the weblog of Alan Knox

Missional…

Posted by on Apr 27, 2007 in missional | 35 comments

As far as I know, I have only mentioned the word “missional” twice on this blog: in the post “Making friends with critics…” in which I stated that I have never considered myself “emerging” or “missional” and in a quotation in the post “The Church or the Organization?“. However, the term “missional” is becoming more and more popular.

I have a few questions for my readers: What does “missional” mean to you? How does “missional” differ from “missionary”? Will the term “missional” stick around or is it a fad?


35 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-27-2007

    I define it as living in the reality of the Mission of God. Not trying to fight it and submitting completely to His will for our lives.

  2. 4-27-2007

    Alan,

    I have enjoyed talking with you about this question for several days now. As far as the difference between the terms missional and missionary, I may be stating the obvious, but a missionary would be the person carrying out the mission. Missional would then be an adjective that would be used to describe the person who it carrying out the mission. I am still trying to define the term as there seem to be many different definitions out there. I am not sure if it will be a fad, but I do think the term has been beneficial in helping believers understand that they are missionaries regardless of the context that they are in. I hope others continue to give their opinions on these questions since I have much to learn in this area.

    Theron

  3. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  4. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  5. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  6. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  7. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  8. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  9. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  10. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    When in doubt, Wiki the word… Wikipedia’s entry for missional living defines it as: “The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…Missional churches are non-traditional in more than methodology. Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.”
    From my POV, the Bible says I AM an alien in this world, representing Jesus, the Ultimate Alien. His mission was exemplified by non-exclusive, sacificial servanthood. That needs to be my misson, too, as His Spirit directs me.
    I don’t think think propositional evangelism/teaching/holiness can be separated from a truly “missional” life. Jesus didn’t compromise, so neither should His followers.
    Kat

  11. 4-27-2007

    Bryan,

    Thank you for the definition. I have seen similar definitions before. I think you have described what every follower of Jesus should be.

    Theron,

    In my original post, I should have stated that this post developed from several conversations with you. I guess I should have used another term besides “missionary”. Perhaps I should have asked: “What is the difference between a missional Christian and a missionary?” Any thoughts?

    Kat,

    From what I’ve seen, the wiki definition is one extreme of the definition of “missional”. I have read a few authors who hold to a similar definition, but this just demonstrates the problem. Is “missional” intrinisically tried to postmodernism? Some say yes, some say no. I’m not sure.

    -Alan

  12. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  13. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  14. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  15. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  16. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  17. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  18. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  19. 4-27-2007

    Alan-
    I guess it’s hard to define something that identifies a “movement”, since not all movement is in the same direction. Like trying to pin down an amoeba, I guess.
    Maybe we should be less concerned about defining missional and more concerned with doing mission.
    Kat

  20. 4-27-2007

    missionary is something we do, missional is something we are – it is ontological to our very being as followers of Jesus Christ.

  21. 4-27-2007

    Kat,

    I agree that we should be concerned with “doing mission”. What? Where? How? To whom? By whom? Does the term “missional” attempt to answer these questions?

    Brian,

    Welcome to my blog. I agree that most people use the term “missional” ontologically. But what does the term say about who you are? How is being “missional” different than being “a follower of Christ”?

    -Alan

  22. 4-27-2007

    Alan,

    Missional is an adjective which relates to a person, or persons, involved in religious missionary activity.

    I don’t think there is any truly definitive meaning in much of the writings on the web.

    I would understand the word in the Scriptural sense as anyone who had a heart for the lost, and a desire to see them know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Surely being “missional” is what Jesus was referring to in Acts 1:8.

  23. 4-28-2007

    Interesting questions.

    I think that the short answer is that ‘missional’ is about being a missionary wherever you are. Some of things this involves is following Jesus into the world, adopting the best missions practices (sharing the gospel in a culturally appropriate way, using cross-cultural principles, being contextual, etc.).

    In my thinking, missional doesn’t differ much from being a missionary. However, I think the main shift here needs to be that we understand that ‘missionary’ and ‘foreign’ or ‘overseas’ aren’t always connected terms. We need to be missionaries wherever we are.

    I don’t think the term ‘missional’ will stay around forever. I think the term is often associated with a movement that God is shaping in the world, that I think is necessary. But church history seems to say that God raises up movements for a time, they become overly institutionalized, God raises up newer movements, and so on.

  24. 4-28-2007

    Aussie John,

    Thank you for the input. So, to you, a missional Christian is a missionary per Acts 1:8. That seems to be a recurring theme.

    John Smulo,

    Thank you for the comment. From reading your blog, you are probably more qualified than any of us to answer this question. I was hoping that someone would bring us the “international” and “overseas” component that we usually add inherently to the word “missionary”.

    -Alan

  25. 4-28-2007

    To be honest, I have no clear idea what “missional” means.

    I’m glad you asked the question because it shows just how difficult it can be to define a term that is not directly in the Bible. Many times we evangelicals have a tough time agreeing on the meaning of words that are even in the Bible.

    It seems that according to scripture we are called to love God with our all, and love our neighbor as ourselves. That would be the “mission” we should be on. So maybe being “missional” is simply living out the Great Commandment through our lives. I definitely think being “missional” goes beyond just Acts 1:8.

  26. 4-28-2007

    Alan,

    I trust that I’m not running off at a tangent here, but I think I may have misled a little in my recent comment.

    My understanding of the word “missionary” is much broader than the way it is commonly used, as is my understanding of Acts 1:8 (especially in regard to our Jerusalem).

    Missionaries, as we generally understand them, are in the same artificial order as our institutionalized traditions have placed the term “pastor” and “elder”. I have understood, and taught, that all believers are missionaries, that the brethren we call “missionaries” are ordinary believers who have heeded the call to function as believers, in a particular place. Their message, their spiritual qualifications, are the same as every other believer, who are all called to be involved in the many “one anothers” of Scripture as they carry out their ministry to each other and the lost world. They do need to develop particular skills, as do every other believer.

    By unduly elevating (and even adulating) missionaries,as we have elders, we unduly (admittedly unintentionally) diminish the ministry of every other believer. In my opinion, that is one reason why our congregations are so passive.

    Missionaries, as we generally understand them, are brethren who are members of the Body of Christ who have been given gifting and abilities to leave their country, their families, and often their comforts, and I thank God for them and honour them for their response to God’s call.

  27. 4-28-2007

    Thanks Alan. I should have added that I think overseas missions is still every bit as important. Its more about adding the necessity of living as a “local” missionary as well as “overseas” if that’s where we happen to be.

  28. 4-28-2007

    I’m not sure it is. I think we it helps provide another word picture of what following Jesus is. Being missional. A part of the missio dei. Being awakened and alive to the reality of the Mission of God and how we are loved and blessed to participate in it. It is just another descriptor of this journey we are on.

    I do believe we are all called ot be missionaries, even though some of my fellow missionaries might disagree with that. It is a calling that is taken very lightly by many I am afraid.

  29. 4-28-2007

    i suppose it could be a buzz word (started with the emerging church movement?)…lots of people using it but not really knowing what it means…or now that it is a word we have to work out the meaning…

    on being a missionary i think i differ from others in that true missions is working among people where there is no relevant Christian witness, e.g. much of the B M H world. But I am still working this out so I am not dogmatic about it. I used to hold to the “everybody is a missionary” view but I have been moving away from that as of late.

  30. 4-28-2007

    Alan,

    Sorry to join the discussion late, but it seems to me that “missional” is just a fancy way of saying “on mission.” We can be “on mission” anywhere. Dave Black is a good example of this. Whether in Ethiopia, Wake Forest, or Clarksville, VA, he and his wife are always “on mission.” They are serving the Lord with what he has them to do.

    Frankly, I like “on mission” better.

    Scott

  31. 4-28-2007

    Everyone,

    Thank you for your comments. I thank all of you for your contributions to this post. I am not going to try to reply to each comment. Each comment helped me understand “missional” more.

    This comment is not meant to close this thread. Please, keep commenting if you would like to add something to this discussion.

    -Alan

  32. 4-29-2007

    As to cross-cultural missions, these are old stats, but I once read that there are about 250,000 protestant and Catholic cross-cultural “missionaries” around the world. Contrast that with the over a million Avon reps. And, some might ask if, looking at America, God called over 90% of Christians to “minister” and be on mission to where less than 10% of the world’s population lives, and where the gospel is readily available. It makes you wonder if people really realize they are called to missions or not and if they are where God would have them be.

  33. 4-29-2007

    Alan,
    I won’t attempt a definitive explanation but rather will try to explain what missional means to me personally.

    While I understood the mission to reach the lost with the message of the gospel, missional expresses a broader purpose than just bringing a message.

    It begins with understanding the mission of God and the invitation to join Him in that mission. His mission is of reconciliation, restoration, and redemption.

    When I see myself as a participant in that mission, I realize the multitude of opportunities available to minister restoration when I put myself among people and watch for where His Spirit is at work and watch for opportunities to serve with generosity and love.

    While it may be a buzz word, it describes a new (to me) understanding of my mission as a Christ follower.

  34. 4-29-2007

    Grace,

    I think you added another component of “missional” that I have read from others. You said: “…when I put myself among people…” This seems to be one distinction that I have noticed. Those who describe themselves as “missional” do not live separate lives from those around them, although most still attempt to live different lives.

    -Alan

  35. 6-23-2007

    How about the difference between “Mission-Minded” vs “Missional”? Check out Milfred Minatrea’s “Shaped by God’s Heart:The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches.”
    NCI – New Church Initiatives has a class called The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church. They cite Miniatrea in their Bibliography. For example, Mission Minded is representative while Missional is participative.
    Just a thought. Be blessed!