Ordering the Missional Movement

Churches, organizations, seminaries, and theologians use the term “missional” with increased frequency. Reggie McNeal notes that missional has reached the “tipping point” (Missional Renaissance xv). A keyword search on “missional” finds 443 book titles on WorldCat. However, books are not the only measure of the missional movement. In fact, social networking sites and blogs are important links for missional leaders. A quick Google search shows that in one day alone (April 1, 2009), 75 blogs used the word “missional” in the title.

One of the primary areas of confusion about the missional movement is its relationship to the emergent movement. The two movements have been somewhat related in their desire to bring innovation to the church. However, they developed quite differently and have quite different goals. The emergent movement shows more interest in the formation and understanding of the Church. For instance, “emergents” recognize a movement beyond the modernist, bifurcated view of the church that places “liturgicals,” “social justice Christians,” “renewalists,” and “conservatives” at odds with one another (Tickle 140). The goal is to better communicate with the broader culture and have a better understanding of the meaning of “the Church.”

The missional movement has been inconsistent in responding to the emergent movement. On the one hand, Guder warns that the emergent movement is a reduction of the gospel, which tends to tie the Church too closely to culture (Guder, “Promise & Threat”). If the Church is tied too closely to culture, it will simply embody the problems of the culture. On the other hand, Alan Hirsch appears to welcome the emergent group into the missional conversation, referring to the “emerging missional church” throughout one of his primary literature contributions (The Forgotten Ways 66).

The rapid growth of the missional movement, along with confusion about the movement, makes surveying the movement difficult. Therefore, ordering the movement is important in researching the movement. Leadership Journal has been extremely helpful in mapping the movement. Below is a crude construction of the idea. Click here for the original Leadership Journal version from Hirsch’s website). Viewing the movement as a tree, Leadership Journal places Missional Church as the root, while identifying the branches of the missional church movement as “missional leaders,” “missional communities,” and “missional disciples.”

Watch for synopses of the three branches of the missional movement in the next few days.


Source: Leadership Journal


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