"What is the missional church?" This discussion has recently picked up on Facebook and specifically on Tony Jones' blog. In this post (reposted from July) I offer a definition and a connection to my denomination, the Mennonite Brethren, an offshoot of Anabaptism.
Direction Journal, a publication of Mennonite Brethren higher education institutions, recently published an article of mine titled, "Can Mennonite Brethren be Missional?" The issue it appears in addresses the theme, "The Emerging Church: Critiques and Appreciations" (Spring 2010). The issue and article are now available online.
In the article I give a brief overview of North American church culture, define the missional movement and suggest nine points of similarity between the historic Anabaptist church, specifically the Mennonite Brethren, and the missional movement.
Here's a quick summary of those similarities:
- A distrust of creedal and dogmatic formulations and a reliance on the biblical witness.
- A corporate hermeneutic that honors the local community rather than an institution.
- A holistic witness incarnated as a liberating gospel in both word and deed.
- The "priesthood of all believers" -- the belief that all followers of Christ are active participants in God's mission.
- Loyalty to the kingdom and the grand narrative of God's story rather than to an earthly nation-state.
- The ability to live and worship in a place of exile, persecution, and dislocation.
- The congregation as the place to live a life of witness and service while being a counter-cultural presence engaged with the world.
- A community ethic of love and accountability.
- Voluntary, non-coercive membership in the church community.
And here's a teaser that might get you interested in reading the full article.
What is the missional church? This question is being asked by churches across North America. Is it a new fad? The latest “new and improved” technique for attracting a younger generation? An innovative program for evangelism? Or is it a new way of doing mission work? The word “missional” is used in many different ways: some people understand its historical and theological origins, and others flippantly use it as a label for a new marketing scheme. The purpose of this essay is to answer the question by first examining twenty-first-century North American cultural shifts, then by locating the place of the church within those shifts, and finally by identifying some ways that Mennonite Brethren might resonate with and learn from the missional conversation.
Here's the article. Do you have thoughts, corrections, rebuttals? I'd be glad to hear them.