Missional and Dualism

Alan Hirsch says, “The word missional has tended, over the years, to become very fluid, and it was quickly co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they were doing, be they missional or not.”

Is this co-opting a problem? Absolutely, because it causes confusion, misunderstanding and uncertainty around the understanding of missional which will, if left unchecked, lead inevitably to the loss of the very meaning and concept behind the word.

So, why not just come up with another word or term. Because Hirsch rightly states, “the word sums up precisely the emphasis of the radical Jesus movements that we need to rediscover today. But more than that, in my opinion it goes to the heart of the very nature and purpose of the church itself.”

This post, Missional and Dualism, is just one of 50 in a global synchroblog that will attempt to reclaim and give some definition to the term.

And just what is missional?

Let us be very clear about what it is not first. It is NOT a method, model, style, agenda, program, or even an exhaustive theology. Missional is a stance, a way of thinking, a lifestyle.

I’ve often said that missional is a way of life where “the way of Jesus*” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. It speaks of the very nature of the Jesus follower.

Others have already done a fabulous job of fleshing this concept out, so I highly recommend that you read (more than once) two books: 1) Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, “The Shaping of Things to Come,” (Hendrickson Publishers, 2003) and, 2) Alan Hirsch, “The Forgotten Ways,” (Brazos Press, 2006). Don’t even bother with any other book on the subject until you have read and understand these two.

And don’t forget to read all the other bloggers who have posted today on the topic. See the blog list below.

Instead, I want to focus on a core reason why many struggle to understand what missional is. It’s called Dualism.

Ask yourself, are we merely devotees, who, as a mark of our faith, attend church weekly, participate in a bible study and often invite a friend or neighbor to join us? Or are we disciples of Jesus whose life is consumed 24/7/365 with, as Hirsch stated it, “the practical outworking of the mission of God (the missio dei) and of the incarnation”? Most operate in the former when God calls us to the latter. Missional is about the latter. So why does the average Jesus followers labor to understand Gods call and to live it out?

One core reason for this struggle stems from our western culture adopting the Greco-Roman supposition that all the world is divided into two realms: the sacred and the secular. The average Jesus follower segregates their life (all they are and do) into one of these two boxes.

Work, clubs, hobbies, school, recreation, vacation, money and other such things go into the secular box. Sunday “church,” bible studies, home groups, short-term missions trips, feeding the poor, quiet times, bible reading, prayer, teaching Sunday School, serving on a church committee, tithe and the like go into the sacred box. This thinking leads to considering the secular as pretty much devoid of anything sacred or spiritual. And anything spiritual must happen in the sacred box.

When you attempt to explain the concept behind missional, the average Jesus follower simply can’t comprehend how they could possibly live their entire life in the sacred box (where all things spiritual happens, right?) unless they became full-time clergy (the clergy/laity divide is a result of Greco-Roman dualism also). In their mind, to live 24/7/365 as a missionary would require them leaving behind the secular.

But which activities do most of our contact, dealings and interaction with our neighbors and community spring from? Can you see an overseas missionary thinking of their vocation as anything other than a powerful tool to be use to accomplish the practical outworking of the mission of God in their context?

I realize that most people have more gray between the two boxes than I’ve portrayed here, but my point is that we have to deconstruct the belief in dualism if you want to be able to communicate what missional is. Believers need to see their life holistically and completely sacred before they can begin to grasp what it means to be missional. God rules and reigns over all aspects of our lives.

Part of the point of the missional movement is to recapture the biblical understanding of who we are and the life we are called to walk. A life where we are consumed 24/7/365 with the practical outworking of the mission of God and of the incarnation. A life where “the way of Jesus*” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. But it will not happen in a church that operates within the concept of dualism.

* Seeking to consistently embody the life, spirituality, and mission of Jesus.

Other Synchroblog Contributors

Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Barb Peters
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner

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47 Responses to “Missional and Dualism”

  1. Steve Hayes says:


    I’m more than a little puzzled by your statement “the Greco-Roman supposition that all the world is divided into two realms: the sacred and the secular“.

    That doesn’t seem to fit at all with declaring the Emperor a god and demanding worship of him as a loyalty test with the death penalty for non-compliance.

  2. Ken says:

    I just wonder what evidence there is that “The average Jesus followers segregate their lives (all they are and do) into one of these two boxes.” Perhaps, coming from the UK I have a different perspective on things but surely, if we give all we have and are to Christ and are born again then Christianity can not be other than a way of life.

    Again, the statement “When you attempt to explain the concept behind missional, the average Jesus follower simply can’t comprehend how they could possibly live their entire life in the sacred box” is not reflected in my experience. The average Jesus follower would expect to find the Holy Spirit at work in everyday events.

    We were privileged to have Prof Robert C Monk, from Texas as our Minister for a period of twelve months and the impression which he brought with him of the state of the Church in the UK was greatly changed by the end of his stay. He went home to Texas encouraged and reassured that God is alive and working his purpose out amongst his people over here.

  3. hamo says:

    Hi Rick – I disocvered this a tad late, but have added my own contribution. Feel free to link it in if you wish



  4. Rick Meigs says:

    Steve, Thanks for commenting. Glad you dropped in. Certainly the Emperor was ruler over the secular and demanded that he also be ruler of the sacred. I see no issue.

  5. Rick Meigs says:

    Ken, Thanks for dropping in and commenting. I did post that “most people have more gray between their two boxes than I’ve portrayed here.”

    One would hope that “if we give all we have and are to Christ and are born again then Christianity can not be other than a way of life.” But when you examine, for example, how the average American Jesus follower spend their time and money, you have to wonder if this is so.

  6. Rick Meigs says:

    Hamo: Great to see you posting on the subject also. There will be a bunch of post from people who are not on the list. Seems to be an issue of concern.

  7. Patrick Oden says:

    Rick, thank you so much for this great synchro-blog. There are certainly a lot of voices involved in this and I’m hoping to get at each over the course of the next week. This is more than just shared blogs, I think these readings will be more enlightening than a good many seminary courses I took.

    Your point about dualism is huge, I think. Because this is a way in which our generation can bring something wonderfully helpful to historic Christianity. The Church has never been very good about living in a situation where Christianity is both legal and holistic. The confusion of letting the secular into the sacred has pushed people to retreat into the separated sacred since Constantine took power.

    The establishment of the church and the formation and continuation of Christendom locked this dualism is as essentially what Christianity is. But it’s very, very much not. And we now have the freedom and the passion to help bring the church back into its holistic expression that Jesus intended.

  8. Hi Rick,

    I saw mention of this synchroblog but didn’t come back to notice that you’d closed the official list. So for what it’s worth I wrote something on Missional Church In Tradtional Church Contexts. Thanks for stimulating the conversation and debate.

    Grace and peace,


  9. peter says:


    thanks for the post, very thoughtful. i decided to participate in the synchroblogging as well, although a little late.


    Edit by Rick: Here is a link to Peter’s post.

  10. Rick Meigs says:

    Patrick, thanks much for your comments.

    “Father, as Patrick voiced, may we become now the holistic expression that you, Jesus and the Holy Spirit intended.”

  11. Rick Meigs says:

    Dave. Super and thanks for sharing the link to your post.

  12. Rick Meigs says:

    Peter, thanks for participating in this global synchroblog. I’ve edited your comment to include a direct link to your post.

  13. Makeesha says:

    this is so true – that dualism is pretty much THE single strongest stumbling blog.

    I would also like to push against the notion that being in the UK gives one a non dualistic perspective. I was just talking with a gal who is from London and she exposed the experience of faith being integrated into society in a way that actually creates an even deeper problem – she said religion is everywhere and no where. The problem as she sees it is that religion has been integrated into society but very few people live the mission of Christ in daily society.

  14. Rick,

    Thanks for getting this baby off the ground. I think it is important to note that you are not judging the average Christian as doing something intentionally, but rather than sincere believers are often unaware of how co-opted we have become. Is that fair? When we consider it with that grace, I think it is hard to deny the very real problem you are presenting. It needed to be said, so thanks so much. Great post!


  15. Jeff McQ says:

    I think the need to deconstruct dualism is a great point that needed to be made. Being missional, in my understanding, is all about integration–finding Jesus (and His mission) throughout the fabric of our lives. Dualistic thinking stops us from embracing that fully, and I’ve found in my own life that I think more missionally in direct proportion to thinking *less* dualistically. :)

    Well, said. And thanks for hosting this synchroblog.

  16. Rick Meigs says:

    Mak, thanks for commenting. I also don’t think this notion is limited to us here in the USA.

  17. Rick Meigs says:

    Jamie: That is a very fair statement and one I should have made in the post. Thanks for bringing it up and the grace you bring to that which you touch!

  18. Rick Meigs says:

    Jeff, nicely said.

  19. Pat Loughery says:

    Hi RIck – thanks for doing this synchroblog! I’m late to the party, but I did a story about mission in the Celtic church today on my blog.

  20. ron says:

    Rick your words remind me of Colossians 1:15-20. The image of all things created by him and for him, hat he is before all things, and in him all things are held together. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe — people and things, animals and atoms — get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
    The world Jesus does not have this great secular/sacred wall, where life is compartmentalized. When we learn to see as Jesus, redemption, restoration will be about all creation…missional will be about all creation. And living missionally, will be living in the world all the time.
    Great post Rick, and thanks for getting the ball rolling…I’m looking forward to some great reading from the others as the week unwinds. Peace Ron+

  21. Brett Marko says:

    I have been following along the syncroblog moving through several of the sites. I have to express my concern about how one dimensional the conversation that I have observed really is. I see many lining up their words to defend a word, an ecclesiology, a movement, or whatever else. People stated that the word missional needs to be rescued from hordes of people who grabs onto the latest greatest idea and parade it around like the second coming. I suppose that is true.

    But if we stake out the “missional” ground what are we really doing?

    We are trying to define how God will work in our lives by placing him in some sort of box. I suppose that God is a “missionary” but he is so much more than that. You mention that missional is about a lifestyle, a stance. But when it comes down to brass tacks, it’s not about the lifestyle, it’s not about the stance, it’s not about the ritual, it’s about the relationship.

    God extends his grace to us as an invitation to the beauty of the relationship that is our God, as shown in the example of the relationship of the Trinity (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit). We are to embrace it and then extend it to those around us. Look at the Old Testament. The Commandments and the Law was all rules governing the framework of how we interacted with one another. Jesus’ teachings show us how relationship truly should be in his interactions with sinners and everyone he came in contact with.

    So if we are truly engaged in relationship the we naturally seek to be other centered. You cannot focus on yourself and maintain a relationship. If you are pursuing relationship with people in a God centered way, you are naturally missional, you are naturally being evangelical and moving out to engage more and more people in relationship. Couldn’t one say that our sin is merely our denial of true relationship where we seek our own will and not the best for those around us?

    We get caught up in the labels (such as Catholic, Baptist, methodist, missional, or emerging) and how we view people when we should engage in relationship truly and honestly.

    Did Jesus care about secular/sacred walls or even Pharisee/Sadduccee designations? No. He just sought us out and cares for us in relationship.

  22. David Best says:


    I’m not sure how to communicate the problem, but my experience growing up was not dualism as the problem per-say, (though I think this is definitely a problem) but rather a different lens through which scripture was read and there by values created. (I’m just saying this was my experience, I don’t doubt your experience.) I grew up in a fundamentalist church which integrated their fundamentalist, separatist ways into their life very well. : )

    Maybe Modernity is the problem, but maybe not, after all what would missional look like 30 years ago for people still fully modern?

    I guess the problem I’m seeing as I piece together the Biblical foundation for missional, is that the passages are fairly familiar to the church I grew up in. Ones often preached on (with the exception of the concept of systemic justice)

    I see people talking past each other a lot, saying the same
    things, but with very different meanings. (Yes, hence the point of this synchroblog) But will it make any difference?

    I guess the question is “how do you bring about paradigm shift?” We know that often times people won’t shift unless they are dissatisfied with the status quo. So if people are satisfied…?

    Do you think their is a place for some people to begin reaching out to the established, often times mega, church in a missional manner?

    I guess this brings up one other concern i have, that the missional community is not gracious enough, or ecumenical enough? (I don’t mean that in a personal way at all.)

    “YOU HAVE IT ALL WRONG!” maybe isn’t the way to go about bring the systemic change we all seek. Or maybe it is?


  23. brad brisco says:

    Brett, I like what you say here about relationships and being other centered. I do not think anyone would debate that.

    I simply think the issue of concern is that if we do not challenge our basic theological assumptions about who we are as faith communities in God’s Kingdom (which I believe is at the foundation of understanding the word “missional”) we run the risk of simply attaching the word “missional” onto everything the church is already doing rather than gaining a fresh perspective to see more clearly what the missional church is all about and why we need to foster such a posture.

  24. Peggy says:


    Thanks for putting this together. I’ve gone to all the bloggers — and all but a handful of them have got their posts up. Too much for me to take in at once, but lots to ponder.


  25. Malcolm+ says:

    I will be posting on the “what is missional” topic at simplemassingpriest.blogspot.com

  26. Rick Meigs says:

    Pat: Good to have you posting.

  27. Rick Meigs says:

    Ron, thanks for commenting. Colossians is such a rich letter. Paul even speaks about work and that we are to see it as “serving the Lord Christ.” Work is a sacred space.

  28. Rick Meigs says:

    Brett. Nice to have you drop in and comment. Know that you are always welcome.

    I’m not sure that I’ve read in any of the post an attempt to put God in a box. It is about responding to what God himself has revealed. Futher, I think you are seeing missional as a noun. It is an adjective. It is not a label like Catholic, Baptist, or Methodist. It is a modifier. It is descriptive.

  29. Rick Meigs says:

    Good post David and real valid concerns. We do need to be gracious, but that doesn’t mean that we should not attempt a corrective when it is needed. It is about how we go about that corrective. So far I’ve not read anything but helpful and polite posts (although I haven’t gotten to the all). A word is just a container for meaning, but that meaning can change both from positive influence and negative influence. If we want the meaning of missional to retain some semblance of its original intent, we need to be part of that positive influence.

    What would missional look like 30 years ago for people still fully modern? That’s easy. It would look just like what people like Frost and Hirsch advocate today. I know because we were living the lifestyle then as now. The only difference is that we were the odd man out and not part of the “in way” of doing church. We didn’t have books or blogs talking about moving into the neighborhoods, we just did it.

  30. Rick Meigs says:

    Thanks Peggy.

  31. Rick Meigs says:

    Thanks for the link Malcolm.

  32. JR Rozko says:

    For whatever it is worth, I went through all 50 posts (some folks haven’t posted yet) and added each one to my missional delicious tag with a summary comment on each post – a good way perhaps to sort through which ones you really want to read if you don’t read them all.


  33. Rick Meigs says:

    JR: Great job man and thanks.

  34. sonja says:

    Rick, wow … this is an amazing undertaking.

    I love your commentary on dualism and think there’s a lot of meat there to chew on. That makes a lot of things make sense in ways that they didn’t before.

  35. Rob Robinson says:


    My thanks along with everyone else’s for initiating this conversation. It took me all day, but I finally was able to post after encountering some obstacles. I really agree with you on this dualism issue. There are some other issues that need attention such as how we read the scriptures. But I believe dualism even plays into that issue. I convinced that dualism prevents us from being missional and often blinding us from understanding the paradigm.

  36. david says:

    thanks for this, Rick. Truly, the struggle that folks have in understanding a missional focus is this belief that if you have a conversation now and then about Jesus then you have done your job, fulfilled the great commission.

    thanks so much for organizing the synchroblog. I appreciate all your work.

  37. Brett Marko says:

    I understand where you are coming from but when I read a good majority of the posts regarding this, I see people who are fighting for a label. Missional is just as much a modifier as putting on a denominational modifier. That being said, if I was putting labels around my neck, I would gladly take the one missional.

    I just think that often times, we make things much more difficult than they need to be. Discussing what should be placed under the “modifier” missional. All I am saying is that being missional stems from our being in relationship. Ray Anderson in his book “An Emerging Theology for the Emergent Church” say this: “The fruit of the Spirit….is to be found in attitudes and actions that mainly affect our social relationships rather than merely our inner life.” He then goes on to say “Another criterion we can use to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the fruit of the Spirit. Those fruits….are characteristics of healthy human personal and social relationships.” (p165) Being missional is one of those fruit. It’s not a lifestyle but merely an outward sign of the relationship we embraced. That is our lifestyle.

    Henri Nouwen in his book “Way of the Heart” says this about being “missional”. “…we can see that in order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment, because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.” p 35

    So in conclusion, if we focus on being missional, we miss the point. We should focus on being in relationship with our God and others. If we do this, being missional naturally comes.

  38. Rick Meigs says:

    Brent, well articulated! You will find no argument with me on your main point and you certainly point out a very real danger of going to seed on a label instead of the relationship.

    My 40+ years of walking this path has shown that this relationship with God and others has an important practical side — the orthopraxy. To often it is assumed (not implying this is your assumption) that if we can only teach people proper truth (orthodoxy), the proper application or living out of that truth will be the natural outcome.

    Knowledge must “be complimented by orthopraxy.” Missional has much to do with the orthopraxy of our relationship with God and others. And in this the discussion of missional has great value.

  39. David Best says:


    On this: “We do need to be gracious, but that doesn’t mean that we should not attempt a corrective when it is needed. It is about how we go about that corrective. So far I’ve not read anything but helpful and polite posts”

    I didn’t mean to imply that people were rude. I didn’t see any problematic posts in and of themselves. I just wonder if we are achieving our aims? It’s an open question I don’t have an answer for. Just thinking.

    I guess the other conclusion I am reaching is that maybe I’m not the believer that you are. Which isn’t to say I really disagree with a lived missional perspective. It’s just that my faith involves doubts. Doubts in myself and others. I “believe” very little other than the oldest statements of orthodoxy, and that affects everything I do including my perspective on missional.

  40. Rick Meigs says:

    “I just wonder if we are achieving our aims?” I know you weren’t looking for an answer, but to be truthful, I have no idea if we are achieving an aim. Only time will tell. And for me It is not important that we achieve an aim other than to pursue Him and His purpose with all of our heart, mind ,soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.

    I’ve seen many movements (and been a part of a few) in my day. Not many of them are around today. Yet, God used them in powerful ways to influence the macro movement of his people. I suspect that history will record the same about the missional movement.

    David, I have heard your heart over the years and you are call bless by Him.

  41. Rick Meigs says:

    Sonja put together this list of additional bloggers who participated in the synchroblog but joined the party after the blogger list closed. Please do check out their posts.

    Kent Leslie
    Pat Loughery
    Dave Faulkner
    Arnau van Wyngaard

  42. Brett Marko says:

    Placing orthodoxy and orthopraxy aside, I believe we should instead look to our focus. As Mt 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So I we all should ask ourselves, where does our heart lie. This is some of the dangers of this conversation. We should be asking are we self focused or are we God focused. If we are God focused then we seek relationship with him and others in his name.

    Here is my point. One can act missional and do it for the wrong reason or motivation. We can engage in the right orthopraxy and still do it for the wrong reasons. I like how John Ortberg mentions about this dilemma. He called it our “shadow mission”. We all have a mission given to us by God. Our shadow mission is usually very similar to our God given mission but deviates only slightly. So like an arrow, it you are just a bit off, you can miss the target. His example is that he believes his mission is to teach yet his shadow mission is to seek approval and impress others when he is teaching.

    This can be coupled with the right orthodoxy (knowledge of truth) and yet we can still do good things for the wrong reasons. Moses taking credit for the waters of Meribah is a great example of this.

    What I am saying is that we need to teach people what it means to be truly in relationship with one another. If we are in true relationship, the orthopraxy comes naturally. If we seek true relationship with everyone we meet, the being missional is a natural by-product. Jesus himself says this in John 15:9-14 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

    So my definition of missional is that it is a by-product of our being in relationship with God and the relationship we have with others under the command “love each other as I have loved you”. This would be unconditionally. A simple command that is hard to do.

  43. Rick, thank you for spearheading this initiative. I have found it very moving, spiritually rewarding, to read through the 50 bloggers. (Not quite done yet, mind you!).

    I also appreciate your comments re dualism.

  44. Rick Meigs says:

    Thanks for the link Steve.

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