes from a Reformed perspective responds to the post,

It seems that, on one side, we have many moving towards what is becoming known as a “missional” approach, focusing on God’s mission to restore all things to Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ. It might be said that Tim Keller is at the forefront of this movement. On the other side, we have the more traditional, church-focused camp spearheaded by 9 Marks Ministries and Mark Dever focusing on the supremacy of penal substitionary atonement in any talk of salvation (I’m not so sure these things are mutually exclusive, personally, but that’s not really the point). Again, this is just my sense and I could be wrong, but from my perspective, such as it is, I not only sense a growing separation, but that separation being pushed by the more traditional side. [emphasis added]

I've read Thomas' post a number of times and commented there on how I felt Leeman's central four points against missional sounded like boilerplate from certain Reformed blogs – attacking the particular Emergent Village brand of the much wider global emerging church conversation. (As an aside, please read Reformed Pastor Michael Newnham @ Phoenix Preacher on what he feels the wider emerging church conversation has added to 21st Century Christianity.) In rereading that post this morning, the emphasized line in the above quote stood out to me.

Thomas sees missional as "focusing on God’s mission to restore all things to Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ" over and against Leeman and 9 Marks focus of the "supremacy of penal substitionary atonement in any talk of salvation."  The Kingdom of God position versus a soteriology that revolves around penal substitionary atonement. To which I want to respond – what difference does this argument really make to the unbelieving people in your neighbourhoods?

Sorry brothers.  Your discussion may be a great one for the academy but I don't see it helping with a necessarily simple and important understanding of missional.

My Credentials, or Lack Thereof, to Be Involved In This Discussion
I'm not a theologian. In my 55th year (how I hate to write that), I've been a Christian since 1982. I have owned a television production company with my wife since 1985 – I'm a writer, director and editor who has spent 95% of my career working in secular media. I've also been, for want of a better phrase, a lay leader in the church for more than half the time I've been a believer – predominantly in charismatically-flavoured Baptist and independent churches. Imbi and I now attend an evangelical Anglican Church in downtown Toronto.

In 2006, I began working with an organization that identified itself as a Movement of Missional Leaders. I was documenting that movement from behind the viewfinder of an HD camera. Never one to miss an opportunity to engage in interesting conversation, I was drawn into hours of discussion on missional with missional practitioners & thought leaders on three continents – while also producing hours of content that discussed all things missional.

References to those missional discussions & insights can be found in hundreds of posts here at

One of those posts was written for the Rick Meigs' inspired Missional Synchroblog, What is Missional Church? or A Little More Missional Shampoo. In it I unpack where the recent missional discussion has come from – identifying Lesslie Newbigin as the instigator of this present missional conversation.

In brief, Newbigin returned to the UK in 1974 after the better part of four decades on the mission field in India. What he discovered was a post-Christian/post-Christendom culture that no longer understood the Christian meta-narrative. Newbigin recognized that for the Gospel to have any kind of impact on English culture – Christians would need to become missionaries to their own nation.

How did that translate to North America?

Vast swaths of the U.S. still function in what remains of a Christendom culture. The plot has not been completely lost. But that is not the case for many of the northern states and is certainly not the case in a post-Christian Canada. And the reality is that the trajectory of the Christendom areas in the predominantly Southern States is towards post-Christendom. (See the data coming from Barna, the Pew Foundation and anecdotally in this article from USA Today. Ed Stetzer is the goto person to understand what's happening to the church in North America.)

And this is my simple, yet I believe, easily comprehensible understanding of What is Missional:

To quote Eugene Peterson, it's about,

The Word (who) became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.

Becoming missional means we realize that Jesus has "moved into the neighborhood" and we are to follow him. It stands in stark contrast to church buildings that say, come. Missional stands counter to the attractional church model of Christendom.

I believe there are three aspects to this discussion. Missional is incarnational – in that we are to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in our neighborhoods – positional in that we are to move out and amongst, and relational – we are to love our neighbors, whether they ever darken the doorsteps of our church buildings or not – in fact, whether they ever even "become Christians". Luke 10 provides a framework for that journey as we move into our neighborhoods – engaging everyone we meet – entering wherever we are invited – receiving hospitality and engaging in relationship – understanding that in C.S. Lewis' words, Aslan IS on the move – and we are to follow Him.

My definition does not negate the need for Christians to be a part of a real Christian community where they are being discipled and are growing in their faith and their witness. Chicago's Life on the Vine would be one example of a church attempting to live this out. (Dave Fitch is one of the leaders there – and Imbi and I shot the Stetzer/Fitch videos in LotV's building.) There are many others. But the focus is not the building as the locus of the community.

Missional is about us getting off our butts and actually engaging with our neighbours as Christ engaged with the people he met – teaching and then sending His disciples out to do the same.


Sometimes it's seems easier to simply engage in esoteric arguments about who has the completely correct theological understanding – rather than to actually meet and love our neighbours.

Missional isn't complex – but apparently, it also isn't easy.


You might also find this post helpful on the Missional Longview – written a week after the one I link to above for publication on the actual Missional Synchroblog date. And please make a point of reading the other posts in that synchroblog. If you are at all interested in What is Missional? Brent Toderash aka Brother Maynard wrote eight posts covering all 50 of the Synchroblog posts with a final summation here.

The Missional Mobilization video with Pete Atkins in the sidebar is also worth watching in light of this post. Pete and Kath Atkins, Fresh Expressions missioners in the UK, have had a profound impact on Imbi's and my understanding of missional/mission-shaped – as they are both thought leaders and practitioners.

And might I also recommend you add these voices to your missional blog reading list if you haven't already: Jason Coker and the three JR's: JR Briggs, JR Rozko and JR Woodward.

Please note the TSK Support Widget in the left sidebar of this blog. Click GetWidget to add this to your site or go here. You can modify the Widget to better suit your site, if you’d like.

Andrew Jones and his family are on a European/North African missional journey and can use our support.

Graham, the new team leader of Fresh Expressions UK, is one of my favourite people in the missional / mission-shaped conversation. He was Bishop of Maidstone (working with the Archbishop of Canterbury) when I first me him in the UK (at Lambeth Palace, no less.)

He is one of those brilliant church leaders who is also decidedly down to earth and approachable. (I have an image of Graham walking down The Danforth with my sons on either side of him, completely engrossed in their conversation with him and he with them. Not your average Anglican Bishop as this video shows.)

Part One of this interview is available here with more background information and links. Part Two features a couple of great examples of Fresh Expressions of Church – one from a high Anglican perspective and the other, low church.

FX Canada Interview w/ Graham Cray Part II from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

This video is part of a series of videos that Imbi and I have produced on Missional Church. A widget is available here that you can embed in your blog that will be updated with new videos from the Missional Channel on Vimeo.

Stetzer & Fitch – a missional conversation – Part III from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

Title Update borrowed from Brad Brisco.

My friends, Dave Fitch & Ed Stetzer in part two of their missional conversation – with the focus, Can Megachurches Be Missional?

Ed Stetzer & Dave Fitch – a missional conversation Part II from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

As some of you are aware, there are hours of footage in the Medri Kinnon vaults waiting to be turned into finished productions. Imbi's documentary on Church Leadership in the 21st Century is probably the longest and most involved. One of the important voices in that doc and one of our favourite people on this topic is Bishop Graham Cray.

Graham, and his beautiful wife Jackie (an Anglican rector), were in Toronto for Wycliffe's ReFresh conference in the early summer and Imbi and I shot a conversation with Graham and Wycliffe's Annette Brownlee talking about the launch of Fresh Expressions Canada.

Graham was one of the people behind the Mission-shaped Church document that led to the creation of Fresh Expressions in the UK – a partnership between the Anglican Church of England, the Methodist Church and the wider UK church community. Early this year, Graham became team leader of Fresh Expressions.

In Part I of the interview, Bishop Cray talks about the history of FX, it's application in the North American context and the monetary costs of creating a local fresh Expression of Church. The interview is introduced by Nick Brotherwood, FX Canada's Team Leader (and all round good guy).

FX Canada Interview w/ Graham Cray Part I from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

Andrew Jones – emerging, missional conspirator from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

I can't speak highly enough of my friend, Andrew Jones. The French phrase, joie de vivre comes to mind when I think of Andrew. And though I have yet to meet the rest of the Jones clan, I can only assume that joy infects the entire family.

Andrew is a missional conspirator. (Conspire = to breath together.) And he inspires those he meets and works with to both live and share the gospel – in a winsome manner.

Like many missionary families who live by faith, the Jones Family has been rather severely impacted by the global recession. Giving is way down. This morning Andrew issued an urgent appeal for support on his blog. Would you join us in supporting the important missional endeavour the Jones Family is engaged in? Please.

Rick Meigs Recovery

kinnon —  August 6, 2009 — 2 Comments

Rick writes a response to the Subversive Influence post on his accident. (Praise the Lord that Rick is recovering!)

Hey all, this is Rick working from a computer at my rehab. center. Wanted to check in and say that it is good to still be in the land of the living. Rehab. is going well. My progress has been a miracle and I thank God for it and all your support and prayers! Should be home around August 14th.

Typing this one handed. My right hand is in bad shape — bad nerve damage — so I’ll sign off for now.

This post was published in January at Missional Tribe and is a combination of the post I wrote for last summer’s Missional Synchroblog and a part two I wrote here @ Things have been a little quiet @ Missional Tribe of late – something that will change in September – at least from me. There will be a number of new videos – plus the completion of the Stetzer/Fitch conversation. (My year has been a little more hectic than anticipated.)

In may of ’08, my wife, 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.

Pete and Kath Atkins with Bill KinnonWe 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 AlRox @ the end of the produced 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.

I was struck by this comment from Kevin Kelly riffing on Freeman Dyson (in the NYTimes).

…while progress runs on exponential curves, our individual lives proceed in a linear fashion. We live day by day by day. While we might think time flies as we age, it really trickles out steadily. Today will always be more valuable than some day in the future, in large part because we have no guarantee we’ll get that extra day. Ditto for civilizations. In linear time, the future is a loss. But because human minds and societies can improve things over time, and compound that improvement in virtuous circles, the future in this dimension is a gain. Therefore long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential. The linear march of our time intersects the cascading rise and fall of numerous self-amplifying exponential forces. Generations, too, proceed in a linear sequence. They advance steadily one after another while pushed by the compounding cycles of exponential change. [emphasis added]

Missional communities have within them the potential to exponentially infect the communities where they have been strategically placed by the hand of God. As they live out their lives now, embedding themselves into the very warp and woof of the community life – they embody the profound possibility of working as leaven – permeating the entire “loaf” of their community.

This way of thinking runs counter to the ROI mindset of much Western church planting. (We have an expectation of Return on Investment when we provide funding for church plants.) The McDonalds/Consumer Church mindset of numbers now is what kills the spirit of missional church. As Dave Fitch writes, (blogging about missional leaders)

In my opinion it takes at least 5 years of “seeding a community” before one even begins to see an ethos of community and new life develop that can be a cultural carrier-transmitter of the gospel.

Only a long view allows us live in the midst of the now and the not yet. We have a real expectation and hope of seeing the Kingdom lived out in our communities – but we recognize that we may be like those in Hebrews 11 who do never see the fruit of their labour. Does this mean we abandon the life and return to a consumer church model? God help me, no! As I’ve said before, Hudson Taylor and David Livingston did not see the overwhelming harvest that continues to come from the seeds they planted as missionaries in China and Africa, respectively – but they lived with both an expectation and a hope for that harvest.

As the Christendom model of church wheezes to an end, not with a bang but a whimper, this next reformation sees us following the Spirit of God back into the neigbourhood – realizing that He is on the move – building his kingdom amongst the people in those neighbourhoods. As both Stetzer and Fitch affirm in their conversation, this still means we must be able to effectively communicate the Gospel story – but much of the communication will come in how we live our lives amongst our neighbours. Might I again suggest that Luke 10 provides us with the Jesus-model of neighbourhood “ministry”.

Kevin Kelly reminds us that “long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential.” We must live our lives faithfully amongst our neighbours. Not avoiding gathering as believers as we live our lives out day by day, but realizing that we, the tangible Kingdom of God in the midst our neighbourhood – exist for those very neighbours. And though we may not see it in our own lifetime, we have a real expectation for the exponential growth of the Kingdom of God in our neighbourhoods.

Fitch says this at the end of the aforementioned blog post,

Like a fermenting revolution evolving out of a tired and reified ancien regime, these tiny bands of Christians have come on the scene committed to live a life together of worship, spiritual formation, community, hospitality and service to the poor (of all kinds). In ways never imagined by the machinations of the mega church, many of these bands are already infecting their neighborhoods with an embodied gospel that cannot be denied, only responded to. Knowing Christendom is gone, they carry no pretension. Instead they embody the gospel in its most compelling, authentic, non-coercive form. This new wave of Christians is small in number and possesses little to no resources financially. Most do not impress with their grandiose visions. They do not hang in the halls of power. They do not make a show of their successes. Yet their vision of a simple Christian habitat as witness in the world reminds me of the Irish missional orders God used to effect a profound conversion of European society in the 4th century. We have seen the world changed like this once before (read How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill). Could we be in the early stages of seeing God move in a similar fashion once again? Let us pray it be so. [emphasis and link added]


Pete and Kath Atkins turned us on to the Academy Award winning animated short film (made in Canada, no less) called The Man Who Planted Trees. They see this film as the almost perfect metaphor for how mission-shaped believers will be the leaven in our neighborhoods. (Pete and Kath Atkins feature prominently in the mission-shaped leaders documentary coming from Imbi early this fall (2009). I’m actually working on that section of the documentary today – just as soon as I close the laptop and plug the Mac Pro in, here on Snake Island.