Monday, March 1, 2010

Prologue to Missional Discussions

I will be participating in a synchro-blog with some other fine writers over the next few weeks. Details from the hub:
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
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.


Jared said...

I'll start in answering the request for one-sentence definitions:

"Missional" is a way of life birthed by the gospel and conducted as worship in which a person redeemed by Christ becomes an ambassador of Christ's redemption and a minister of gospel reconciliation.

Zach said...

"Missional" is firstly a recognition that God is a God-on-mission in the world, reconciling all things through the person and work of Jesus; and secondly that the church is a community-on-mission in the world, the means through which the person and work of Jesus are embodied in reconciling power.

Chris said...

"Missional" is our active participation through word and deed in God's mission to seek and save the lost.

Jared said...

Good ones, guys.

Keep 'em coming, folks!

Brandon Smith said...

"Missional" is the Gospel preached through transformed lives being lived out for the glory of God and the joy of all people.

C. Holland said...

Missional means that being a Christian equals being, seeing, doing as we currently define the role a missionary--even if you're not in a foreign land.

Jared said...

C. Holland, I think you've hit on something key to the explanation of "missional" to most everyday churchfolk. They "get" what a missionary is, so when explaining being missional, I have found it REALLY helpful to say "It means every Christian is a missionary to wherever they live."

Jared said...

To go back, Zach, I am grateful you have factored in the missio dei, the truth that being missional is derivative of our missional God.

The Averys said...

Mission is why the church exists. So, does Christ's Church have a mission, or does Christ's mission have a Church? The later underscores what the term "missional" is at it's core.

Michael DeFazio said...

When people ask me what “missional” means, I usually reply with something like this… It boils down to two things: (1) acknowledging that God has a mission that precedes and defines our own mission, vision, values, strategy, etc; and (2) approaching every ministry setting as a missionary situation.

Since that’s kinda unclear, the next question is typically “What does that mean?” or “What difference does that make?” or “So what do we actually do differently?” at which point I try to talk about specific norms generated by those two points…

Anonymous said...

The primary apparent flaw with the missionSHIFT missional manifesto conference is the grossly over-representation of white, male, middle-class, American clergy of the church planting variety. So many voices are not represented. Women, non-Americans, the poor, sexual minorities, other types of ministers (hospital & prison chaplains, people who work with children, the homeless, in hospice, college ministries.) The result is destined to be much of the same unless we open up the table to the full body of Christ.

Look at the early church one of the first converts to Christianity was a surgically altered, gender-variant, rich civil servant from Africa (the Ethiopian Eunuch) who went home w/ Good News and to this day a church traces its roots to that person. Radical inclusion. New Wine in New Wine Skins.

Jared said...

Petersontoscano, I understand the concern about white American males dominating the conversation. I share it.

Wonder what you mean by "sexual minority."

Anonymous said...

Hi Jared, sexual minority can represent lots of people who often get left out. In the early church women were considered sexual minorities in large part because they did not have a place in the Jewish traditions from which Jesus and his followers emerged. These women were denied religious leadership and access to many worship experiences. The early church was a pioneer in providing women a place to minister.

The "Ethiopian Eunuch" referenced in Acts 8 stands as a prominent sexual minority and an important model for us today. Being eunuch this surgically altered person from Africa was denied access to most of most important temple worship. Having been castrated most likey before puberty as was the custom, this individual must likely looked and sounded drastically different from men and women in society.

We see throughout scripture the importance of eunuchs in the most important Bible stories. Remove the eunuchs from the Esther narrative and you have no narrative. The story would have totally fallen apart.

Some churches are in a quandary about how to include (or "deal with") transgender individuals. Also for the most part churches are completely unaware of the many intersex people in the world. (There are over 40 intersex conditions where people are born with extra chromosomes or with ambiguous genitalia blurring the lines of sex and gender)

So often people of faith who are "sexual minorities" stand outside of the church barred from service and even access much like the Black African eunuch Philip encountered and included. But they have essential perspective to bring to the discussion and may already be hidden within our congregations terrified to be open about their experiences for fear of expulsion from the community or worse.

Josh said...

To paraphrase the old Salvation Army saying (Heart to God, Hand to Man):
Missional is: Heart to God, body in the community.

Jared said...

Peterson, just toured your website a bit. I don't know why you have held back in your description of what a "sexual minority" is. I think the Ethiopian eunuch is a wonderful example of the people on the margins the Westernized church must reach. But I also see you aren't saying "reach the Ethiopian eunuchs" but "accommodate unrepentant homosexuality." (I know you wouldn't use the word 'unrepentant,' assuming you'd argue there's nothing to repent of.)

I would love for whatever movements of God his Spirit allows to look less monochromatic, less heterogenous. But I also want them to be movements of God, not culture-driven shifts. When we declare right what God has declared wrong, we give up God's mission and take up something entirely different.

Clay said...

Before I've read the other comments:

The joining of God on His mission, both individually and corporately, toward the redemption of the world and it's systems.

Anonymous said...

Jared, I did not mention gay and lesbian Christians because I anticipated such a discussion would not be welcomed at this site or at the missionSHIFT conference.

Instead I mentioned a topic in which we could see how the church would be enriched by including sexual minorities like eunuchs, intersex individuals and transgender people.

I recently met someone who is a hermaphrodite dispermic chimera with 46,XX and 46,XY karyotypes. This means that biologically this person is both male and female.

Intelligent, thoughtful, deeply spiritual and a medical doctor, this person struck me with a depth of wisdom and life experience unlike my own. Sadly this person has found it difficult to find a way in the world, and has to concealed whole parts of their history and identity. My hope is for a missional movement that mirrors what Phillip did when he saw a sexual minority--he didn't bully him, make assumptions or judge. He sat beside him, and shared Jesus to someone who perhaps lived much of life as an outsider. Since they were reading Isaiah, perhaps Philip even shared the magnificent passage: Isaiah 56:4,5

I am not transgender or intersex or eunuch myself, but I see how they have been mistreated by society including gay and lesbian people. As a Christian with a heart for sharing the Good News, I want to be open to their lives and experiences. I hope that missionSHIFT is too.

Brandon Smith said...


I think you make a valid point from the standpoint that the "sexual minority" are treated differently and unfairly by many. I talked to my church Sunday about how the church would welcome a guy with liquor on his breath and talk about his "need for help" but would freak out if a gay man walked in.

Sinners and the sick need a doctor, don't they? Of course, in the case of a gay person, you wouldn't condone it or let them join/serve in leadership of the church, but they should be shown love and grace, too. For whatever reason, God providentially allowed such a person, and we should love them as anyone else.

Anonymous said...

From the leadership perspective:
Discipling disciple-makers (evangelists, servants, teachers, pastors, etc.)

From a lay perspective: joining the mission of God in full discipleship thru individual calling and the corporate mission of the local church by submitting to its accountability.