Home > Brian's Blogs, Missional Church > Missional Renaissance (3): The Heart of Missional

Missional Renaissance (3): The Heart of Missional

Reggie McNeal’s Missional Renaissance has a nice little chapter that explains the heart of the missional church.  If you are curious (or unsettled) about the missional church movement, this is the place to begin (and the post to read!).

Reggie begins with this little vignette:

He kept pressing me for an answer: “Tell me what a missional church is.”  My inquisitor was a fellow presenter at a national gathering of church leaders.  He was intent on my describing what a missional church looks like.  I tried to explain why we weren’t getting very far in our conversation: “When you refer to ‘a’ missional church, you miss the point,” I said.  “The discussion should be about ‘the’ church.  ‘A’ church is an institutional way of looking at church.  ‘The’ church is a movement.  ‘The’ church is people.”  He didn’t buy it.  My answer didn’t satisfy his need to develop a description of a something he wanted to call “church.” (p. 19).

Here Reggie nails the essence of the missional church: “Missional followers of Jesus don’t belong to a church.  They are the church.  Wherever they are, the church is present” (p. 19).  Read and savor that sentence over and over.  If you miss it, you’ve missed the missional church…

Now let’s review Reggie’s expansion of that thought.

The Heart of the Missional Church

“The missional church is an expression of God’s heart…Because God is on mission, the people of God are too.  God is a sending God.  Just as he sent his Son and his Holy Spirit into the world, he is sending his people into the world.  All sendings share the same redemptive mission” (p. 21).

Just as God the Father sent the Son on a redemptive mission, and the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit on a redemptive mission, so the Triune God sends the church on a redemptive mission (see John 20:21).  The missional church views the people of God as partners with God in His mission.  We are co-laborers and ambassadors of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5).

It is important to note here that the mission of God is a redemptive mission.  It is a mission that will fix a broken world.  This means that it is a ministry of service, but more than that, it is a ministry of reconciliation centered on Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the missional church does not view church as “a place where certain things happen” (such as the Reformers viewed it in terms of preaching and sacraments) and does not view the church as “a vendor of religious goods and services” (such as in our consumeristic culture).  Rather, the church is a people sent on a mission.  This mission is 24/7.  It is who we are.  It is everything we do.  It is in our families.  It is at our work.  It is when we gather as followers of Jesus Christ.  Everything we do and everywhere we go is as agents of reconciliation.

A Missional Characterization

So Reggie puts this all together into his understanding of the missional church: “the missional church is the people of God partnering with God in his redemptive mission” (p. 24).  And here is a critical implication:

“This characterization of what the missional church is allows for its organic expression because it describes the church in terms of people.  This means that whereever missional followers of Jesus are, the church is there – at home, at work, at school, in the neighborhood, at the ballpark, in the dance studio, in the homeless chelter, at the airport – whereever followers of Jesus are taking seriously their identity as the people of God” (p. 24)

Reggie does not minimize the necessity of gathering the church into local bodies.  This is essential (his book is written to help the gathering!!).  However, it is to emphasize that missional church is SO MUCH bigger than a Sunday event.

The Bible for Missional Eyes

But is this view of church biblical?  Reggie expands on this, but here are the highlights:

  • Genesis 12:1-3.  God blesses Abraham for the purpose of mission: “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
  • Exodus 19:5-6.  God calls Israel to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  This is missional.
  • 1 Peter 2:9.  God calls the church to be a new Israel, to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
  • Matthew 22:37-40.  God’s Word is all about loving God and loving others.  This is missional!
  • Matthew 5:13-15.  “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world!”
  • John 20:21.  “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

The Plot Thickens

Let’s summarize a theology of the missional church and lay a foundation for the rest of Reggie’s book:

  • People are created in the image of God.
  • God is on mission.
  • God’s mission is redemptive.
  • God’s mission is always being persecuted in the world.
  • The people of God play an important role in the mission of God.
  • The kingdom is a future that provokes a crisis today.
  • The missional expression of church will require new metrics to measure it’s vitality.
  • Missional expression can grow out of the current church, but it is not limited to the current church.

So there you go.  That is missional.

I buy it.  Pass along any thoughts you have.

  1. March 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    At first glance, the opening paragraphs above gives me pause. It feels like it could be used to justify not being a committed part of a local church. I caught the qualification at the end, but many in our era might hear the first bit and not the last.

  2. Brian McLaughlin
    March 11, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Reading blogs on your birthday? I hope that is enjoyable for you. Happy b-day by the way.

    Yes, I think some have taken liberty to take “low church” to a new low and have failed to commit. Abuse is always potential. But the ecclesiology, in my mind, is sound. Christians are part of the church regardless of their “membership” in a local community. The real question is will they live out this reality.

  3. March 11, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    I agree that it is sound ecclesiology. In fact, I am concerned about the fragmented state of the local church; we have taken “autonomous” to the extreme. I fear that my children don’t have a sense for our interconnectedness to the Body because we are a nation unto ourselves.

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