At the Acts 29 conference Ed Stetzer spoke on the history of the word missional which traces it's origins from three streams of thoughts: missio dei, missionary & mission. He presents why we may all use the same word, yet it means radically different things for emerging churches, evangelical camps and the reformed community. So when Tim Keller speaks about being missional it is not the same thing as when it used by John Franke or Alan Roxburgh. He plans to publish a paper on this soon which will be extremely helpful for the missional conversation. I thought I'd share a few thoughts from his presentation framing missional from a triperspectival view:
Missio Dei (Normative) – The Mission of God is the reality of why the church is on mission. It is bigger than the mission of the church, yet the church is central to this mission. Why is this important? One danger of the emerging church is that they can reject the Biblical call of the church as the central place of mission (situational) and therefore see their call to be missional only from the Missio Dei perspective. This error is no different than a Calvinist who rejects a call of proclaiming the gospel (existential/situational) to the lost because the doctrine of election (normative). Stetzer provided one example where a missionary group helped fund the over-throw of a government as part of their missio dei understanding of being missional. The clearest picture of the missio dei that we have is from the Bible.
Missionary (Existential) – As part of God's mission, he changes the heart and identity of people. This conversion includes becoming a person who is sent on mission. Our identity also changes into being citizens of the Kingdom of God, which is both already & not yet. A sense of Missional that stems from missionary can lead to para-church ministries and 'lone-wolf' evangelism that doesn't truly reflect the unity of the church as the family of God or the bride of Christ.
Mission (Situational) – The church exists for God and for others. At the center of our identity is being a people on mission to the world around us. This mission includes evangelism, mercy ministries and other tangible signs pointing to the Kingdom of God. It is in this situation we see being missional as an outflow of our lives in all situations to reflect the glory of God.
We must see all three working together so that being 'missional' means that we are participating in God's mission as He intends as a collective group of missionaries on mission to this world. Any reductionism of this can and may lead to errors which include uniperspectival churches (great post by David you need to read) and people with limited views of the church as God's agent of mission.