Back in June 2008, we had over 50 people participate in a synchroblog around the question, what is missional? There were any number of ways one could blog on this topic including, illustrate what the term means, describe what it is not and how it is wrongly used, define the term, explore its misuses, explore its theological foundations, etc.
The purpose of that synchroblog was to recapture the true essences of the term, since, over the years, its meaning had become fluid and often co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they were already doing. Unfortunately, we still face the problem today.
David Fitch once said that most missional thought leaders “emphasize incarnational forms of church over attractional; the church as Missio Dei over mission as program; organic forms of missionary living in neighborhoods over ministry set in a building.” Yet many other “purveyors of missional emptiness” continue to add the term to the current program they are attempting to promote or make cool sounding. As Ed Stetzer noted, “The word missional is used to bludgeon legalism and antinomianism alike. To some it is a sign of freedom from all established forms of the church and to others it is a degeneration into syncretism with the world.”
Then comes an ill-considered attack from Jonathan Leeman, Director of Communications for 9Marks, where he claims the missional conversation is leading to an ill-conceived emphasis on social justice which is “but a first step toward a new liberalism.” See my post “9Marks on Missional.”
So, do we abandon the term and move on? Not yet, because the concept behind missional is really big and words help us when we can agree on their definitions— or at least we can agree what we mean when we use a word.
Over the next few weeks, a group of bloggers want to thrash out the meaning of word “missional” and the activity which accompanies a missional church and lifestyle. It will be discussed here as well as at other places including the blogs listed below. As the conversation moves forward, I hope you will move from blog to blog and offer insights from the scriptures and from how you see missional happening in your local community.
There are a number of people working toward a “Missional Manifesto” that will be rolled out as a part of the missionSHIFT conference on July 12-15. The intent with the manifesto is to say, “This is what we mean when we talk about being missional.” It is not the manifesto’s intent (or within its ability) to say this is what everyone should think or say about the term, but reflects a hope that it will help us all be clearer and more mission-shaped in our own thinking and practice. Your comments and thoughts will be passed onto this group to help them frame and forge this manifesto.
In the weeks to come, we will be addressing certain points or issues in the missional conversation that need consideration and perhaps clarity.
Here is the initial group that will be leading this conversation (more will be added):
Tiffany Smith: Missional Mayhem
Bill Kinnon: kinnon.tv
Brother Maynard: Subversive Influence
David Fitch: Reclaiming the Mission
Jared Wilson: The Gospel-Driven Church
Jonathan Dodson: Creation Project
Rick Meigs: The Blind Beggar and Friend of Missional
Conversation on the grassroots level is important, so be sure to join in here and at the other blogs and let’s see where God take us.
For the sake of conversation today, leave a one sentence comment on your own definition of “missional.” Here’s mine (but not original to me): Instead of the usual live your life and share your faith, missional is about living your faith and sharing your life.