Missional Spirituality

Discipleship is the key to missional because it is discipleship — the process of forming a human into Christlikeness — that determines the shape of what the Christian will look like. So, we need to look at what folks are aiming at when they “disciple” someone. What is the goal?

Roger Helland and Len Hjalmarson, in their new book, Missional Spirituality: Embodying God’s Love from the Inside Out, are out to help form disciples into a missional Christlikeness.

What are the elements of “missional” spirituality? What are the major elements of standard spirituality?

One of their key NT texts is John 4:34:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

If Jesus’ spirituality is to do the will of the missional aim of the Father, and if he is determined to accomplish that, then Christlikeness is about entering into Jesus’ own missional sending by the Father. Spirituality is about mission. It cannot be reduced to our personal relation to God, but must be connected to what God is doing in this world and entering into God’s mission.

I don’t believe “missional” is a buzz word. It’s too important for that. So they define it: “Missional means to participate in God’s mission as he and we work out his will in the world. [That "and we" surprised a bit. I'll see where they take us.] Spirituality means to live in and by the Holy Spirit” (26). Then this: “To be genuinely spiritual is not institutional.”

They contrast missional spirituality with their polar opposite, Temple Spirituality. Here are some of their contrasts:

Contained in buildings; missional is not.
Dualistic in that Sunday is sacred; missional hallows each day.
God is church-based whom we worship once a week; Jesus is the mobile Messiah.
Builds around priests and rituals; missional commissions all to be priests.

The Christendom model builds churches and forms pastors/leaders to function in the church; missional expands what “church” means.

They quote Churchill: “We shape our buildings; and afterwards our buildings shape us” (27).

In sum: “a missional spirituality is an attentive and active engagement of embodied love for God and neighbor expressed from the inside out” (31).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Rick

    “If Jesus’ spirituality is to do the will of the missional aim of the Father, and if he is determined to accomplish that, then Christlikeness is about entering into Jesus’ own missional sending by the Father.”

    But did not Jesus accomplish that? I am all for the missional sending, but I don’t think we can exactly enter “into Jesus’ own missional sending”. His sending was unique.

    Now can we pick up where He left off, by the power of the Holy Spirit? Yes.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff Clarke

    Sounds like a very helpful book. I think what they mean in the line, “Missional means to participate in God’s mission as he and we work out his will in the world. [That "and we" surprised a bit. I'll see where they take us.] Spirituality means to live in and by the Holy Spirit” (26), is that we enter into what God is doing through the enablement of the Spirit and cooperate with God’s good will by means of the Spirit, hence working out his best agenda for cosmic renewal and redemption. We align ourselves through the Spirit of Jesus to continue in his ministry as followers, being and reflecting his mission in word and deed. Essentially extending his reach through obedience and service.

  • Diane S.

    I am a member of a “Missional” church. While I agree with the philosophy behind the movement, I think one of the pitfalls is that this can end up as just one more form of religious legalism if one is not careful. Spirituality is about the heart as well as the deeds.

  • http://www.derekaldensweatman.com Derek Sweatman

    Oh, the missional movement is becoming just as institutional as any other, housed in the “buildings” of their seminars, books, and blog sites, at and in which people are called to gather and learn the ways the movement, under the direction of a paid – and published – leadership of experts.

    Missional is as top-down as any movement they would label as institutional, as they form and pass on a language, a framework for ministry, and a set of defining values under which all MC [must] function.

    Are they wrong? No. Are they genuine? Yes. Are they saying things that matter? For sure. Should the so-called “institutional church” listen closely? Most definitely. Are they right in pushing back against the mega-church for its financial focus on the Sunday morning gathering? I would say so.

    3DM does well to bring the two together. The team from that organization seems to understand the beauty in the larger gathering of a local church alongside the remarkable and attractive and effective expression of the gospel within the community of Jesus living out his ways within their culture.

    I could go on.

    The narrative is rough, and tiring.

  • http://www.dualravens.com/ravens Patrick O

    I did a wee review of this book, along with, suprisingly Oden’s Libyan Spirituality, over at Cardus a few months ago.

    A lot of missional books, even the good ones, tend to be so focused on Leadership studies and management techniques and, in general, more highly academic missiological studies, that they are a bit out of reach of a general audience. Missional Spirituality keeps the depth but is much more approachable, in my estimation.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Like every other christian adjective we’ve come up with, “missional” is at its best when it is new and Christ’s followers are exploring what it means and allowing their eyes to be opened to new facets of what it means to follow Christ by grace. The danger is that, like every other word we use to prop up our faith, the moment it becomes a cognitive or spiritual destination (for any given person/church) its usefulness is over.

    The best words are those that remind us how little we know, the worst are buzzwords meant to sum up everything we think we do know.

  • Rob Henderson

    We just encountered a couple we had led to Christ and discipled nearly a dozen years ago. They ended up moving elsewhere and we were heart-broken to see them leave. But recently they visited one of our church outreach activities and to see where they are now spiritually, to hear their vibrant testimony and then to listen as they credit my wife and I with influencing their walk with Christ was incredible! They occasionally even review the material we taught them! (who does that?)

    Missional ministry most often means we will not see the finished product. This means that our “the righteous will live by faith” calls for us to revamp our thinking to “the missional will disciple by faith.”

  • http://www.compathos.tv John L

    Sometime back, a number of factions seemed to be wrestling for mind-share around the word ‘missional.’ Is that still happening?

    Personally, I hope the word “missional” becomes more about being than doing, more about ‘inreach’ than outreach, more about humanity than tribe, more about humanity’s shared sandbox than lines in the sand.

    I hope that missional becomes a reminder that ‘we don’t see Jesus as he is, we see him as we are.’ Or to quote a pastor friend, may missional remind us that “to treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone.”

    I hope missional becomes an embodiment of Rookmaaker’s saying, “Jesus didn’t come to make us Christians but to make us fully human.” And while I’m dreaming, could missional ever be a word that describes the priority of unconditional love over the binaries of correct doctrine? Of heart before mind, grace before law, embrace before exclusion?

    I do know that if anyone has a clear view on the word and realm of missional, it is Len Hjalmarson.


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