What Is the Missional Church Movement? -- By: W. Rodman MacIlvaine III

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 167:665 (Jan 2010)
Article: What Is the Missional Church Movement?
Author: W. Rodman MacIlvaine III


What Is the Missional Church Movement?

W. Rodman MacIlvaine III

W. Rodman MacIlvaine III is Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Veritas Worldview Institute Fellow, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

A few years ago hardly any books addressed North America as if it were a mission field. But that has changed. After the publication of Darrell Guder’s groundbreaking book Missional Church1 and the rediscovery of Lesslie Newbigin’s missional ecclesiology, an explosion of books hit the market, explaining how churches can “go missional.” Missional books range from densely argued theological tomes, such as Arthur F. Glasser’s Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), to missional works with denominational slants, to highly practical field manuals that give step-by-step instructions.2 At a recent conference, Alan Roxburgh suggested that ten new titles were either under contract or about to be published with the term “missional” in the title or subtitle.3

This trend has been noticed by magazines such as Christianity Today, Leadership, and Charisma, which regularly feature articles

on the work of missional churches. Riveting stories are showing up in the blogosphere about churches shifting from an inward focus to an external focus, seeking to serve their cities for the advancement of the Lord’s work. Clearly missional ecclesiology is developing as a new form of ministry.

Gone is the idealism of the social gospel, in which service was done for the glory of service. In contrast the church has witnessed the emergence of energetic and informed lay leaders seeking to be conduits of God’s common grace so that they can then be conduits of God’s saving grace. As they serve, their missional theology is sophisticated enough to remind them that God is responsible for the results, and therefore they can serve with generosity and authenticity.

Some theologians, inspired by John Stott and Lesslie Newbigin, are developing comprehensive biblical theologies that portray God’s preexisting and eternal mission—His missio Dei, as the organizing principle of the Bible.4 “Missional” has become a precise term with a growing body of scholarly and popular writings to support it.

The adjective “mission...

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