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What is the/a Missional Church? Bringing it all Together

Over the last few weeks I’ve reflected on Craig Van Gelder’s thoughts on the missional church.  I chose Van Gelder because he is one of the missional church movement’s formative theologians.  Today I want to bring it all together, what is the/a missional church?

The church is…

What is unique about the missional church is that it does not begin with a discussion of purpose or strategy.  The missional church begins with a discussion of the nature of the church.  This is essential because the nature of church leads to the purpose of the church which leads to the strategy of the church.  So what is the church?

First we begin with God.  The missional church believes that God is a missionary God.  His mission is a mission to all of creation (Gen. 12:1-3; Isa. 65:17 cf. Rev. 21:1-4) and involves bringing every aspect of creation back into a right relationship with Him (2 Cor. 5:19).

The church, then, is the community of the redeemed who is sent by the Holy Spirit to participate in God’s mission (John 17:18, 20:21; 2 Cor. 5:18-20).

The church does what it is…

The church is a missional community, so it must do missional things.  Specifically, the church is a sign that God’s redemption is now present in the world, the church is a foretaste of what that redemption is like, and the church is an instrument to carry that message into every local context and to the ends of the earth.

The church organizes what it does…

Contrary to some in the emerging church movement (who are influenced by the missional church movement), organization and leadership are essential.  The community of believers must organize itself so that it can effectively be a sign, foretaste, and instrument to the world.  The key is how?

Here is where the missional church emphasizes contextual ministry.  Whereas God has already determined the nature and function of the church, it is up to each individual community of believers to determine how it will live up to its nature (translation: the church does not need to find its purpose, it is already given!).  The church simply needs to learn to translate its nature into action.  And how the church lives out its mission is relative!  It is relative because every continent, every nation, every town has its own unique traditions, culture, resources, etc., etc.  It is up to the church to determine how to best live out its calling in each context.

So how does a missional church do this?  The missional church assumes that God is already present in every context, therefore, the goal of the church is to get on board with what God is already doing.  This involves asking two primary questions: What is God doing? and What does God want to do?  Church leaders would do well to listen to the Spirit through the Word of God.  Church leaders would also do well to listen to members of their community who are listening to the Spirit through the Word of God to answer these questions.  Then, follow the Spirit and see where He leads…

That is the missional church.  May the Lord use us for His mission!

  1. November 25, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Brian, I have enjoyed your posts on Van Gelder’s book. I just ordered his newest “The Missional Church and Denominations.” You are probably already aware of this video, but it goes right along with your words here.


  2. Brian McLaughlin
    November 26, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Thanks Brad. I peruse your blog regularly and noticed that you put up the video but I have not seen it yet. Maybe a thanksgiving viewing is in store…

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