Missio Dei: we are sent out by God to be a missional church

Missional. This new hip word that first came onto the Christian scene ten years ago is now misunderstood and being misused. I used to associate the word “missional” with evangelism or seeker-sensitive, but apparently, this is incorrect.

The missional movement can be traced back to a book written by six authors, edited by Darrell Guder ten years ago. Alan Hirsch’s article in the lastest edition of Leadership Journal that defines missional. According to Hirsch, we must maintain the integrity of this word for the sake of the survival of Christianity in the West. I agree. We Christians in the west have resorted to attraction; that is, our church model of reaching out to the culture and drawing people into the church, no longer works…or did it ever work? We end up becoming too much like the culture of the world and eventually become overtaken and engulfed by it. Then, the church will have lost its usefulness and is no longer being the church that Christ has called us to be. We, the church, have failed and have not truly fulfilled our calling as a missional church.

So what is missional? The doctrine of mission Dei is the sending of God. We, the church, are actually the “sent” people of God. We, the church, are the instrument of God’s mission in the world. However, we have often thought of it being the other way around—that is, we’ve thought of the mission as an instrument of the church, but this is incorrect. To be missional means that we, the church, are sent into the world. People do not come to us…we go to them. This way of thinking about being missional is different from the hopeless attractional model of church.

In the past, I have fallen for this and am guilty of trying to be attractional. This does not work and has never worked, and I think we are slowly getting the picture. Churches that have been doing evangelism and have the correct posture of truly being missional have seen and will see increasing numbers come into the church. Why? Because live breathing Christian believers are actively bring them into the church. Churches that fail to carry the proper posture of missional will be in for a big surprise because they will wonder why there are no new people being brought into the church, and their memberships are in decline.

Another point is that this missional theology applies to the entire life of the believer. Hirsch says that “Every disciple is to be an agent of the kingdom of God, and every disciple is to carry the mission of God into every sphere of life. We are all missionaries sent into a non-Christian culture. This is very important. God is a missionary God who sent his own son into the world; therefore, we also ought to carry the mindset that we are sent into the world.

We can no longer expect to look like the world and expect the world to come to us. We must go into the world to be agents of the kingdom of God. Let’s go to it and be the missional church that God has called us to be.

3 thoughts on “Missio Dei: we are sent out by God to be a missional church

  1. Nathan, Hirsch would say that being missional is not synonymous to the emerging church. Emerging seems to really picked up on this term. However, I think many evangelicals know, and are, practicing being missional. I am just beginning to learn about missional myself.

    Tim, I can relate to how you feel. Too many of our churches leaders are sitting on the fence and need to take leadership. At this point, I think people will either pray for our leaders, or just leave the church, or do both. Maybe the church needs a big shake-up to wake up.


  2. I’m a member of the Anglican Church here in the UK and it’s losing lots of members, and I am teetering on the edge. What you say makes sense. The CofE has no strong leadership, no strident calls against evil (apart from those few who aren’t afraid to rock the boat), and too much namby-pamby trying to be all things to all people nonsense rather than just be the people we were called to be. The leaders expect people to come to church, when instead they should be out there doing what they are supposed to be doing.

    p.s. Comment deleted my fault again. I have an online ID which I use around the place, but prefer to use my real name here, and forgot to click ‘Name’.


  3. I’m slowly but surely coming around from a more traditional upbringing to a new way of approaching my faith. The emerging church movement isn’t quite how I would describe myself, but missional is definitely one of the closest labels to where I’m at right now. Like you’ve pointed out though, it’s not readily apparent what it means to be missional.


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