What do you mean by “Missional”?

by Kyle Brooks (reprinted from Word & World)

This is a deeply arrogant article. To think that in 600 words or less I can give you a satisfying definition of the word “missional” – a word that has been used so much it has come to lack meaning for most people – rather than just adding to the noise of clanging commentaries on missional theology, mindset, discipleship, leadership, church, movements, lifestyles, and hairstyles is just a tad self-congratulatory. I’m not that savvy or succinct, as you may have already noticed.

And yet, I’m deeply associated with this word. No…I’m driven by it. I am a church planter. And for those who don’t know what that agrarian metaphor means, I am starting a new church. I am doing that because I believe the church was created to be, and I am designed to be, “missional.”

Rather than telling you what “missional” means, I’ll tell you what I mean when I use the word. What has shaped me and moved me across the country to start this new church in Oakland is the reality that I have been given a role in God’s mission to restore his world to himself through the church. (I told you this is article was going to sound self-important).

I believe in a particular story about the true history of the world. In that story, God (not the modernist, isolated individual in the sky, but the eternal, loving, tri-personal, Relater whom Christians call Father, Son and Holy Spirit) designed, molded, and painted this world. Tragically, humans, made for loving relationships with God, each other and God’s world, decided that self-actualization, personal control, and individual autonomy was more important to them than God, each other and the land. So they forfeited their God-likeness for an empty promise of ultimate preeminence.

Yet, even though they devastated their capacity for love, their perspective on life, and their ability commune with God, God had not lost himself. He had not lost his love. He had not forfeited his purpose, and he would not abandon his world.

Ever since, God has been working to restore the world and all of it’s devastated relationships. So he chose Abraham and his family to remind the world of God’s beautiful plan for its flourishing, to show them what relating to their Creator could look like. They tried and failed…and failed, and failed.

So the Father sent the Son on a mission: to restore his relationship with his chosen community and expand that community so that by the Spirit of God it could participate in his mission of restoring his whole world to wholeness, justice, and peace—what Christians call the Kingdom of God. As Jesus said:

I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day…. Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.  (John 6:38-39; John 20:21)

Jesus sent his church on his mission, and my life is bound up in that community. So my life has a mission: not a vague sense of purpose beyond my own well-being, not theologically-vacuous good intentions, but the very mission of Jesus himself. To live missionally is to live like God has made me part of a community that not only is saved but also sent to invite people along with me on my journey deeper into the kingdom of God.