Follow God. Lead the Church. Change the World.

“Missional Church”

I have written about a couple books that we read awhile back in our D.Min. program at Asbury. I want to write about one more: Missional Church: A vision for the sending of the church in North America (Darrell Guder, editor).

Ever since I read the book in 2004, I have been using the word “missional” to describe what the church and its leaders are about. Missional Church, as the subtitle suggests, casts a vision of God as a “missionary God” and the church as “a ‘sent people’” (4).

The authors believe it’s a necessary vision, especially as Western/North American culture becomes “more pluralistic, more individualistic, and more private” (1). The authors state, “This is a time for a dramatically new vision … there is a need for reinventing or rediscovering the church in this new kind of world” (77).

What is meant by the term “missional”?

With the term missional we emphasize the essential nature and vocation of the church as God’s called and sent people:

  • A missional ecclesiology is biblical
  • A missional ecclesiology is historical
  • A missional ecclesiology is contextual
  • A missional ecclesiology is eschatological
  • A missional ecclesiology can be practiced (The basic function of all theology is to equip the church for its calling.) (11–12)

The church must be contextual.

The gospel is always conveyed through the medium of culture. It becomes good news to lost and broken humanity as it is incarnated in the world through God’s sent people, the church. To be faithful to its calling, the church must be contextual, that is, it must be culturally relevant within a specific setting. The church relates constantly and dynamically both to the gospel and to its contextual reality. (18)

Mission.

‘Mission’ is not something the church does, a part of its total program. No, the church’s essence is missional, for the calling and sending action of God forms its identity. Mission is founded on the mission of God in the world, rather than the church’s effort to extend itself. (82)

Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit.
Local churches are “communities of the Holy Spirit.” The authors write, “The distinctive characteristic of such communities is that the Holy Spirit creates and sustains them” (142). I love what they say about the purpose of these communities …

The experience of Christian togetherness is not simply for the benefit of those who choose to participate in a Christian community. A community of love rooted in the redemptive reign of God can never be an in-house enterprise, for such love is contagious and overflowing. (148–149)

Ecclesial Practices.
Missional Church highlights several practices …

  • Baptism — “incorporation into the new humanity of God’s reign” (159).
  • Breaking bread together — “Missional communities of the baptized are sustained and nourished in their ongoing life and ministry by breaking bread together as they gather around the Lord’s Supper” (163).
  • Reconciliation — “… an ecclesial practice that fosters, shapes, and sustains missional communities.”
  • Discernment — “To discern is to prove or test (what the will of God is). … Thus the goal of decision making in the church is not simply to discover the will of the community, but instead to discern together the will of God” (172).
  • Hospitality — “cultivating communities of peace” (175).

Leadership.
Missional Church uplifts the role of leadership in the cultivation and shaping of missional churches. They write, “The fullness of Christian life in the Spirit does not spring forth without intentional cultivation” (149).

The authors write, “The key to the formation of missional communities is their leadership” (183), namely leaders who “are driven by a passion to see the reality of the church as a missional people of God” (215).

I’ll wrap up this post with two great quotes about leadership in missional churches …

… fundamental change in any body of people requires leaders capable of transforming its life and being transformed themselves. … Such leadership will be biblically and theologically astute, skilled in understanding the changes shaping North American society, and gifted with the courage and endurance to lead God’s people as missional communities. (183)

The church needs leaders who are not only capable of leading change/transformation, but also people who are engaged in the lifelong process of being changed/transformed themselves. I appreciate the need, too, for “courage” and “endurance,” necessary qualities for missional leaders, especially leaders seeking to lead established/institutional churches to become missional churches.

Jesus provides us with a clear sense of how leadership is to function in our day. … The place of leadership is to be at the front of the community, living out the implications and actions of the missional people of God, so all can see what it looks like to be the people of God. This means that leadership can never be done solo. (186)

Well, it’s been a while since I reviewed these highlighted statements from the book. It was a good review for me — it has stirred my passion once again to lead, and be part of, a missional church!

3 Responses to “Missional Church”

  1. Randy, thanks for taking the time share this with us. The book sounds right up my alley, and the missional emphasis for the local church is so very needed. Towards the end you mentioned the special need for strong missional leaders of “established/institutional churches”. I feel like I am in that position, so your quotes from the book and personal comments have “stirred my passion”, too. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the comments.

    It seems that churches normally start with a missional emphasis, then over the course of time, institutionalize. It’s a natural process, one leaders have to guard against.

    For those serving in churches that are already more institutional than missional, transformation is necessary (and thus the need for transformational leaders), but it’s never an easy process.

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