What does “missional” mean? Earlier this month I was at a Presbyterian Church, USA, meeting that included presbytery and synod executives, General Assembly Council members, and few other leaders of denominational entities (see earlier post). We had read articles by Darrell Guder in advance and then heard a presentation on being missional by Guder to kick-off our time together.
As the group engaged in small group discussions, it was clear that the term “missional” had a range of diverse meanings for us, some would likely be unrecognizable to those who first popularized the term. Feedback from small groups suggested that we must first define “missional” before we seek to explore its implications for our live together. There was real doubt about whether or not we Presbyterians could ever settle on such a definition?
However, some among us asserted that we had already defined “missional.” Chapter 3 of the PCUSA Book of Order is a description of being “missional.” Here is what the writing team offered up as a “definition” of missional. For those of you who are passionate about being a missional church, what do you think?
The Church of Jesus Christ is the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all of humanity. The Church is called to be a sign in and for the world of the new reality, which God has made available to people in Jesus Christ. The new reality revealed in Jesus Christ is the new humanity, a new creation, a new beginning for human life in the world: Sin is forgiven. Reconciliation is accomplished. The dividing walls of hostility are torn down.
The Church is the body of Christ, both in its corporate life and in the lives of its individual members, and is called to give shape and substance to this truth. The Church is called to tell the good news of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord, proclaiming in Word and Sacrament that the new age has dawned. God who creates life, frees those in bondage, forgives sin, reconciles brokenness, makes all things new, is still at work in the world.
The Church is called to present the claims of Jesus Christ, leading persons to repentance, acceptance of him as Savior and Lord, and new life as his disciples.
The Church is called to be Christ’s faithful evangelist going into the world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all he has commanded; demonstrating by the love of its members for one another and by the quality of its common life the new reality in Christ; sharing in worship, fellowship, and nurture, practicing a deepened life of prayer and service under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; participating in God’s activity in the world through its life for others by healing and reconciling and binding up wounds, ministering to the needs of the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the powerless, engaging in the struggle to free people from sin, fear, oppression, hunger, and injustice, giving itself and its substance to the service of those who suffer, sharing with Christ in the establishing of his just, peaceable, and loving rule in the world.
The Church is called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ.
The Church is called… to a new openness to the possibilities and perils of its institutional forms in order to ensure the faithfulness and usefulness of these forms to God’s activity in the world, [and] to a new openness to God’s continuing reformation of the Church ecumenical, that it might be a more effective instrument of mission in the world.
(Book of Order, Chapter III, “The Church and Its Mission,” G‐3.0100, 3.0200‐3.0400, 3.0401c,d.)