What in the World is a Missional Church?

From time to time in the life of the church certain buzzwords make the rounds. One of those buzzwords to make the rounds is the term “missional.” There are many calls for the church to reclaim its missional identity. There are calls for the church to live as a missional people. There is missional this, and missional that. But what exactly does it mean to be missional?

Earth and sun

I have been working my way through Will Mancini’s book Church Unique (which I highly recommend though it is thick and not easy speed reading) and there is one part of the book where he is describing popular perspectives of the church from 1960-2010. He estimates that the years from 2000-2010 to be the “Missional Church Reorientation” stage. This stage takes place as the post-Christian era dawns and is accelerating fast. In terms of what it means Mancini writes,

Essentially it is a way of thinking that challenges the church to re-form and reforge its self-understanding (theologically, spiritually, and socially) so that it can relearn how to live and proclaim the gospel in the world. Perhaps the best motto of the reorientation is the imperative to “be the church.” Church is not something you do or a place you go to, but who you are.

Notice that being missional is not something new but something recovered from the past when presumably the church was missional in nature. Notice too it is not about “doing” something, it is not problem solving, but being missional is about “being.”

Mancini continues that the idea of the missional church and the church’s identity as missional finds its origin in the nature of God or in the classical doctrine of the missio dei as,

God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit [is] expanded to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church in the world. Therefore the church’s new identity is a reclarification of its “sentness.” Sending is not something you do, but being sent is something you are.

Wow- all this is weighty stuff. If you boil it all down what it all really says is we need to get the hell out of the church. Created in the image of God, the body of Christ is sent out into the world. That is who we are. It is when we reclaim this understanding of “being” and “identity” that we then change how we are the church.

What does the term missional church mean to you?

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