Home > Brian's Blogs, Missional Church > What is the/a Missional Church

What is the/a Missional Church

This week has seen an interesting discussion on the viability of the phrase “emerging church.”  At the same time some are debating the viability of the phrase “missional church,” arguing that the phrase either lacks or has lost its distinctiveness.  I want to argue for the validity of the phrase “missional church” by attempting to truly understand the theology of the missional church and the practice of a missional church.

It is important to note that the phrase “missional church” has become increasingly popular.  Unfortunately, many have co-opted the term without truly understanding its origin or intended meaning.  Specifically, many people claim to be “missional” simply because they are trying to be more “evangelistic” or “externally focused.”  While this is a major aspect of the missional church, it is most certainly not its essence.

The essence of the missional church is most definitively outlined in the book that started it all, Darrell Guder’s The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.  This book is a “must read” for anyone interested in the missional church but, frankly, it is a tough read.  Other books in the Gospel and Our Culture Series (initiated by the truly missional Gospel and Our Culture Network) are a little easier. Another important book is David Bosch’s Transforming Mission.

As good as these books are, I’m going to approach my discussion by walking through Craig Van Gelder’s The Ministry of the Misional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit.  There are several things that I love about Van Gelder and his books:

  1. Van Gelder is a theologian.  This may sound snooty, but I like reading the theologians of the missional church movement because, at its core, missional church is about theology not practice.  It is literally an overhaul of traditional ecclesiology.  This is what many people miss as they move straight to practical application.  Van Gelder’s theological background is a PhD from Southwestern Theological Seminary.  He has served as professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary and now serves at Luther Seminary.  He’s quite ecumenical!
  2. Van Gelder practices what he preaches.  In addition to his theological credentials, Van Gelder also has a PhD in administration from Texas.  In other words, Van Gelder knows organizations and how they operate.  This gives him keen insight into applying missional theology to the local church.
  3. Van Gelder is a missional church pioneer.  A member of the Gospel and Our Culture Network, the missional church is not a new fad for Van Gelder, he’s pioneered from the beginning.
  4. Van Gelder emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit more than most missional authors I’ve read.  Enough said.
  5. Van Gelder is a good writer.  Perhaps more than anything, Van Gelder can write in a deep and profound way that is easy to understand.

I describe Van Gelder’s background because 1) it is impressive! and 2) because this is clearly a guy who can help us understand the original intent and theology of the missional church while providing great insight into the practical applications.

So what is the/a missional church?  Join me as we walk with Van Gelder on a fun and exciting journey.

  1. September 26, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading more!

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