The Characteristics of a Missional Church?

Posted on 04/12/2007

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                 We have observed that a missional church is rooted in the understanding that it is an assembly of Christ-followers who are loved by God the Father, redeemed and sent by God the Son, and regenerated and empowered by God the Holy Spirit to continue the missio Dei on Earth, for the glory of God.  Now we will examine the foundational characteristics of a missional church.

In reading through a plethora of books, websites, journals, and sermons concerning what it means to be missional, I have discovered that there is a recurring tendency for missional writers to claim that characteristics are “missional” when in fact these same characteristics are true of any healthy, evangelical church.  And on the other hand there is a tendency to state that certain characteristics are not “missional,” with the implication that these same characteristics are present in non-missional churches, when in fact any healthy, evangelical church would also disdain the same attributes.  To over exaggerate, so that you get the idea, it is like saying, “Missional churches are not racist,”  or, “Missional churches love people.”   They claim everything virtuous to themselves and want to pin many attributes that are negative to the non-missional church.   For example, on a web site that serves as a compilation of missional articles and also as a doorway to the online missional world, these examples were given to describe what a missional church is and is not:

Description of a Missional Church

  • A missional church is evangelistic and faithfully proclaims the gospel through word and deed. Words alone are not sufficient; how the gospel is embodied in our community and service is as important as what we say.
  • A missional church seeks to put the good of their neighbor over their own.
  • A missional church will give integrity, morality, good character and conduct, compassion, love and a resurrection life filled with hope preeminence to give credence to their reasoned verbal witness.
  • A missional church practices hospitality by welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community.
  • A missional church will see themselves as representatives of Jesus and will do nothing to dishonor his name.
  • A missional church will be desperately dependent on prayer.
  • A missional church will feed deeply on the scriptures throughout the week.
  • A missional church will help people discover and develop their spiritual gifts and will rely on gifted people for ministry instead of talented people.
  • A missional church is a healing community where people carry each other’s burdens and help restore gently.

What a Missional Church is Not

  • A missional church is not a dispenser of religious goods and services or a place where people come for their weekly spiritual fix.
  • A missional church is not a place where mature Christians come to be fed and have their needs met.
  • A missional church is not a place where “professionals” are hired to do all the work of the church.
  • A missional church is not a place where the “professionals” teach the children and youth about God to the exclusion of parental responsibility.
  • A missional church is not about big programs and organizations to accomplish God’s missionary purpose. This does not imply no program or organization, but that they will not drive mission. They will be used in support of people on mission. [1]

I have chosen just some bullets out of a long list, but I think you can see what I am referring to.  There is a tendency to claim for their own, characteristics that are desired by all evangelical churches and on the other hand to reject characteristics that all Christians should reject.  This is a negative trait seen within the missional movement that could jeopardize the broader churches receptivity to their insights.  I fear that the missional movement has a tendency toward pride and arrogance and often has disdain towards the “non-missional” church.  Some talk and write with an air of superiority as if they are the only ones who know how to do church right.  Having listened to some messages and lectures of leaders in the missional movement, I have observed that some have gathered Christians into their missional congregations by being an anti-church church.                                                                                                                                                             To be sure, there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding concerning what it means to be missional.  This in part is due to missional leaders and prominent writers who blur the lines in attempting to characterize what it means to be missional.   Yet there are some characteristics that are distinctive to the missional movement.  In the following posts I will highlight some of the more important characteristics of a missional church 


[1] http://www.friendofmissional.org/

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Posted in: Missional