What Is the Missional Church?

“The life of the New Testament churches was centered around their missional vocation and their formation to practice it. “
                                   Darrell L. Guder, Princeton Theological Seminary
     In the time I have been your pastor, many of you have noticed that I speak of “the missional church.” I am grateful to those who have honestly asked, “What does that mean?” You are an intelligent congregation with an eye to what God is up to in the community. More, you are eager to join in God’s work. For that I am grateful.
     So here is a basic definition of “missional church.” A missional church is a church that acknowledges that God is already at work in the community and seeks to join God in that work. This isn’t a nuanced change from our old way of thinking about missions. The difference is significant. The first big difference is that the old way of thinking saw “mission” as one tiny part of what the church does. Missional Churchsays that everything the church does is about participating in the Missio Dei, the mission of God. Second, the old understanding was that “mission” is something we do “for” God. Missional Church says that “mission” is something we “join with God” in doing. The Missional Church Movement is a return to a sound biblical understanding of being church.
     Rob Weingartner, Director of the Outreach Foundation of the Presbyterian Church USA, provides additional insight of what it would look like to return to a biblical model of being church:
*   We used to describe mission as a program of the church; now we’re discovering that mission is the purpose of the church.
*  We used to talk about the church’s mission; now we seek to discern how God is at work in the world and participate in God’s mission.
*  We used to plan and program to get the world into the church; now we’re working on getting the church into the world
*  We used to argue about whether mission was primarily about evangelism or justice; now we know that saving souls and compassionate action and advocacy are essential dimensions of the one gospel of Jesus Christ.
*  We used to believe that the mission field was “over there” somewhere; now we know that the mission field is everywhere, including right here!
*  We used to think that only those called to special service in far off places were missionaries; now we know that in our baptisms every believer is commissioned into a missionary society.
*  We used to focus primarily on what we had to give and do in mission; now we understand that as we serve our lives are being transformed, there are things we must receive and learn.
*  Mission used to be from the West to the rest; today it is from everywhere to everyone.
     Weingartner further points out that being missional is not about church activities. It is about the church’s identity. God did not create mission in order to give the church something to do; rather, the Father who sent His Son out of love for the world and poured out the Spirit upon the disciples calls the church together and sends it into the world to bless the peoples of the earth in Jesus’ Name. Weingartner concludes with a question for local congregations: “Are you thinking in old, outmoded ways about the church and mission? Maybe the time has come for a new beginning!

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