ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF MISSIONAL CHURCHES
from “WHAT IS THE MISSIONAL CHURCH MOVEMENT?” by W. Rodman MacIlvaine III
In essence a missional church is a highly unified body of believers, passionately committed to being God’s missionary presence to the community that surrounds them, recognizing that God has already been at work in that location and has a specific agenda for it. Christians in a missional church will embrace a particular set of activities consistent with missional ministry.
Missional Christians take seriously the notion that they have been sent by Christ into their particular culture (John 20:21), and they learn to love the diverse people in that culture as Christ does (Matt. 9:35–36).
They embrace the mindset that they are exiles (Heb. 11:13) and resident aliens (1 Pet. 1:1) whose citizenship is firmly rooted in heaven (Phil. 3:20). They therefore seek to live a countercultural lifestyle in ways meaningful to that culture (Dan. 1:4–8). This mindset empowers consistent, humble, and sometimes sacrificial service (Mark 10:45).
Toward their local church.
They believe their local church is not an end in itself that must be growing constantly into an ever more powerful institution. Rather their local church is a means to an end, namely, to advance God’s work. The church is a beachhead within the culture. They therefore pursue godly goals even if it means their church might not grow as fast. They are willing to partner with other churches and para- church organizations to advance the cause of Christ.
Missional church leaders measure the effectiveness of their church, not by counting the number of people attending the main weekend service but by assessing the number of people serving significantly in the city.
Missional church members do not enter corporate worship for the purpose of being entertained or for having their felt needs met. Nor is their worship energized because of an implied promise of prosperity. They go to connect with God, who calls His people into mission, and with their fellow soldiers who are also on mission. They see the main worship event as a context in which they may glorify God and hear from Him.
They recognize that organized religion has often posed a problem for many postmodern people. Therefore they eschew all forms of legalism and ecclesiastical control, passionately exuding God’s grace to all. They seek to major on the essentials of the faith.
Toward the world.
Remembering that God works locally, they concentrate on the needs of their city. They know its distinct regions and cultures. They seek the welfare of their city, knowing that their own welfare depends on its welfare (Jer. 29:4–7).
Toward pain and brokenness.
Missional churches recognize that Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3), and that He learned obedience through the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8). Missional churches are therefore generally opposed to idealistic expressions of a health-and-wealth gospel that minimizes or perhaps denies the very thing that brings believers into mission.