Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren are onto something: in their new book called Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One (Allelon Missional Series) , they ask the big question:
Can your church be missional?
[I will provide what I think is the central missional question below.]
But they know that there’s a major hitch: “If one wants to lay the missional over or add it to our known ways of being the church, we would answer … No!” Why? “This missional journey calls us out onto a new kind of river that none of us know how to navigate, because it challenges the core of our church imagination” (49). Becoming missional is not adding a new program to your already existing programs. Becoming missional is transformation from the inside out.
Then the authors list with brief descriptions a wide array of missional ventures in this world. What marks them: “They have opened themselves up and ventured out on an experimental journey into their neighborhoods to see what God is up to in this world” (53).
Here is what I [SMcK] think is the central missional question: while I must admit I like that “What is God up to?” question, I believe the missional people are asking folks in their own neighborhood another question first: “How can I help you?” The answers to that question will determine what “missional” means in that neighborhood.
So Roxburgh and Boren: “missional people should practice God’s life before a watching world” (54). It includes worship, preaching, communion, loving one another, social justice, caring for the poor, and sharing Jesus’ gospel. Thus: “All of God’s people are on mission to engage their surrounding neighborhoods, not just a few who are sent outside the church to do something called missions” (54).