Mission, Missional, and Missionary

September 23, 2008 at 11:04 am 6 comments

I’ve read on some blogs lately about emerging, emergent, and emergence with lots of clarifying, defining, and justifying going on. Dan Kimball recently blogged about the definition of emerging church changing, and Scot McKnight started a discussion on Emerging vs. Emergent in June. Doug Pagitt does a video blog on Emerging and Emergent Church Distinction. It seems the current trend is toward more missional terminology, though many in the emerging church movement would probably self-identify as missional in one respect or another. I blogged about missional last year.

Some of my background and experience includes missionary training, so I’ve noticed much of the recent talk about missional seems old news to those who have been mission-minded all along. Which makes sense as we see culture in the West increasingly moving to a Post-Christendom context where the Christian church and faith are no longer in the center of society, but on the margins. I’m curious what others are thinking about all this terminology, especially the terms mission, missional, and missionary.

*Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed posted on Emerging and Emergent again. (9/24)

**And my research begins! Found a great synchroblog on “What is Missional”


Entry filed under: church, faith, Missional.

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  • 1. cindyinsd  |  September 23, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Hi, Elizabeth

    Nice to see you blogging again! 🙂 I hope you’re getting all settled in at school. All the terminology is so similar to me that it’s hard to keep them separate. I don’t think the missional thing is all that new except, as you said, that North America is becoming more of a mission field in our minds, though it has always been in fact.

    The problem with all the esoteric definitions is, how do you know whether the person you’re talking to read the same blogs defining the definitions that you did? It’s not like Websters has weighed in. Language is a tricky thing, and you always wonder with a movement that is, at times, borderline on theology, whether they’re being honest about their beliefs or hiding them behind terminology that means one thing to them and another thing to you.

    Or maybe they’re not actively hiding their beliefs, but honestly expect you to define their terms the same way they do. It’s almost as bad as talking theology with a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness. It would be so much easier if we were speaking the same language.

    Anyway, my whiny baby comment. 😉



  • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  September 23, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Great comments, Cindy! Yes, I am getting settled in to school – though it’s a crazy ride!

    I agree with the similarity in terminology and am doing some research on the origins of “missional” since it shows up as a misspelled word in my word processing, including blog processing, programs! I haven’t added it to my personal dictionary because I don’t yet want to forget that it’s not a commonly used or recognized term and certainly gives me the sense of “we’re making it up as we go…”

    I found missional listed as the adjectival form of mission at Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/missional (accessed: September 23, 2008)

    But common use in the past was to use mission as an adjective as well as a noun – as in mission agency, mission team, etc.

    I wonder, are we now using the term missional to mean local mission vs. mission as foreign mission?

  • 3. Kasey "Rahab"  |  September 24, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I find one of the most impecable write ups with such an “emmensity of tone” was former Article written in 2007 of Scot McKnights 5 Streams of the Emerging Church-and how we are embracing these challenges..check out the facts on Jesus Creed Blog-today. Trying to use a humbling posture of “How On Earth We Are To Go About Saving The Church” or better yet how we “Do Church” in our post-modern culture. This has become a extreme delicate intiative-and if we, as humbling leaders of on going Pastoral Care , DO NOT closely diagnose our own efforts; we might just remain with a stagnet awareness for “Our Culture” who is dying for true Gospel , and its richness. It has become a solid recognition of mine too see severe failure, and a call for a prominient renewal to take place–before the church is left empty. C.S. Lewis writes….this. “WE live unfortunately in a world where evil seems to have the upper hand–to hear the emssage of “Hope” from the other side”. But…..one small interference lieshere—it is called “using delicate glovesd in the process for brusied reeds not even willing to come forth anymore”. Our so called church is in a servere posture of broken walls-not being able to repair themselves any longer. Having a passion for others Souls, and containing a social awareness of those in need authentically presents a better equality-rather than a posture of —oh my gosh run…its a hypocritical bunch that can’t seem to find the true meaning behind the gospel themselves–it’s rather politics, rules, and disaster that follows. An Un easy conscience in our modern world correlates with a meaningless church at times being observed greatly.

  • 4. Elizabeth Chapin  |  September 24, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Kasey, I agree, Scot does a great job in his article on the streams of the emerging church. I appreciate your thoughts on closely diagnosing our own efforts. Great words of wisdom, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • 5. Brian from Aus  |  September 24, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Hi Elizabeth
    Intrigued with this discussion of terms, we must think differently here in Australia. Churches that engage in this discussion tend to call themselves missional which describes there outlook and programs. These churches would avoid the term ‘evangelical’ because of the historical bagage and an implied narrowness. ‘Missionary’ describes a largely defunct occupation and the person doing that job. (naming in common the job and the person submerses the individual into the job, worrying to me. I’m more than my job.)Similarly ’emergent’ implies an attained state or position whereas ’emerging’ indicates an ongoing journey. I fear that the word emergent will become just another position statement or theological tag when it implies so much more.

  • 6. Elizabeth Chapin  |  September 25, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Brian, thanks for your thoughts from down under. I really like your distinction between being thought of as missional (adj.) vs. a missionary (n) and how missional describes and missionary defines. Great thoughts.

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