Test Your Church

Test Your Church October 18, 2012

The questions are these: Is your church missional? How would you know? What are the elements that prove a church is missional?

Lots of folks claim the word “missional.” Some claim it with a robust theology — John Franke, Darrell Guder, David Fitch — while others claim the word who are little more than disaffected evangelicals burnt out on the megachurch or evangelical church. I joked the other day with David Fitch that some in the missional movement are more or less the libertarians (or anarchists) of the evangelicals. Some know far more what they are against than what they are for. I have said this before, I’ll say it again: when it comes to “missional” my ears are attuned not to those who talk about it but to those who are doing it. And doing it well. In other words, some in the missional movement are just carping about evangelicalism and not doing much to show a better way. Enough of that point.

Graham Hill, in the best book yet on missional ecclesiology, a book called Salt, Light, and a City, sketches how major theologians — across the whole spectrum — understand the church. Into that discussion Hill proposes what I will call some tests for your church to see if it is “missional.” What would you add? What are the key elements of a missional church?

1. Is your church “on mission”? I don’t mean does it have a missional statement, but is it really “on mission”? Or, put differently, does the church itself — pervasively — see itself as a church active in its mission?

2. Is it committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the reliability and authority of Christian Scriptures? (p. 164).

3. Is it a church that embodies a contrast society? Or, from the other angle, is it worldly? Or, is it a sign of the kingdom?

4. Is it cultivating missional perspectives and postures? Or, does it see itself as part of post-Christendom or Christendom? Does it assume viability or does it need to prove itself?

5. Is it a “model” of what God is doing in this world? In other words, is your church being the church?

6. Is it hospitable?

7. Is it disciple-making?

8. Is it prophetic?

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  • Adam

    My technical background is itching. Can we ask these questions in a double-blind format?

  • perhaps his #6 covers this (I’ll have to read the book), but I’d like to see some element of cross-cultural fellowship and witness be included. It’s hard for me to think of a community on a mission that doesn’t foster and encourage relationships among people of different ethnic groups and even socio-economic classes. Some churches that claim to be “missional” — at least from what i see in our American context — are pretty homogeneous. Even when there may appear to be a diverse group of people in the worship setting, the question remains whether people are sharing life together beyond Sunday, and if the apparent diversity of a Sunday “snapshot” really reflects people from different backgrounds and cultures.

  • First of all, my Church which is the universal communion of saints can’t be anything but “missional”.

    However, problems arise when we start asking if the institutional “church” we participate in is “missional”. I believe it is by nature impossible for an institution to be missional, it is only possible for the people who make up that institution to be missional. Those people will be missional in a variety of ways that are difficult if not impossible to measure, it will be organic – not centrally planned by the institution. When we starting asking if our church is missional then we will most likely only measure the activity organized through the institution and pressure will be put on members to primarily take part in and financially support events and programs organized by that institution. Those who do not participate will be made to feel guilty for not being sufficiently missional. But this is really just the attractional model dressed slightly different. Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with an institution being attractional, they can’t be anything but attractional. But, we must remember there is a difference between the institutions and the role they have to play in the mission of the Church and the Church itself.

  • The use of the word “missional” seems to be going down a similar path that “emerging/emergent” went down. People use the words to mean so many different things that the entire discussion gets all muddled up. I do think missional has a big advantage over the emerging conversation in that one can read the New Testament and readily identify the mission and message of Jesus and the early church and then see how well our priorities match up. You couldn’t really do that with emerging as that term was descriptive (just not on anything we could agree on) rather than prescriptive, like missional. There are a lot of good things going on and I am really excited to see people get more mission minded and put those thoughts and beliefs into action! Great questions.