In January (2015) I posted on Facebook my goal to minimize the use of the term “missional.” Ten years ago I feared missional would become a buzzword that local churches would use as the next cool thing to call themselves, or label one of their ministries. Well, my concern has come to fruition. Sadly, in most cases it doesn’t mean what those churches think it means…even in their context. Don’t misunderstand me here; missional is an important term because it strips down Christendom’s layers and touches on the core of who we should be as a Church. Unfortunately, I believe, “incarnational” will reach that point of buzzwordness as well. If it hasn’t already, missional could reach the level of Churchy language and that’s worse than being a buzzword.
So, let’s look at and consider an early, working definition for “missional church,” where we can extrapolate the meaning of missional. The definition comes from Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s book The Shaping of Things to Come.
They define “missional church” as,
“…a working definition of missional church is that it is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the Church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true Church. The Church itself is not only a product of that mission, but is obligated and destined to extend it by whatever means possible. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus. To obstruct this is to block God’s purposes in and through his people.”
For “incarnational” they state,
“The missional church is incarnational, not attractional, in its ecclesiology. By incarnational we mean it does not create sanctified spaces into which unbelievers must come to encounter the gospel. Rather, the missional church disassembles itself and seeps into the cracks and crevices of a society in order to be Christ to those who don’t yet know him.”
This is the picture of a community of Jesus followers on mission, active, alive and immersing themselves into the places where God is, even if it is an uncomfortable and dangerous risk. The definitions tell me that the Church is supposed to be on an apostolic journey throughout the world as a representative of God’s Kingdom. From my perspective if the “mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus” it is done through the making of disciples (Matt 28) and equipping the believers (Eph 4). I suppose for each of us that has a different look and feel, but if there is no deep relational connection to people it is likely just another Bible study or Sunday school class gone dry.
I’m still committed to minimizing the use of the term “missional.” I’ve probably met my annual quota in this post. What is really important to me is to be a vessel of reconciliation for King Jesus. I want to live a life where I decrease and Jesus increases. My desire is to influence culture one soul at a time. May we all be captivated by the Spirit to do the will of God the Father.
Questions to consider:
- Do the definitions of missional and incarnational still apply today?
- Has the “missional movement” deviated from the definitions above?
- Have we blocked God’s purposes in and through his people?
- Have the definitions evolved? If so, into what?
Note: The Shaping of Things to Come is the book that confirmed many of the things I believed about being a New Testament Church going into 2005. It also affirmed my need to step away from the institutional organization of church and take the risk of being led by the Holy Spirit on an uncomfortable journey. It was and still is a game changing book that reminds me we have permission to experiment in the world for the sake of the Kingdom.