The Missional Manifesto

The Missional Manifesto has been available as a web document for a few months now.  Despite the name (which everytime I hear it I can only think Communist Manifesto), the document does a beautiful job of reclaiming the meaning of “missional”.  The document appropriately grounds the concept in the Word of God, and introduces a succinct lexicon, that, if widely adopted, would avoid many of the misconceptions and misappropriations of the term “missional”.  As stated in the preamble of the document:

“One of the goals of theology is to safeguard the meaning of words in order to uphold truth and articulate a biblical worldview within the community of faith. Redeeming the integrity of the word missional is especially critical. It is not our intent (or within our ability) to define words for others, but we thought it helpful to describe and define how we are using the term—and to invite others to do the same. A biblically faithful, missional understanding of God and the church is essential to the advancement of our role in His mission, and thus to the dynamism of Christianity in the world.”

I personally find the effort of great help to me. As I speak about recapturing the missional nature of the church, it is often met with skepticism as though I am simply repackaging liberalism in new wrapping paper, or introducing the latest fad or jargon to occupy us for a few years until someone influential comes along and introduces the next new “-al” understanding…like grace-al, a church that radically experiences and ministers grace. (Okay, just kidding on that part…or maybe I’m just a few years ahead of my time!)

The framers of the document, listed below, are a pretty remarkable group of individuals.  While I haven’t read or heard all of them, people like Stetzer, Hirsch, Keller, Kimball, Mason, Greear, and Nation are some great thinkers and leaders in this area.  Names I omitted are simply because I am not familiar with them.  I express my gratitude to all of them for carefully thinking through and articulating the missional understanding of God and His church.

Ed Stetzer | Alan Hirsch | Tim Keller | Dan Kimball | Eric Mason | J.D. Greear | Craig Ott | Linda Bergquist | Philip Nation | Brad Andrews

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What is a missional church?

This is a question that has very much captivated me over the last year and a half or so.  Many people much smarter than me have provided definitions of varying flavors and there are many resources on the web and in print that flesh this topic out.  Since this is an area of personal and spiritual growth for me, and the direction my church is moving in, I will be reposting and sourcing information I have found helpful.

The following description comes from a website called Friend of Missional.  There is additional information at this site that is worth exploring.

Description of the Missional Church

The missional church is a collection of missional believers acting in concert together in fulfillment of the missio dei.1

The missional church is one where people are exploring and rediscovering what it means to be Jesus’ sent people as their identity and vocation.

The missional church is faith communities willing and ready to be Christ’s people in their own situation and place.

The missional church knows that they must be a cross-cultural missionary (contextual) people and adopt a missionary stance in relation to their community.

The missional church will be engaged with the culture (in the world) without being absorbed by the culture (not of the world). They will become intentionally indigenous.

The missional church understands that God is already present in the culture where it finds itself. Therefore, the missional church doesn’t view its purpose as bringing God into the culture or taking individuals out of the culture to a sacred space.

The missional church is about more than just being contextual, it is also about the nature of the church and how it relates to God.

The missional church is about being — being conformed to the image of God.

The missional church will seek to plant all types of missional communities.

The missional church is evangelistic and faithfully proclaims the gospel through word and deed. Words alone are not sufficient; how the gospel is embodied in our community and service is as important as what we say.

The missional church understands the power of the gospel and does not lose confidence in it.

The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light.2

The missional church will align all their activities around the missio dei — the mission of God.

The missional church seeks to put the good of their neighbor over their own.

The missional church will give integrity, morality, good character and conduct, compassion, love and a resurrection life filled with hope preeminence to give credence to their reasoned verbal witness.

The missional church practices hospitality by welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community.

The missional church will always be in a dynamic tension or paradox between missional individuals and community. We cannot sustain being missional on our own, but if we are not being missional individually we cannot sustain being mission-shaped corporately.3

The missional church will see themselves as representatives of Jesus and will do nothing to dishonor his name.

The missional church will be totally reliant on God in all it does. It will move beyond superficial faith to a life of supernatural living.

The missional church will be desperately dependent on prayer.

The missional church gathered will be for the purpose of worship, encouragement, supplemental teaching, training, and to seek God’s presence and to be realigned with God’s missionary purpose.

The missional church is orthodox in its view of the gospel and scripture, but culturally relevant in its methods and practice so that it can engage the world view of the hearers.

The missional church will feed deeply on the scriptures throughout the week.

The missional church will be a community where all members are involved in learning “the way of Jesus.” Spiritual development is an expectation.

The missional church will help people discover and develop their spiritual gifts and will rely on gifted people for ministry instead of talented people.

The missional church is a healing community where people carry each other’s burdens and help restore gently.

The missional church will requires that its leaders be missiologists.

1. Brother Maynard

2. Frost and Hirsch

3. Brad Sargent

What the Missional Church is Not

The missional church is not a dispenser of religious goods and services or a place where people come for their weekly spiritual fix.

The missional church is not a place where mature Christians come to be fed and have their needs met.

The missional church is not a place where “professionals” are hired to do all the work of the church.

The missional church is not a place where the “professionals” teach the children and youth about God to the exclusion of parental responsibility.

The missional church is not a church with a “good missions program.” The people are the missions program and includes going to “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The missional church is not about a new strategy for evangelism.

The missional church is not missional just because it is contemporary, young, hip, postmodern-sensitive, seeker-sensitive or even traditional.

The missional church is not about big programs and organizations to accomplish God’s missionary purpose. This does not imply no program or organization, but that they will not drive mission. They will be used in support of people on mission.

The missional church is not involved in political party activism, either on the right or left.

What the Missional Church Looks Like

JR Woodward at Dream Awakener has a perspective on success that really helps my understanding of missional. His post A Working Definition of Success provides a working definition of what missional might look like. Here it is:

Not simply how many people come to our church services, but how many people our church serves.

Not simply how many people attend our ministry, but how many people have we equipped for ministry.

Not simply how many people minister inside the church, but how many minister outside the church.

Not simply helping people become more whole themselves, but helping people bring more wholeness to their world. (i.e. justice, healing, relief)

Not simply how many ministries we start, but how many ministries we help.

Not simply how many unbelievers we bring into the community of faith, but how many ‘believers’ we help experience healthy community.

Not simply working through our past hurts, but working alongside the Spirit toward wholeness.

Not simply counting the resources that God gives us to steward, but counting how many good stewards are we developing for the sake of the world.

Not simply how we are connecting with our culture but how we are engaging our culture.

Not simply how much peace we bring to individuals, but how much peace we bring to our world.

Not simply how effective we are with our mission, but how faithful we are to our God.

Not simply how unified our local church is, but how unified is “the church” in our neighborhood, city and world?

Not simply how much we immerse ourselves in the text, but how faithfully we live in the story of God.

Not simply being concerned about how our country is doing, but being concern for the welfare of other countries.

Not simply how many people we bring into the kingdom, but how much of the kingdom we bring to the earth.

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Seek God for the City 2011

Forty Days to Palm Sunday,
March 9 to April 17, 2011

As we come to Him–seeking His face,
He comes to us–bringing His kingdom.

Pray God’s greatest hopes…

during the 40 days leading to Palm Sunday.
It’s an ideal time to pursue God’s promises
for your city.

…for the deepest needs…

of your community. Pray for urgent needs
with long-range vision.

…with practical passion.

Simple, powerful prayers open your heart to God’s purposes. Cultivate sincere desire to know Christ and see Him glorified in your world.

Information on Westgate Church’s (Weston, MA) implementation of Seek God for the City can be found at

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Contextualization – helpful or hurtful?

I have been asked on a number of occasions what contextualization means with reference to the Gospel.  Some I have spoken with automatically assume it is negative and should be avoided, likely because it is assumed that it means we are “watering-down” truth.  I have found the following definition from Ed Stetzer one of the best explanations:

“Most generally, to contextualize is to place something in a particular context. Thus, I would say that any definition of contextualization must include presenting the unchanging truths of the gospel within the unique and changing contexts of cultures and worldviews. This requires us to retain the nature of the truth and the integrity of the message while explaining and applying such things in the necessarily unique or specific ways that enable hearers to understand and respond.”

You can read the full post on this topic at Ed’s blog here.

Contextualization is essential, at least to some extent.  If we seek to connect God’s story to the story of our neighbors lives, we need to share the beautiful truth of the Gospel in a way that they understand.  What analogies and stories resonate with them? What cultural references can they identify with?  What vocabulary is understandable?

Consider this, without contextualization, we would still be listening to church services in Latin.  At some point, it was determined that the hearers were in a better position to respond to truth when it was communicated in their primary language.

So, what are helpful “methods” of contextualization and what are some traps to be wary of ?

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The Missional Church – Dr. Tim Keller

An excellent talk given by Tim Keller at the American Bible Society.

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