“Missional” is certainly a buzz word, code for…..something we know we should be for and not against. At least this is the way it can be used sometimes. It can be used similarly to the way “kingdom” can be attached to just about anything else: kingdom economics, kingdom evangelism, kingdom leadership, etc. Many times when we speak this way we are simply attaching the word kingdom to some activity or concept without regard for the actual meaning of the word. Its meaning becomes “good” or something like that; we are simply to feel better about doing these things because we have attached “kingdom” to them without changing the way we do them. Now, everything we do should be “kingdom _______.” But chances are if we are going to go about life in a manner truly shaped by the kingdom of God that Jesus preached, then the things we do are going to look much different than the way we do them by default.
“Missional” is similar. These days it is cool to put “missional” on the beginning of everything: missional evangelism, missional living, missional leadership, etc. Again, it can lose its meaning without clear definition. So what is meant by “missional”? It means that believers have been called into and sent out on the same mission that God is on: to bring redemption and healing to all of creation through Jesus. We can only see what God’s mission is by mastering the story of the Bible. God created the world good, peaceful, abundant, and loyal to him, but it was destroyed by sin. God’s mission is to recover the world for himself, initially through Israel, climactically through Jesus, continually through his disciples, and ultimately through the second coming of Christ. Jesus came preaching that God’s reign is once again about to become all-encompassing in the world. Therefore, turn from your way of life and embrace God’s will and mission. Sin is dealt with in his death and life is brought into the world through his resurrection. Therefore, as his disciples we have been called to go into the world (1) to preach the same message, (2) to witness by our way of life to the coming reign of God, and (3) to bring new life to a world ravaged by sin.
“Missional” then is simply following God in his mission. The term is important and mind-bending because most Christians don’t see how their personal redemption fits into God’s story from beginning to end and how it is tied up with all of creation. There is a lot more that can be said about what it means to follow Jesus, but that will have to wait for another time.
Now, let me address my job title. I am the Director of Adult Discipleship and Missional Living at my church. The problem with this title is that it could imply that discipleship and missional living are two different things, or that mission is in some way a supplement to discipleship. This is a misconception that many of us have adopted. The reality is that being a disciple means reforming our whole lives according to God’s mission; being a disciple means being a missionary. Discipleship is usually thought of as learning the Bible, practicing the spiritual disciplines, and being holy. But we only do those things because the Bible tells us the story of God’s mission, the disciplines prepare us for mission, and holiness is a witness to God’s purpose for all creation.
Now, my title is formulated the way it is because “missional” is a new concept for many and this way it is identified with something that is familiar. In this way it is good. But it is a testimony to the emaciated view of discipleship that has for so long reigned in American Christianity. I would love to hear your comments on what I have said–or even new job title proposals!