Understanding the Missional Church

Defining “Missional”

Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church, states that “the word ‘missional’ over the years has tended to become very fluid and as it was quickly co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they themselves were doing, be they missional or not. It is often used as a substitute it for seeker- sensitive, cell-group church, or other church growth concepts, thus obscuring its original meaning.”

Dan Kimball in The Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2003) describes the missional church “as a body of people sent on a mission who gather in community for worship, encouragement, and teaching from the Word that supplements what they are feeding themselves throughout the week.”

Missional is a Shift in Thinking

Missional is more than just another movement, it is a full expression of who the ekklesia of Christ is and what it is called to be and do. At its core, missional is a shift in thinking. This shift in thinking is expressed by Ed Stetzer and David Putman in their book Breaking the Missional Code (Broadman & Holman, 2006) like this:

  • From programs to processes
  • From demographics to discernment
  • From models to missions
  • From attractional to incarnational
  • From uniformity to diversity
  • From professional to passionate
  • From seating to sending
  • From decisions to disciples
  • From additional to exponential
  • From monuments to movements
  • From services to service
  • From ordained to the ordinary
  • From organizations to organisms

What a Missional Church Looks Like

JR Woodward at Dream Awakener has a perspective on success that really helps my understanding of missional. His post A Working Definition of Success provides a working definition of what missional might look like. Here it is:

  • Not simply how many people come to our church services, but how many people our church serves.
  • Not simply how many people attend our ministry, but how many people have we equipped for ministry.
  • Not simply how many people minister inside the church, but how many minister outside the church.
  • Not simply helping people become more whole themselves, but helping people bring more wholeness to their world. (i.e. justice, healing, relief)
  • Not simply how many ministries we start, but how many ministries we help.
  • Not simply how many unbelievers we bring into the community of faith, but how many ‘believers’ we help experience healthy community.
    • Not simply working through our past hurts, but working alongside the Spirit toward wholeness.
    • Not simply counting the resources that God gives us to steward, but counting how many good stewards are we developing for the sake of the world.
      • Not simply how we are connecting with our culture but how we are engaging our culture.
      • Not simply how much peace we bring to individuals, but how much peace we bring to our world.
      • Not simply how effective we are with our mission, but how faithful we are to our God.
      • Not simply how unified our local church is, but how unified is “the church” in our neighborhood, city and world?
      • Not simply how much we immerse ourselves in the text, but how faithfully we live in the story of God.
      • Not simply being concerned about how our country is doing, but being concern for the welfare of other countries.
      • Not simply how many people we bring into the kingdom, but how much of the kingdom we bring to the earth.