Missional Perspectives 01, Introduction to Missional

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Missional Perspectives for Church Leaders 01 – INTRODUCTION TO MISSIONAL

Part of the ministry resources on Missional Church and Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal. It discusses perspectives that were important to the first edition of the site, and is now part of the site archive.

When the site was first published in 2012, Missional was one of several Philosophies of Church Leadership and Church Health, which also include Church Growth, Emergent, and other Missionally Responsive Trajectories.

This is part of a larger article on Missional Perspectives. See the index at the bottom of the page for all the articles in the series.

Note: This guide is a convenience duplicate of Church Leadership Foundations, Missional Philosophy.

The Missional Movement reflects a unique understanding of church leadership and renewal. In fact it would be inaccurate to speak of it as an approach or method. Missional is a theological and philosophical orientation that informs all one does. Below are a few of the more important features:

Missional philosophy begins with theology

Most materials on church leadership assume theology at best or ignore it at worst, which is why I prefaced my section on church renewal methods with a piece on Ecclesiology, the theology of the church. Yet, the missional understanding goes deeper than ecclesiology, into the theology of mission in general. Missionals differentiate between the missio Dei (mission of God), the broader scope of God’s work, and missiones ecclesiae (missions of the church), the missionary nature of the church as it participates in God’s larger work. The idea is that God has a mission of reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and the church, although primary, is but one agency in accomplishing it.

Missional philosophy sees all of life as missionary in essence

Missional avoids seeing missions as one of several activities of the church, e.g. simply appointing missions committees to administrate foreign missions. Instead it sees all of life, and therefore all of the church, as missionary in essence. God is a missional God. His people are a missional people, sent into the world to be a sign, foretaste, and instrument of the coming kingdom.

Missional philosophy underscores the increasingly marginalized status of Christianity

Although the church should never have conceived of itself as anything less than missionary, the current situation heightens this awareness. The anthropological term “liminality” expresses it well. The church now exists in an in-between state due to the diminishment of religion in societal structures, the end of Christianity’s dominance in the beliefs and values of the general public, deepening polarization among Christian communities regarding faith and ministry, and the overall uncertainty of the church’s future. The “churched-culture” of North America no longer exists. A new world is being shaped, and the impact Christianity has on the outcome depends on how well it engages the missionary challenges before it.

Missional philosophy emphasizes the need for the church’s initiatives to arise out of prayerful attunement to God’s movement in the immediate surroundings

This is a form of what missionaries have always called “contextualization.” Missional methods are very localized, with each church community defining anew its engagement of the missional context. To extract methods or approaches from one setting and duplicate them in another will probably be unfruitful and perhaps even unfaithful.

These and other features are characteristic of the missional philosophy. To gain further understanding, the essays linked below on Missional Perspectives address multiple areas of missional interest, including philosophy, theology and strategies.

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