Mission is not something that your church does. Nor is it something that your church can opt out of. And it’s not a strategy, preference, or style of ministry either.
Mission needs to be core to the identity of any and every local church. After all, a church without a clear understanding of its mission is a church without power. As scholar Martin Kähler said a century ago, “Mission is the mother of theology.”
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What It Means to Be Missional
I’m not talking about having a mission statement. I’m talking about the great and grand mission that God has invited us all into: the mission of God, the missio Dei. The concept of missio Dei is recognition that God is a sending God and that the church is sent.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you. (John 20:21 CSB)
In describing the mission of the church, Tim Keller notes: “God does not merely send the church in mission. God already is in mission, and the church must join him. This also means, then, that the church does not simply have a missions department; it should wholly exist to be a mission.”1
The church has been sent to join the most important mission in the Scriptures.2 Jesus Christ embodied that mission; the Holy Spirit empowers for that mission; the church is the instrument of that mission; and the culture is the context in which that mission occurs.3
As missiologist Wilbert Shenk points out: “The Great Commission institutionalizes mission as the raison d’être, the controlling norm, of the church. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of his body is to live a missionary experience in the world. There is no doubt that this was how the earliest Christians understood their calling.” 4
And this is how we need to understand the word mission or its adjective, missional, today. A missional church is a church that’s adopting the posture of a missionary, joining God on His mission, and learning and adapting to the culture around them while remaining biblically sound. Think of it this way: missional means living and acting like a missionary, even if you never leave your city.