Posted by: michaelhanegan | October 31, 2008

Initial Model of a Missional Hermeneutic

The following is my (very) initial understanding of what a missional hermeneutic might look like. I am curious to get your feedback and reflections. There have been a number of books and people who have influenced my current understanding of a missional heremenuetic. There is probably no bigger influence than Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. So here is my current (working) model of a missional hermeneutic. If you have comments but don’t want to leave them here you can email me at


Here is how this hermeneutic works…

(1) Missio Dei (What is God’s Mission and what is our place in it?)
This is the Christocentric (in as much as it allows a Trinitarian understanding) starting place for our hermeneutic. Here we take our understanding of and experience in the Missio Dei (a.k.a. The Mission of God) as the “lenses” through which we come to understand and act upon the text(s) we approach. The goal of this starting place is to avoid a mere transfer of information (enlightment/modernism) or mere speculation and discussion (postmodern) of the text to a place of both orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy (missional).

(2) Text(s) (How did the text(s) shape the missional identity of the original recipients?)
This is where the hermeneutic “begins.” Step 1 really acts as the pre-existing foundation/worldview/hermeneutic. Here the exegetical process occurs, but does so with the intention of reframing the “context” of that exegesis in the meta-narrative context of the Missio Dei. The question here is “How did this text shape the missional identity of the original recipients?” This question serves as the guide back through the Missio Dei.  

(3) Missio Dei (How does the Missio Dei inform our exegesis and application?)
This part of the process acts as a “turning point” in which we transition from a discussion and exploration of how the text(s) shaped the original recipients to an explanation of the implications that remain true for us today. We draw these conclusions (the result of our understanding of the Missio Dei and information drawn through the exegetical process) and then prepare to re-examine the text(s) informed by the process thus far on behalf of our community and our context. We cannot divorce ourselves from the exegetical process for a purely “discerning” hermeneutic. God works in history and that context must be appreciated in our understanding of Scripture.

(4) Text(s) (How do the text(s) shape our missional identity?)
Here we bring together our conclusions from the exegetical process and our understanding of how the text(s) shaped the missional identity of the original recipients to bear on the concepts and principles of the Missio Dei that shape our missional identity in our context. Our re-examination of Scripture at this juncture therefore acts as a safeguard preventing an interpretation or application that is divorced from solid exegesis and our grasp of the Missio Dei.

(DISCLAIMER: The later part of this hermeneutic is much more fluid than I have figured out how to communicate thus far. It is not intended to be a rigid formula.)

(5) Missiology (What are the missiological implications of our observations so far?)
Here we explore what steps 1-4 mean for our context. More specifically would be a discussion of how to communicate these things in a way that leads to the continuing conversion of the church and a faithful witness to unbelievers. This step shapes the community and simultaneously transfers into the next phase.

(6) Theology/Ecclesiology (How does all this shape us as a missionary community?)
Here we aim to make our community and our individual lives consistent with our witness. Orthodoxy,  orthopraxy, and orthopathy together is the goal here. This spiritual formation is corporate first (we usually don’t do it this way), and then also shapes individuals.

(7) Missional/Incarnational Application (What does it “look like” in our context?)
This is where orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy happen. This should be the tangible, measurable aspect of this hermeneutic. This is the place where we “plug-in” in a new and greater way into the Missio Dei.

(8) Missio Dei 
The result of this process is a greater understanding of and fuller participation in the Missio Dei as God’s missionary community (a.k.a. the Church).


What’s missing? Suggestions? Comments? Critiques?

What will it take for our churches to develop a missional hermeneutic?



  1. Michael, excellent! However, I struggle a bit with not putting “theology” along with the “mission Dei” and “texts” rather along with ecclesiology.

    I am more comfortable considering how my theology of the Triune God (and His mission) is determined/influenced from the text informs my missiology rather than my missiology informing my theology of the Triune God.

  2. Brad, this is one of the things that I struggle with and why I am so frustrated with only being able to express this in a reasonably linear fashion.

    Perhaps a better approach would be a spiral where we are constantly weaving back and forth between the elements of this hermeneutic.

    Can you think of a better way of expressing (or illustrating) how you think that change would function? Thanks for the input!

  3. Michael, We put this up on the screen in Intro to Grad Biblical Studies class. We think you are on to something good with this. One thing we’d like to see is a bit more definition of 6, esp. orthopathy, in the “fluid” part of your hermeneutic.

    Keep thinking!

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