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Missional – Missio Dei, Missionary or Mission

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:

missional.gifMissio 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. 


  1. Drew, I’m assuming that the triperspectival version you’ve presented above is Keller’s vision, the Reformed view. Which leg of this stool would Roxburgh either miss or over-stress?

    The governmental overthrow thing seems almost unbelievable were it not coming from Stetzer! Wow.

  2. D. Goodmanson

    July 2, 2007 at 9:12 am

    According to Stetzer, Roxburgh (and the GOCN) come at missional from a missio dei perspective. He asked me not to post too much more on this until his paper is out.

  3. Thank you Drew, I understand. Just trying to get my head around this triperspectival thing.

    The church growth lit I’ve been reading is not very satisfying and the missional stuff I’m reading has not been satisfying either. Good to see that there is another take on it. As I understand it right now, I think the triperspectival approach is more of what I’m grasping at. Will keep digging. 🙂

  4. D. Goodmanson

    July 2, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Tim, in that case, I have a number of triperspectival articles on the article tab. Or you can read some others at David Fairchild’s including a recent one on a triperspectival church.

  5. Drew,

    Thanks for this thinking. We’re trying to teach a 4-part series on mission this month; the first three parts on the mission of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and the fourth part on mercy/social justice as an integral component of mission.

    I’ve found Newbigin really helpful (thus the trinitarian view), and also Goheen’s article in “Reading Luke”. Still really struggling to work out how to present this in topical sermon form though!

  6. D. Goodmanson

    July 3, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Mike – Yes. It’s a big subject. Here’s how a couple people I know approached it:

    “I would suggest doing a topical in a book. You could do 7 sermons out of Acts. You could do some snapshots from Nehemiah. You could do a look at Jonah. You also could do a look at Joseph in Egypt, Jonah in Nineveh, Daniel in Babylon, Nehemiah in fallen Jerusalem, Paul w/Jews, Paul w/Gentiles, and of course one on Jesus incarnation as the first sermon to set up the series showing Him as missionary into lost culture and then tie every other sermon back to that sermon as your thesis.”

  7. Thanks Drew,

    I really appreciate those ideas for a sermon series – we may well do something very much like that after our Parables series.

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