Undoubtedly one enduring term today is the word “missional.” What is “missional,” you ask? The answer often comes back with this: “It is to see ourselves in light of God’s mission, the missio Dei, in and for the world.” To me that is like answering this question — What is baseball? — with this answer: “It’s a sport with a ball.” To quote Flannery, that’s right but just ain’t right enough. I’m all for “missional” as long as “missional” means something.
What is missional? How do you define the term? Can only followers of Jesus be missional? Is “missional” a term for doing good deeds in the public sector by Christians? Or is there some content to the mission of God that defines when we are being missional? What is that content?
So it’s with some serious expectations of success that I read David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw’s chapter called “Missio Dei” in their new book, Prodigal Christianity.
They play through two major perceptions of God, and their take on “missional” is importantly shaped by a theo-ology and not just a strategy for evangelism or social activism. The two perceptions are the Distant God and the God who is everywhere and in everything so that everything becomes spiritual. I agree that missional must be theologically defined. The God who is Distant they connect to meticulous sovereignty where God can seemingly be cruel; the God who is everywhere leaves insufficient place for the God of our Lord Jesus Christ who reveals redemption in Christ. The only way, they argue, to discern the God who is everywhere is to know God’s revelation in Christ. I agree with this too. God is for too many either a distant star or an enveloping cloud.
I agree with much here but I do wonder if they’ve really gotten us much beyond the enveloping cloud God and if they’ve taken the church seriously enough in the missio Dei.
They probe God is with us; they probe the sending God and the sent Son and the sent Spirit.
Here’s where it gets concrete: “Missio Dei means that God is already at work in our lives and the lives of all around us” (28). To become missional then means becoming alert to the reality of God’s presence and God’s work everywhere. It gets close, so it seems to me, to being compassionate and sensitive and to believe that God is at work in everyone and we are to participate in what God is doing. OK, I believe this but I wonder if this is what missional means. What is the mission of God determines how God is “missioning” and how we participate in the mission of God.