Posted by: michaelhanegan | April 27, 2009

Missional Going Mainstream?

So I’m in my car this afternoon. My wife is in the back seat making funny faces at my little boy and we are listening to one of the major Christian radio stations in town. Their “information update” came on with a “positive and encouraging story” and it was about more churches going missional.

In the following 60 seconds there was a sound bite from Reggie McNeal about missional church being about BEING the church instead of GOING to church and that it really was a challenge to the way that a lot of communities of believers have “done church.”

The reporter concluded that many are joining this “new movement” and that many others are subsuming their ministry and congregations under the banner of “missional” whatever that means.

My questions about what I heard were this…

— Is “missional” really a “movement”?
— If “a lot” or even maybe a “small majority” of people are “joining the movement” would it really be missional?

Here’s why I ask. Being missional, missional theology, missional ecclesiology, or whatever you want to call it is ALWAYS going to be from the margins and therefore will also be marginalized in the wider church. While there may come a time when this theological framework gains momentum and practicioners I think that we must be suspect of much of the “explosion” that we have seen in the “movement.”

And let me be VERY clear. I am not saying that WE need to be suspect of THEM. But that we need to be checking ourselves, our hermeneutics, our theology, our ecclesiology, and our motives to determine if we are truly joining God in his mission, or if we have simply instead (and more dangerously) crafted a new and more “relevant” image of God and are serving in that god’s mission.

What does it mean to be missional? Many people are asking. But I hope that we will simply SHOW them instead of merely trying to tell them.

Welcome to the Journey.


  1. Would more or all people going missional be the point? If we are saying that is what the church is to be and how the church is to view the world then certainly our goal would be for the whole church to start to think that way.

    I agree that it is of most importance that we continually question our own motives and make certain they are God-centered and not self-centered.

  2. Matt,
    I totally agree that it would be an amazing thing if many or “all” of the communities of believers were to acquire a missional framework for their lives and churches.

    But as I look at Scripture I can’t help but think that the missional movement will be more like a remnant than a dominant, overarching movement.

    This will require us to take our task seriously, to be willing to face some heat for our stance, and most of all to be diligent in making sure that we truly are as we claim to be.

  3. Hooray for bandwagons. 🙂

  4. Michael,

    Alright, so I’m hearing this word ‘missional’ a lot lately. And I’ve read some pretty good stuff on your blog thus far — but I can’t really find a definition for the word. [I know you stated even in this blog that you’d rather show me, than tell me, but I’m asking anyway.]

    It seems to me that in each place I read ‘missional,’ I could substitute my understanding of the word ‘incarnational.’ I even saw where you did that in one of your posts. Is that a fair statement? Is there anything people are trying to convey in ‘missional’ that I won’t get with ‘incarnational?’

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