Foundations of Church Leadership & Church Health – MISSIONAL PHILOSOPHY
Note: This guide discusses perspectives that were important to the first edition of the site, and is now part of the site archive that is not updated past 2012.
- Early Generative Works
- Recent Guides on Missional Philosophy
- Recent Guides on Missional Trends
- Related Ministry Resources
This is one of several Philosophies of Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal, which include Missional (this essay), Church Growth, Emergent Church & Evaluating Emergent, and other Missionally Responsive Trajectories.
The Missional Movement reflects a unique understanding of Christian ministry and Christian leadership. It would be inaccurate to speak of “missional” as an approach or method. Missional is a theological and philosophical orientation that informs all one does. I have more completely described this in the article, Missional Perspectives 01 – Introduction to Missional, but here is a highlight of the main points:
- Missional philosophy begins with theology, going even deeper than Ecclesiology, the theology of the church, into the theology of mission in general. Of special interest is the concept of Missio Dei, or mission of God.
- Missional philosophy avoids seeing missions as one of several activities of the church. Instead it sees all of life, and therefore all of the church, as missionary in essence.
- Missional philosophy underscores the increasingly marginalized status of Christianity in North America.
- Missional philosophy also emphasizes the need for the church’s initiatives to arise out of prayerful attunement to God’s movement in the immediate surroundings, or “contextualization.”
These and other features are characteristic of the missional philosophy. To gain further understanding, the resources below address multiple areas of missional interest, including philosophy, theology and strategies. Yet their greatest contribution is in providing good exposure to the missional mindset. Follow the links for a more complete summary of each resource.
Early Generative Works
- Darrell Guder, Editor, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America – This is regarded as the book that started the missional conversation. Rich treatment of the subject, but may be too academic and technical for some.
- George R. Hunsberger and Craig Van Gelder, Editors, The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mssion in North America (Gospel and Our Culture Series) – Represents the early ethos of the missional movement that circulated among academics, primarily missiologists.
- Craig Van Gelder, Confident Witness, Changing World: Rediscovering the Gospel in North America – A collection of essays on how churches in North America may become more missional. Less academic and more accessible, targeted more to ministers.
- James V. Brownson, Inagrace T. Dietterich, Barry A. Harvey, and Charles C. West, StormFront: The Good News of God – Offers a discerning analysis of the features of contemporary American culture that are at odds with the radical reorientation of the gospel, and discusses the challenges this presents for Christians as they seek an authentic and transformative witness in this context.
Recent Guides on Missional Philosophy
- Michael Frost, The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church (Shapevine Series) – Discusses six areas where leaders may be prone to think of themselves as missional, but which actually fall short of missional theology and philosophy
- Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century — Regarded as one of the best articulations of missional philosophy, highlighting three salient features: Incarnational Ecclesiology, Messianic Spirituality, and Apostolic Leadership.
- Eddie Gibbs, LeadershipNext: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture– Veteran church growth expert Eddie Gibbs maps out how Christian leadership must change in light of new global realities. Looks at styles of leadership, leadership teams, healthy leadership traits, and how new leaders are identified and developed. A comprehensive resource for current and emerging leaders serving in churches, parachurch organizations, and beyond.
- Colin Greene and Martin Robinson, Metavista: Bible, Church, and Mission in an Age of Imagination — Not my first suggestion, but fairly represents the emergent understanding of the progression of the church from Christendom to the present day.
- Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church – Helps established churches, whether mega, multi, or mini in their orientation, to conceive of themselves more missionally in their communities.
- Peter J. Leithart, Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom — An interesting alternative viewpoint on the lingering effect of Constantine on the current identity of the church.
- Reggie McNeal, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church — Not as academic as volumes listed above, thus for the average reader, it is my first recommendation on the missional movement. It is a brief, well-written, provocative polemic against the present churched-culture slumber, and an impassioned plea to refocus on the mission of God.
- Alan J. Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren, Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One — A comprehensive primer on all things missional. It is one of several works by Roxburgh that are further described under Missional Strategies. Less technical and more practical than Van Gelder and Zscheile listed above.
- Craig Van Gelder and Dwight J. Zscheile, The Missional Church In Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation (Allelon Missional Series) — A thorough review of the missional movement from its inception until now. Better than any book before, it explains the common terms, the philosophy, the theology, and all the various trajectories of the missional conversation.
- Robert Webber, Ancient Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World – This is the foundational series of Webber’s Ancient-Future Series, one of the most widely referenced philosophies of the missional conversation. Also includes Ancient Future Time, Ancient-Future Evangelism, and Ancient-Future Worship.
Recent Guides on Missional Trends
- Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals — An exhaustive comparison of the missional philosophy with the traditional evangelical (Billy Graham) and pragmatic evangelical/church growth (Bill Hybels) mindsets.
Other Helfpul volumes:
- Diana Butler Bass, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening – Argues that we are at the cusp of the Fourth Great Awakening.
- Ryan Bolger, The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions – David Fitch says this is “the broadest and most accessible global survey of emerging missional churches available today. It is filled with good analysis and insights as well as challenges to the imagination.
- Eddie Gibbs, ChurchMorph: How Megatrends are Reshaping Christian Communities – Probably the most comprehensive picture available of church trends in the new era, with special emphasis on missional and emergent trajectories.
- Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why (Emergent Village Resources for Communities of Faith) – Provides a helpful quadrilateral taxonomy of missional and emergent faith communities.
- Phyllis Tickle, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It is Going, and Why It Matters – An update and expansion on The Great Emergence.
Related Ministry Resources
See Other Philosophies of Church Leadership and Church Health:
Missional Perspectives for Christian Ministry:
- Missional Perspectives for Christian Ministry 01, Introduction
- Missional Church Resources, Introduction and Index
See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry: