Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


“Missional”: To use or not to use?

posted by xscot mcknight

Another letter with a very good question. I open it up to you today and I’ll weigh in later. I hope the missional leaders and emerging movement leaders will listen to this question. This pastor is suggesting that the term “missional” is perhaps as offensive as the term “evangelistic.”
Dear Scot,
Your “Missional Jesus” series prompted me to write you an email about something I’ve been thinking about for awhile.
I have been wondering about the wisdom of “Christians/churches” attaching the title “missional” to what they are doing. While in general I am a big fan of “missional” principles that organizations like Allelon encourage and embrace, I can’t help but think that the word “missional” is a rather non-missional word.
Think about it. From someone who is not a church insider, it doesn’t seem the word “missional” could be fully separated from the word “missionary.” In fact, I believe this is intentional. At least part of the goal, it seems, of the missional church movement (if you can call it that) is for Christians to see themselves as missionaries to the surrounding non-Christian culture.
While being a missionary to another culture/country has many positive and probably helpful connotations for the Christian subculture, it has very negative connotations amongst nearly everyone else in the western world – who happen to be the very people we so-called “missional” Christians are hoping to engage.
This makes me wonder: Why don’t we simply stick to the basics of the Jesus Creed? Love God. Love Others. Follow Jesus as his life-long apprentices. If we avoid labeling ourselves and our churches with the latest catch phrase—be it the word “missional” or something else—perhaps we will also avoid making those people we’re called to love feel like our mission project.
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this subject. If you want to get a broader dialogue about this going on your blog feel free to do so.
Blessings,
Matt Kronberg



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Katherine

posted July 2, 2007 at 2:42 am


Hmm. What a very provoking question! (in the best possible sense…)
Actually, I don’t much know what to say. I come at this from an insider perspective, and I can’t much draw on the perspectives of outsiders, since I’ve haven’t ever asked them if they knew about missional language and what they thought about it.
As insider language, that is, language Christians use with other Christians, I find missional language to be refreshing and robust, and it is typically used in conjunction with mindsets and orientations towards Christian life that don’t treat non-Christians (or Christians of the “wrong sort”) as pet projects. “Evangelism” has the dubious honor of those negative associations. But, like I said, I honestly don’t know to what degree it would have negative associations to non-Christians or any others who aren’t in the thick of “Christian-speak”.
These concerns are probably, as Matt points out, most urgent in non-Christian cultures, especially where the difference between missional and missionary might be lost on a person. However, I have seen the language of mission used in the U.S. outside of a Christian context, where people employ it to describe commitment to ideals and causes.
I look forward to the insight and discussion of others!



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Matt

posted July 2, 2007 at 3:14 am


Hey Scott,
First of thanks for your blog I enjoy following your posts. My wife and I are “missionaries” in the North Western corner of Spain, however we almost never call ourselves that. Mostly, because when we do the people here think that 1) they are just proselytizing projects for us and 2)they remember the Spanish Conquistadors who where considered “missionaries” and whose ministry strategy was convert or die.
So, we don’t use the word “missionary” in Spain, because the meaning that we associate to the word “missionary” is different from the word that is understood and we find that it is a hindrance to ministry more than it is helpful. So we have found other ways to describe who we are and what we do that are more accurate.
Now, when we return to the states and talk about what we do within Christian circles we use the word “Missionary”, because for the most part Christians understand what we are saying that we do when we use that word.
I realize that “missional” and “missionary” do have slightly different connotations, but I believe the idea of how we communicate remains the same. The best communication means that the meanings that we assign to a word are the same meanings that the listener assigns to the same word. I don’t know if that ever happens perfectly, but that is the goal of communication.
So, the word missional is a concept that is being developed and refined within the Christian community. It is a word that explains a whole set of ideas. I think that as Christians we should be careful of all of the words that we use and be mindful of the contexts in which we use them, because we want to be good communicators. If the word Missional is understood in the way that we mean it, then great! If not, then it is counter productive to our work and we should find a word that fits better.
Blessings,
Matt



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Ted Gossard

posted July 2, 2007 at 4:42 am


This is a very good question. I’m not sure we can avoid any and every term that might be misunderstood or cause offense. I do think the idea of loving God/loving others should be what is emphasized and talked about, and filled in as we do what we are as church.
To be missional is to identify with Jesus in the calling we have in him as his Body in the world. But we do so with wisdom and in a subversive mindset. Like instead of calling ourselves “Dutton (or whatever else town) Missional (or Missionary- as in one denomination) church, how about something like: Dutton Family Center, or better for me something that is more generic: one I know: “Water’s Edge”. In the teaching we acknowledge we’re on mission in this world, what we’re here for….



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Roger Schmidgall

posted July 2, 2007 at 6:25 am


Perhaps we could call the church “apostolic” and the messengers sent out “apostles”…again?



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michael bells

posted July 2, 2007 at 6:48 am


I like the word “missional” to describe what we are doing in the world – as “insider” language. I do think, we need to be careful about the language we use to describe what we are doing. “missional” is philosophical / theological language, but I don’t like it when we tack the term “missional” on to what we do. & this is from someone who is part of the tribe known as the Evangelical Missionary Church, Canada… it’s a sister tribe to the Missionary Church, stateside.
Many of the churches simply shorten it to EMC or refer to it as a footnote to their name. I think both words “evangelical” and “missionary” are good words, but they are also words laden with a ton of baggage in our world.



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Brad Boydston

posted July 2, 2007 at 6:59 am


Call it whatever you want, but as Elwood the Great, theologian of the early 80′s put it, “We’re on a mission from God!”



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John Frye

posted July 2, 2007 at 6:59 am


I do know some Christian (even leaders) who think that “missional” is just another trendy word of the emerging/emergent crowd. They have not interest, it seems, in the theological depth, Christ-centered focus, and practical expression that goes into “missional.” With that said, I like the idea of speaking and living the Jesus Creed. Why let terms trip up the mission?



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fr. Peter

posted July 2, 2007 at 7:19 am


Our church is seeking to be missional, but has eschewed the word missional from out “entry level” vocabulary. We just try to describe who we are and what we do. For example, we define commitment to our church in terms of practices rather than programs. We then invite people to join us by embracing a rule of life defined by four practices: worship, community, formation and mission. (We flesh out what we mean by this for newcomers.)
Anyway, we describe who we are in a manner that contrasts how we do church from other ways of doing church. Hopefully we are on track and helping people live missional lives in Christ.



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Nathanael

posted July 2, 2007 at 7:35 am


Personally, I have found the word very helpful in my own walk, in my personal journey.
It helps me regain focus on the heart of my God and on His desire for me. As our dear brother Matt (the missionary in Spain) pointed out so well, we need wisdom in how we use any word.
But in a context where it is not offensive or red-flag-raising, I love it. As I’ve conversed with some of my brothers and sisters recently, we find ourselves using the word often. It seems to encapsulate the deep truths of what our Lord calls us to. Following through on the Jesus Creed is nigh unto impossible without being missional.
Good question, brother.
(Microsoft Word does not even recognize the word.)



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joe

posted July 2, 2007 at 8:32 am


Coming from the mennonite church, we have used the word missional alot over the years. some people have discussed doing away with the term because it is tired and overused. but the emerging church movement has breathed life back in to it and has helped us recapture what it truly means to be missional. i dont think the world sees it as a stigma. maybe we do. i would be surprised if any have even heard the word “missional” who hasn’t been churched in some way. Peace.



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Rod

posted July 2, 2007 at 8:46 am


Scot,
This is an interesting question. Here are some reactions.
1) “Missional” not only has connections with “missionary” but also with “mission.” Most businesses and organizations have mission statements. As Brad points out, even “on a mission from God” can have positive connotations.
2) This leads to my second point: the reaction that “outsiders” have to “missional” will be determined mostly by what we do. The reason that “evangelism” leaves a bad taste is because of what people have done under that banner.
3) Missional is not seeker sensitive. While we want to make sure that our language carries no unwanted baggage, we should not be focused on avoiding any offense.
4) Internal shorthand can be very useful. When missional-minded people use “missional,” other like-minded people have a good idea what is meant. To explain the meaning in detail each time is just unworkable.
Rod



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Diane

posted July 2, 2007 at 9:14 am


Very interesting thread.
Outsider perspective: When I first began hearing about the emerging church people threw around the term missional. I had no idea –no idea — what they were talking about. I found the term confusing, alienating and odd … I doubt the average outsider has a clue what it means.
Insider perspective: Now that I understand it, I love it. Like most insider terminology, it packs much meaning into one work. It’s a wonderful shorthand for conveying information … if you’re on the inside.
I wouldn’t use missional on the outside until it starts getting better understood. I like “serving the community” or “living the faith.”



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ChrisB

posted July 2, 2007 at 10:00 am


You’re probably right about the word being a turn-off, but those who use it will say that it is necessary to let people who are looking for that “kind” of church know that this is one.
To really answer your question, I think we have to ask: Who/what is the weekly church gathering for? If it is to draw in unbelievers for the purpose of evangelism, then the word may be counterproductive. If it is to equip believers to go out and live for Christ for the next seven days, then the word may be exactly what you want to put on the sign.

Unrelated shamless plug: I’ve posted a picture of the prettiest girls ever on my blog :)



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Jeff Hyatt

posted July 2, 2007 at 10:24 am


Good discussion. From my participation in the ‘missional’ conversation, it appears to me to be specifically focused on the renewal of the current church. And as such, ‘inside language’ is wholly appropriate if it moves us more into participation with God in what he is doing in our world. This is not to say that the ‘missional’ focus leads us to stand at our neighbors front door and say “Hi, I’m missional and I’m here to evangelize you!” *grin*
Quite the opposite is true. I have found a good observation of some current ‘missional’ practices described in Milfred Minatrea’s book “Shaped by God’s Heart – The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches.”
‘Missional’ is not the latest wave of the ‘seeker’ movement where we need to change all of our langauge and practices to reflect current cultural trends. Nor is the ‘missional’ conversation another term for the emerging church – although there may be some overlap of interest.
If I might over simplify, emerging folks are more likely to write off the established church and start something new, where the missional conversation is more likekly to seek to renew and refocus these established churches to join with God on his mission in their community and world.
So, ‘inside language’ issues really aren’t the issue – in my view. Faith and action, practice and polity, ethos and vision are at stake in the missional conversation for the Church established and newly born.



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Diane

posted July 2, 2007 at 10:52 am


Hi Jeff,
I hear what you are saying (I think!) but as a good postmodernist I think language issues always are (a big part of ) the issue.



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Percival

posted July 2, 2007 at 10:56 am


I’m like Diane number 12 in that I still
“have no idea what you are talking about with “missional”. I find the term confusing, alienating and odd … I doubt the average outsider has a clue what it means.”
However, unlike Diane, I haven’t tried very hard to find out what it’s about. to me it’s like going into a restaurant and seeing an item on the menu that says,”ratatouille”. I doubt I would order it even if it was explained to me what was in it. I have glanced at a few of Scot’s Missional topics and have never read the Jesus Creed (It’s not available in the Middle East.) I confess that to me a casual observer, ‘missional’ seems to be a grab-bag term for any emerging church idea.



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Dan Brennan

posted July 2, 2007 at 11:00 am


This is another twist on language and one’s immediate culture and whether or not one can be inclusive by using specific terms by engaging with people outside the specific culture. I vote a qualified yes, it’s okay.



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MattR

posted July 2, 2007 at 11:18 am


As an ‘insider’ term of self-understanding, yes, this can be a helpful phrase… However, I would hardly (if ever) use it in contexts where we are ‘out in the world.’
Here is another thought though… as a ‘missional’ congregation we want to be a centered rather than bounded set, which means changing the focus from who is ‘in’ and ‘out’ to who is traveling in the same direction/journey… in this case it is helpful in a qualified sense. We must help define this language to the people we use it with… I talk about God’s ‘mission’ of love to restore people/creation, and thus we are to BE God’s mission in this world as a community… loving God and loving others for the good of the world.



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kent

posted July 2, 2007 at 11:53 am


I agree with Rod #11, because most businesses are very comfortable with the concept of mission. How may non-profit organizations like park districts or schools proudly display their mssions statement for all to see.
Besides we are who we are, we are missional. No apologies. People will attracted or repelled by our behavior and exhibited attitudes. I havw often wondered why it is the church that has dance around the terms we use? From my obersvation almost no other entity in the Anercian culture does this. We are those who carry on the mission of Jesus. I think of Monday Night Football (don’t laugh) because they never apologize for their vocabulary, and they expect you will pick it up as time goes by. They are ratings driven, but they do not avoid who and what they are.
We are mssional, or at least supposed to be, why apologize for it?



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chris williams

posted July 2, 2007 at 11:54 am


One of the theme responses to the above letter is the “inside – outsided” strategy when using language. I understand that missional packs a good punch when trying to convey a message to the insiders, but does “love your neighbor” pack less of a punch?
Perhaps the problem is not that we put too much meaning and baggage into “missional”, but that we have diluted “love your neighbor.” If we biblically define love, I think that it has quite enough missional meaning in it. We need to spend the time with our church families to educate them about “love your neighbor” and I think they’ll grasp it, maybe, even better than the word “missional” and more organically integrate it’s concept into their lives.
I like Matt’s observation and I believe it would simplify our language if we used “love God, love your neighbor.” We don’t have to worry about whose listening.
Peace



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Luke

posted July 2, 2007 at 12:02 pm


Missional is not a word, according to most dictionaries in print and on line. If you look it up, you may get references to “mission” and “missionary.” But you won’t get a definition, and if you did, it would not be one like the ones most readers of this site would give.
The nice thing about making up a new word is that you get to define it. The sad thing about using it, once you’ve defined it, is that others then get to associate their own meaning to it.
I come from a family of generations of missionaries. They were missionaries because they were all about spending their life immersed in the mission. Yes, that took some of them to some far off places, but what was important to all of them was doing good works, that others might see and glorify God. Roll up your sleeves and help people, with passion and a real sense of mission. When they ask why – which most eventually do – then you can explain. It was all about what some now might call living a missional life.
However, others outside “the community” have now chosen a different definition for the word missionary – one that contains negative baggage. So now they control the meaning of the word. And we have to come up with a new way to express it. And that new way will only remain new for so long, after which others will start to associate baggage with that, and we’ll have to invent another word.
What does it say about us that perfectly good and wonderful words like missionary get corrupted?
Whatever you want to call it makes little difference. Living it makes a huge difference.



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B-W

posted July 2, 2007 at 12:45 pm


Interesting post. It may be worth pointing out that Fuller Theological Seminary (which is quite fond of the word “missional” in my experience) recently changed the name of its “School of World Mission” to the “School of Intercultural Studies” for much of the reason described in the original letter (i.e., the negative and often even dangerous connotations the words “mission” and “missionary” have in certain non-Christian contexts). This was done despite some very loud protests from some of Fuller’s constituency.
But now I wonder if we’ve (I’m a Fuller grad who works at the seminary) given enough thought to the point raised in the original post….



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Brian

posted July 2, 2007 at 12:48 pm


I think each group has a right to have its own jargon, even so when we are among “outsiders” we need to shed what some pejoratively refer to as “Christianese” and try to relate our beliefs and such in a way that those not familiar with Christianese will understand. Some might argue we should not even have Christianese at all in or out of the Church environment.



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Superstar

posted July 2, 2007 at 1:13 pm


I really see no concern with the letter that was written. “Missional” is an insider term that describes that fact that we are attempting to be a church that carries on the mission that Jesus began 2,000 years ago, but for our world today. In my estimation, “missional” is a better term than “evangelical.” It’s interesting that evangelical, which once was an insider word, has now become a media term to describe right-wing Christianity. This is unfortunate but true. Therefore, maybe “missional” is a replacement term for the good things about evangelicalism, yet is transforming the old notion of evangelicalism into something that emerging generations of Christians can embrace as something progressive. There is no need to get stuck in the old forms of theological decisions that deserve the right to be renewed for a new generation. If our goal in Christianity is to bring the future into the present or to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven, then we need new terminology, new theology and new methodology to achieve what the church has not achieved up until this point in history. There is nothing wrong with history, in fact it should be honored. However, we no longer live in history, but rather in the present that is shaped by the future. So, if that is being “missional” then I am all for it.



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Jeff Hyatt

posted July 2, 2007 at 1:37 pm


I’d like to throw out a question…”How many of our neighbors will reject us because we use the ‘word’ missional in our congregations?”
Does language matter? Sure. But the term ‘missional’ is not a magic bullet that will reach our world. Living missionally will, because this term is about living toward and for the other. It is simply a term to describe a lived life that looks like Jesus’ life.
So if we don’t like the term ‘missional,’ great. Let’s agree on a new term, although the likelihood of coming to complete agreement on any one word is slim. Let’s live missionally (or whatever we want to call it) and get about the business of doing life with God for the sake of the world!



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Peggy

posted July 2, 2007 at 1:50 pm


Lots of great comments here. I agree with much of them and would just summarize it like this: As an insider term, it is powerful to communicate a huge concept. The problem, for the inside as well as the outside, is when we let a “word” speak to “who we are” rather than let our “actions” speak louder than our words.
We dance around terms because there is a disconnect between what we are saying and what we are doing. Most often, we are saying lots of things (too many things?) while we are not doing what is needful: Loving God and loving others.
As long as we depend on our words to make up for our actions, we will have a credibilty problem. If your actions are truly “missional” it will be somewhat irrelevant (to the outsider) what you call it. In the same way, if your actions are not consistent with God’s mission, no amount of words will be effective to redeem what we have squandered.
But don’t let people bully us into giving up our specific vocabulary. I’m with C.S. Lewis in his bemoaning of the “ruin” of perfectly good words….



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John Shepard

posted July 2, 2007 at 1:51 pm


I resonate (oops, there is a word/concept already used…) with what other Christians (ouch, that one is under fire alot these days) and brother and sisters ( there I go again, using words that convey many things) think regarding the terms we use in the marketplaces we live and work in. I see how sometimes missionaries must be careful with their terminology and try to be respectful of local understandings. Yet Jesus seemed to often be misunderstood, even by his own followers. For me, the bottomline is how a follower keeps coming back to converse with, care for and offer meaningful love to others. I don’t think those who are truly seeking God, will withdraw and get upset over a follower using a word that is packed with different connotations or meanings. Just a thought.



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John Shepard

posted July 2, 2007 at 2:30 pm


I spoke too soon. Peggy’s entry speaks volumes. Thank you Peggy. JMS



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Jim Martin

posted July 2, 2007 at 3:14 pm


I really like Peggy’s comment. Well said! I like the way you combine right actions with words.



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Peggy

posted July 2, 2007 at 3:18 pm


You’re welcome, John…but this brings me back to what I feel is a root issue: sloppy communication. When we use insider words around outsiders (and frequently people in the church who are not in the leadership “inner circle” are inside-out ;) ) we create a power struggle. People hate being left out.
I will never forget the feeling of being around people who will speak in another language so that then can stand next to you but exclude you from their conversation. It is a terrible thing to experience.
When we use our “big” words without being mindful of those who are “around” we do confuse and make people feel bad. But we also sometimes set up the problem of people not being educated properly as to the complexity of the concept that is encapsulated in the term…and in the absence of information, they make things up. Next thing you know, people are using words without understanding what they are really saying…talk about chaos!
All you have to do is listen to what little kids say. They want to get what the older kids or folks are talking about…but they just don’t have the communication skills or vocabulary to do it…and so we get some of those great gaffs that we love to laugh about.
My favorite one currently is about the boy, repeating The Lord’s Prayer in church, saying “forgive us our trash baskets, as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” Although it is getting serious pressure from one I heard yesterday, when the child “whispered” to the mother in the middle of the prayer “Lord, we are but dust in your sight…” to ask “Mommy, what is butt dust?” You can tell I still have little kids….
But we also get this problem in which we find ourselves, where the words become more important than actions.
Maybe “butt dust” is what accumulates from “resting” on one’s laurels…or vocabulary? ;)



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Julie

posted July 2, 2007 at 4:34 pm


I have a hard time not just with the word but the concept. The church tends to see itself in any configuration as the one doing the good to others who need the good done to/for them by the church. As long as that is the primary posture of the church, the feeling of condescension, intrusion and presumption will accompany any word the church uses to describe itself as “chief do-gooder.”
In a time where the church’s image needs some rehabilitation, it seems like being less about “helping others” and more about “learning from” others (actually giving up having all the answers and letting someone else lead the way) would be important.
I don’t like the term missional because it is just a new word to say essentially the same things the church likes to say about itself: we are here to make a difference in your life by being good, kind, helpful, serving.
What if the church’s message were: What are you all doing in the community? How can we fit in and let you lead while we scrub the toilets or learn how to see the world through your eyes?



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Peggy

posted July 2, 2007 at 4:44 pm


Good point, Julie. The church does not have the corner on “doing good.”
But the mission of God is more than one of just doing good, isn’t it?
I think reconciliation, in any context, can only happen when all parties are willing to learn and teach, follow and lead, submit and serve. The readiness level of the follower must drive the leadership style being employed.
Too many in the church today see this kind of openness and vulnerabiity as “weakness” as opposed to “strength.” More’s the pity…



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Jeff Hyatt

posted July 2, 2007 at 5:23 pm


I have been reading Alan Roxburgh’s writings on the “Missional Church,” which came out of intereactions with Lesslie Newbigin, and I am struck with the difference of definition and perspective that Alan has compared to much of what we have discussed today. The criticisms of the word ‘missional’ and the perceived meanings appear to be shooting in the dark, at least in comparison to what these folks have been working to flesh out for years. I would like to suggest the Allelon website http://www.allelon.org and the free writings from Alan on this site for further reading on this topic. It might have an interesting impact on our thinking and dialogue.



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Jon

posted July 2, 2007 at 5:51 pm


I agree that catch phrases are a waste of time. But why do we waste our time trying to tear down phrases that may actually shed some light into existing problems within the Church? If a word makes sense, use it to express an emphasis that has been lost. If not, move on. I like to use the words “emerging” and “missional” to explain some of the ideas that run through my head. This is because they give me a feeling of movement and progression, something that I’ve personally lost sight of as a part of the relationship I try to have with G-d. However, if these words become a label, then we’ve lost sight of their initial meaning. That doesn’t mean the words are bad, it just means that we’ve failed maintain their meaning. Surprise surprise, we’re only human. Maybe more words will come, maybe we’ll rekindle ancient words or words used a few years ago. Whatever the case maybe, we simply can’t get hung up on this stuff. There’s more important things to do.
Two apples plus two apples equals four apples. Could I use oranges to help me understand this mathematical equation? Sure, but I like apples better. Maybe you like grapes; use that.



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fig_newton

posted July 2, 2007 at 7:32 pm


It strikes me funny how we are all bent out of shape about using a term like missional and how others will perceive it when the church hardly understands more important words like propitiation, redemption, atonement, justification, etc, all words which many churches want to discard for lack of understanding, and now we’re in a wad over the word missional? Interesting. Very interesting. Sad really.



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billmc59

posted July 2, 2007 at 7:45 pm


My comment isn’t so much about whether or not we should use the word “missional”, it is more about the philosophy behind what words we use. Granted, words carry alot of weight and sometimes alot of unnecessary baggage. But do we stop using a word just because it has been misused or misunderstood…or do we press on with the word in attempts to get back to the truth of it?
Words like: Jesus, church, religion, salvation, God, holiness — these have all had some very negative connotations to them. But do we throw them out and try to look for “better” words or do we try to recapture their original intent and meaning?
When I first heard the word “emergent” or “emerging”, I hadn’t a clue as to what it meant. It was not an adjective used by any church that I know of. And I suppose it is cute in some ways to come up with clever new words or descriptors that make people say, “Huh? What is that?” But we also run the risk of being ill-defined and greatly misunderstood when there is little to no connection to what people already understand. One way leads to folks not having a clue what we’re talking about. The other can lead to familiarity and quick judgment calls.
So should we throw out every word that people find offensive, even if their offense is sometimes justified? Or should we try to recapture and re-envision the word in the best possible sense?



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Brad Boydston

posted July 2, 2007 at 8:18 pm


Before “missional” became a trendy emerging word, we were using it in the Evangelical Covenant Church to describe one of the four core values of the denomination — the “als.” We are biblical, connectional, devotional, and missional. We even named the four guys in the hottub featured in the denominational logo as the four Als.
At some point we become over analytical and take ourselves way too seriously with this stuff — as though the Kingdom of God actually hinges on the way we spin the words.



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MattR

posted July 2, 2007 at 9:50 pm


Julie (#31), I agree that often the church has come in with the attitude of ‘we will help you’ before ‘we will listen and get to know you.’ But in my understanding this is what missional language attempts to correct… Asking us to develop an incarnational posture- listening, learning, and just BEING with people before we think we can try to ‘help’ them. Being open to them ‘helping us’ too, and seeing the gospel as a collaborative project, with God the ‘other’ and us.



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Julie

posted July 3, 2007 at 7:57 am


#33 Jeff: Thanks for the link! I read one of the articles and appreciate it for future reference. Too much to get into here, but really my critique has more to do with the self-perception of Christians and Christianity (the inescapable position of power-over that even serving in the name of love and mission leads to).
I spent an entire semester in a course (back in missionary preparation days) that taught us about blessing theology (OT through NT, the church being the extension of the Israelites as mediating the blessings of God to the nations). I don’t trust that thinking or at least, not its interpretation when we live in a society which is wealthy, politically dominant and predominately white. That combo is too combustible for the Gospel (which is about divesting oneself of power, not co-opting it for the sake of mission).



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Julie

posted July 3, 2007 at 8:01 am


Matt, thanks for your thoughts. I like the idea of listening. I don’t like listening “so that…”
Listening to me means hearing and being changed. It doesn’t mean taking turns speaking or leading. Listening means I come without an agenda. I don’t know how missional folks do that since they have a “mission” that they feel they must bring with them to every encounter. The key term in your comments for me is: “before.”
“Being with people before we think we can help them.”
I’d take out this part of the sentence: “before we think we can help them.” That leaves:
“Being with people.”
I think trying that out for a few decades might be interesting. What might happen to our faith in God, in Christ, in Christianity if we stopped helping and started just being with people?



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Peggy

posted July 3, 2007 at 9:03 am


Julie,
I can appreciate your sensitivity being based in less than good experiences (my life has also been filled with poor examples of what it means to be a missionary and a Christian, not to mention a human or a man or a woman…it really is too much to get into here…but we try.)
Is it not possible to be truly motivated by love when we reach out relationally to others? Perhaps “helping” has been corrupted for you…missionaries have “helped” in ways over the past 200 years that sometimes make folks say “help me a little less.”
Is it a matter of what I call “fix it mentality”–where “you” have a problem and “I” can fix it for you. This does smack of condescension…and there is way too much of it in our world, that’s for sure.
But our God is missional…and he has sent us our as missionaries…and I think we can take a cue from Jesus: when he was just being with people, he was always helping–but it was what was truly needful. Sometimes he served, sometimes he received service. Sometimes he led, sometimes he let the children lead. Jesus allowed tension in his “being with”; he didn’t dole out pat answers. Sometimes he healed bodies, sometimes he forgave sins. Rarely did he do things as “expected.”
Maybe our “approach” is just that…an artificial approach. This makes me think back to the thread on the Roman Road….



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MattR

posted July 3, 2007 at 11:59 am


I hear what you’re saying Julie (#40)… and I do think the Gospel divests us of power and really any other agenda except ‘love God/love people,’ but I think Peggy (#32) said it well… God, from the begining really, has a passion to create and restore and yes, to help. And humans made in his image are sent on the same ‘mission’ with God… I think at some point love, and ‘being’ without action becomes almost a lack of love… if I have a friend who needs help, I want to help. And I think that was the point I was trying to get across. Being missional means building relationships, without an agenda, but all relationships lead to serving each other at some point.
I think of friends in the urban community in which I live… addictions, homeless, poverty… To just ‘be’ with them and not find a way to help them would go against the Gospel (and yes, they have certainly helped me just as much)!



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MattR

posted July 3, 2007 at 12:00 pm


Oopps, I meant Peggy (#41).



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mariam

posted July 3, 2007 at 2:38 pm


As an outsider I had no idea what “missional” meant a couple of months ago (except that it probably had a bit of a zealous ring about it) and now after a few weeks of reading I have a vague idea of what it means. I think that the same people who take offense at “missional” are the often the same people who take offense at “Christian” and those people take offense because so many people who claim to be Christian act in distinctly non-christian ways. If they live in hypocritical, sexist, judgemental ways, words like “evangelical”, “family values”, and even “missional” will continue to have a negative connotations. If missional Christians live in Christ-like ways the word will come to have a positive connotation. This means acting towards people in a loving way because they are people beloved of God, not because they are potential converts. A lot of outsiders and non-Christians find this the most obnoxious thing about “evangelical” (or whatever new word you want to call it) Christians – that they only pretend to be your friend and really have an ulterior motive.



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Peggy

posted July 3, 2007 at 3:53 pm


Bingo, Miriam!
God help us be more like Christ….



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Doug Allen

posted July 5, 2007 at 9:35 pm


Missionill, missionall… I used to think the former. Now, I’m open to the latter. Albert Schweitzer was my first clue. And later I read “Mere Christianity.” I’m sure there are untold numbers of others (of many religions) whose sacrifice, loving kindness, and good works teach by example. Loving God and loving others does not mean that one mold fits all, IMHO. I love this site not because of the scriptural message, but because of the loving kindness of the message.
Doug Allen



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