Origin of the terms “Missional church”

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The second chapter provided the reflexive framework or the theological context that gives a premise to the understanding of the concept of a missional church which was missional theology. In this chapter the focus will be on the exploration and the understanding of the concept of a missional church and its characteristics. It is necessary to explore and understand the origin of the missional church and its meaning. The intention is to establish the foundation, to overview and discuss the definitions and the diverse characteristics of the missional churches. The goal is to come up with a much larger and comprehensive understanding of the missional church and to list the characteristics that define it and that may be noticeable and easily discernible in any church that might be missional or claim to be missional.
In the approach, the structure of this chapter will be as following: first the origin of the concept missional church, second the setting up of a theological foundation for the missional church will follow; third, the exploration and understanding of the existing definitions of a missional church; And finally I will present the descriptive aspects and different characteristics of a missional church from various sources. By doing this I hope to disclose the holistic, global and comprehensive nature and identity of the church that constitutes a genuine instrument in the hand of God for the fulfilment of his mission in the world.

Origin of the terms “Missional Church”

The term missional church is slightly beyond 13 years old and was coined or precisely introduced to a great number of users by the church leaders of North America who work in the organisation: Gospel and our Culture Network. They were inspired by the works of Bishop Newbigin (The Other side of 1984: Questions for the churches (1983); Foolishness to the Greeks: the Gospel and Western Culture (1986), and David Bosch (1991), Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission). Indeed in his work Newbigin was concerned by the challenges created by changing western culture. The society that was formerly known as Christendom has become a post-Christian society and even opposed to Christianity (Guder 1998:3). Christianity no longer occupies a central and dominant place in society. Therefore there was a need to address the issues or challenges of this changing society.
Newbigin had the merit to bring into the conversation a missiological consensus with the term missio Dei with the understanding of the mission of the church. Christian mission is understood as essentially the mission of God. With missio Dei the “ecclesiocentric understanding of mission has been replaced …by a profoundly theocentric reconceptualisation of Christian mission” (1998:4). This will be a great change of mind in the evolution of the theology of mission. Christian mission is now understood as primarily the mission of God. It is first of all God’s business. It is the business of the Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Van Gelder and Zscheile (2011:6) speak of Trinity missiology and explain that “we must start with the Trinity in order to understand mission, for Trinity introduces us to a sending God who is a missionary God”. Mission is thus the initiative of God, it belongs to God and it derives from the very nature of God. (Bosch 1991:390) Consequently this understanding of mission affects directly the understanding of the church. The former is no more the goal of the Gospel, rather it becomes the instrument of God, called to participate in the mission of God. The church is no longer the sender, but the sent people of God. Understood in this way the church will find itself in a situation of mission wherever it is. Therefore missiologists have come to the understanding that God’s mission is calling the church and is sending it to be a missionary church in the society and culture in which it finds itself (Guder 1998:5). The fact of attesting that the church exists for mission has resulted in changing the whole concept of the church in the sense that mission defines the church and is its purpose. Consequently this kind of church is missionary by nature and by its existence. Furthermore western culture has lost its previous identity, and is no longer considered as Christian, the Christendom is over and a new era has come, a new context has appeared, the whole world has become a mission field. The questions are now, how the church is going to address the new missiological issues that are taking place in this new cultural context? How the church is going to face and overcome the issues brought or caused by the post-modernist era? How the church is going to solve the many crises with which it is grappling? The crises of the church in North America are many and Guder (1998:2) named some of them:
The crises are many and complex: diminishing numbers, clergy burnout, the loss of youth, the end of denominational loyalty, biblical illiteracy, divisions in the ranks, the electronic church and its various corruptions, the irrelevancy of the traditional forms of worship, the loss of the genuine spirituality, and the widespread confusion about both the purpose and the message of the church of Jesus Christ.
The metamorphosis of society has caused these grave crises within the church as well and submitted it to a trial and consequently all its configuration is in commotion. Eventually these crises may cause a serious threat to the North America church. As far as the missional church is concerned, it is in this new missiological landscape that the missional church finds its origin and existence, as the church in North America is striving to face the challenges of the changing cultural context. The new context forces the church to seek and live its genuine nature and vocation. The church is to recognise that it is the people of God, called and sent into the world to accomplish or better to participate in the missio Dei. A new theology of mission gives birth to a new ecclesiology that is shaped by missiology. The book: “Missional church: A vision for the sending of the church in North America” edited by Darrel Guder, (1998) is the first to use systematically the terminology of a missional church (See also Saayman 2010), although the discussion and conversation about it began in ecumenical circles in the fifties. It is important and helpful to remember that at the conference of the International Missionary Council (1952), the reflection of Wilhelm Anderson built on the work of Karl Barth played a determinative role in the consideration that mission and church find their common source in missio Dei. The latter found its ground in the Triune God. It is from there that the missionary nature of the church took place in missiological conversations. The missional church conversation brought along some themes and key concepts that have deeply influenced the concept and the development of the understanding of a missional church. Thus, there is no way to speak of missional church without mentioning these themes and key words that logically and consequently have become to my humble view, the language in/of the missional church conversation. These themes and key terms are at one side the stones that were used in laying the foundation of the concept of missional church and at the other side they have served to elevate the edifice or to develop its understanding. These concepts and keys words are: God is a missionary God; the missionary nature of the church, missio Dei, the distinction between mission and missions, Trinitarian missiology, Kingdom of God, the missional church is incarnational, every disciple of Christ a missionary (Van Gelder and Zscheile 2011: 4-7). Since the work of GOCN, the term “missional church” has been increasingly used on a large scale. It creates a lot of curiosity among theologians, missiologists, and pastors. Every church leader or pastor would like his church to become missional or would like to know more about the terms that are becoming increasingly popular. Before exploring the concept of missional church it is appropriate to lay the theological background or a theological foundation for a missional church.


Theological Foundations

Missio Dei

The notion of missio Dei is indispensable for the understanding of the missional church. Missio Dei as the mission of God is the raison d’être of the church. It gives all the meaning to the existence of the church in the world. The only justification of the presence of the church in the world is missio Dei. The church is called and sent to participate in God’s mission; it is called for the service of missio Dei.
Without missio Dei the church would not exist because the first defines the second. The understanding of a missional church refers to and is based on the understanding of missio Dei. Furthermore missio Dei concerns the sendingof God into the world for the redemption of the whole creation.
The new WCC – CWME (2012) affirmation on World Mission and Evangelism contains strong ideas regarding missio Dei:
Missio Dei is a restatement of Trinitarian theology: “that God in God’s own self is a life of communion and that God’s involvement in history aims at drawing humanity and creation in general into this communion with God’s very life” (cf. John 21). This ultimate expression of fellowship (koinonia) and love is transmitted to the whole world not as dogmas or ethical commands, but as a communion of love. This pneumatology results in a Christian witness that unceasingly promotes the salvific power of God through Jesus Christ, but also affirms God’s dynamic involvement through the Holy Spirit in the whole created world.
This declaration stresses the involvement of the Triune God in the world for the redemption and reconciliation of humanity and the whole of creation through the mission of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Missio Dei may be understood as the communication of the love of God for humanity and to the whole of creation for a life of fellowship led by the Holy Spirit. And this life is the witness to Christ the redeemer. Tennent (2010:67), defends the place or the importance of the Trinity in mission by declaring “…We have no missional authority apart from the mission of the Triune God. The Trinity remains the only authority  by  which  we  proclaim  the  gospel  to  the  world”  The  Trinitarian Missiology is well demonstrated here as it is about the missio Dei and it is one of the important concepts that plays a great role in the understanding of a missional church. The Triune God as the origin of mission and the participation of the church are highlighted as well in the new document of WCC-CWME (2012). It states, Mission begins in the heart of the Triune God and the love which binds together the Holy Trinity overflows to all humanity and creation. The missionary God who sent the Son to the world calls all God’s people (John 20:21), and empowers them to be a community of hope. The church is commissioned to celebrate life, and to resist and transform all life-destroying forces, in the power of the Holy Spirit. How important it is to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) to become living witnesses to the coming reign of God!

Chapter One I Introduction
1.1 Problem Statement
1.2 Research question
1.3 Aims and Objectives
1.4 Rationale of the study
1.5 Scope of the Study
1.6 Research Methods
1.7 Review of Relevant Literature
1.8 Ethical Considerations
1.9 Structure of the Study
Chapter Two Missional Theology 
2.1 Introduction
2.2 A quest for a missional theology
2.3 Missiology
2.4 Ecclesiology
2.5 Missiology and Ecclesiology
2.6 Christology and Pneumatology
2.7 Missio Dei and mission ecclesia
2.8 Church and World
2.9 Church as missional and Trinitarian Community
2.10 Conclusion
Chapter Three Missional Church
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Origin of the terms “Missional church”
3.3 Theological foundations
3.4 Definitions
3.5 Patterns of missional faithfulness
3.6 Conclusion
Chapter Four Missionality of Francophone churches
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Francophone churches
4.3 Patterns of Missional church
4.4 Other Patterns of Missional Church in Francophone churches
4.5 Conclusion
Chapter Five Developing a Missional Culture in the congregations
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Leadership
5.3 Missional Leadership
5.4 Developing a missional identity
5.5 Creating Missional Structures
5.6 Forming Missional Culture
5.7 Living as missional culture in a congregation
5.8 Conclusion
Chapter Six Developing Contextual Ministries in Francophone Congregations
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Understanding the context
6.3 Discerning God’s Agenda
6.4 Developing and practicing Apostolic Ministries
6.5 Engaging in contextual ministries
6.6 Patterns of missional ministries
6.7 Relevance as Continual quest of being missional in a changing context
Chapter Seven General Conclusion
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Summary of findings
7.3 Recommendations
7.4 Suggestions for further studies
7.5 Missionality: “Already and not yet”

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