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.