The evangelical community is not immune from the coining of new buzz words. Two of the newest of them are "emergent church" and "missional church." These are strange to the ears of some of us who have been involved with missionary service from some years back.
A big word in my era of the 1950s and 1960s was "indigenous church," a term not often heard today. I, for one, am rather conservative on the coining of new words and always wonder what brings on the need for them and whether the new term may in some way be a subtle insult to biblical theology. So it is with "missional church," a term that I am beginning to hear frequently even in the church we attend. Apparently the idea is catching on.
I am truly aware that the world has changed in the past fifty or more years and certain mission methods, strategies and structures that were once prominent no longer work as they used to. The message certainly hasn't changed, but the means and manner of propagating the message have had to change in a changing world. A detailed and useful definition of the term"missional" was offered at the 2004 Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization. Click on : www.urbana.org/_articles.cfm?RecordId=993 for the full article.
Briefly stated, "missional" "is not the same as 'mission-minded,' though they are both important and related. The term 'missional' is simply the noun 'missionary' adapted into an adjective. For example, an 'adversary' is your enemy. Someone who is 'adversarial' is acting like your enemy. Thus, a 'missionary' is someone who acts like a missionary (for example, understands a culture, proclaims the faithful Gospel in a way that people in culture can understand, and uses parts of that culture to glorify God). A 'missional church' is a church that acts like a missionary in its community" (see www.christianindex.org/1657.article).
One of the foremost thinkers these days about the missional church is Australian missiologist Alan Hirsch whose writings include The Shaping of Things to Come and The Forgotten Ways--Reactivating the Missional Church. A major perspective from his writings suggests that the older formulas for growth in the Body of Christ no longer work. His vision for the future includes growth of the church of Jesus Christ in the powerful ways that occurred in the outreach of the early church and its growth from perhaps only 25,000 believers in A.D. 100 to an estimated 20 million in A.D. 310.
The thrust of Hirsch's message is that the dormant potential of the church in our time can again be aroused to early church-like passion, prayer, and incarnational service. If that is what "missional" entails, let's use the term!
Through the sponsorship of SALT (the Skandinavisk Academi for Lederskab og Teologi), the Evangelical Alliance, and Emerging.DK, Dr. Alan Hirsch is coming to Denmark for a one-day session on the theme of the missional church. The conference takes place on Thursday, January 11, 2007 at a locale at Drejervej 15-17 in Copenhagen.
Conferences come and go with greater or lesser impact, but perhaps the input from this brief conference will help foster a new attitude and approach by Danish churches to revival, renewal, evangelism and church planting, or just acting like missionaries in their own communities.
PRAY that Alan Hirsch will be guided by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in what he has to say to Danish pastors and Christian leaders about theory and practice for missional churches.
PRAY that this brief conference with Alan Hirsch will help ignite a greater understanding and vision in Danish believers of what the church was meant to be and do, using culture but not engulfed by it.
PRAY that conferences with overseas leaders such as this one with Alan Hirsch will not "talk down" to Danish pastors and Christian leaders or come across as having all the answers for Denmark, but rather will cause participants to listen for the Spirit's direction to make specific insights gained from the conference work effectively in the Danish cultural context.