Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions 5 Signposts of a Missional Church

5 Signposts of a Missional Church

Unless you’ve been creepily living in your church’s basement for the last 10 years, you’ve surely heard the term “missional” crop up in conversation. You’ve heard things like:

“Hey Ringo, why isn’t your church being MISSIONAL?”

Or, “Hey Suzy, come join my MISSIONAL Bible study.”

Or, “Hey Mikey, want to order some MISSIONAL pizzas?”

“Missional” can be a synonym for anything from “our small groups welcome outsiders” to “we preach the gospel every Sunday,” to “we help out at a soup kitchen every Saturday” to “our pastor wears skinny jeans.” But what does the word missional really mean?

If I were to take all the missional theology/practical approaches to missional church and squash them together, this, I think, is the bare-bones of what I’d tell you:

1. Missional churches introduce the gospel through radical community. 

People don’t go to church anymore because it’s expected. If people are ever going to get to know the faith, they’re going to see it first on their own turf. This is why the missional church is about radical community—it’s an appeal to the moral imagination of a watching world. This radical community is generally expressed through three vessels:

A. Radical Mercy—The missional church seeks to be a radical community by going to the broken, the destitute, the hungry and hurting.

B. Radical Hospitality—The missional church is about recovering the art of breaking bread together in an isolated world.

C. Radical Work—The missional church seeks to train people to think about their vocation in a particularly Christian fashion.

The first “movement” of a non-Christian toward Christ, then, isn’t necessarily one of content—it’s a picture of a radically different lifestyle that captures the moral imagination inherent in each of God’s creations.

2. Missional churches explain the gospel in worshipful community. 

The idea here is that non-Christians have already had their moral imagination captured—a major aspect of the worship service, then, is to explain the foundations of that Christian lifestyle. Missional worship services assume people will be walking in the door to explore this radical lifestyle, and they assume that those listening are: A. unfamiliar with church, and B. not in agreement with the church.

One of the chief characteristics of a missional church, then, is this: A. Missional churches explain the service, technical words, etc. throughout the worship service, AND B. Missional churches demonstrate how secular philosophies can’t sustain the moral vision to which they were drawn. Then they demonstrate how the gospel can.

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Nicholas McDonald is husband to lovely Brenna, father to Owen and Caleb, M.Div student at Gordon Conwell Theological seminary and youth/assistant teaching pastor at Carlisle Congregational Church. He graduated with his Bachelors in Communication from Olivet Nazarene University, studied literature and creative writing at Oxford University, and has spoken internationally at camps, youth retreats, graduations, etc. He blogs about writing, preaching and the arts at www.Scribblepreach.com, which has been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Knowlovelive.org and Challies.com. He currently resides in South Hamilton, MA.