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What's new about the missional church?


Dec 5, 2001
by Dan Nighswander, general secretary

Many are asking the question "Can someone explain the difference between what we were doing and what we are now, with this new term missional, supposed to be doing?"

Astute observers recognize that the missional vision is a re-statement of what has been the church's ideal since God called it into being. It is, after all, the Biblical mandate. For Mennonites it is especially familiar because it describes the Anabaptist understanding of the church. Simply put, the missional vision is that the church is sent into the world to participate in God's mission of reconciling all people to God, to fellow humans and to creation.

But the church has often fallen from this ideal. Consider the missional vision as a tool that helps us think about all the hindrances that keep us from fulfilling the vision we already hold. What questions does it prompt?

When we make a practice of distinguishing between God's mission and our own agenda, we are not thinking missionally. When we ask God to bless our work, we have lost the missional perspective. Instead of God helping us accomplish our goals, Christians must determine what God is doing and align their attitudes and activities with that. Does your congregation do this?

In your friendships, your daily labour, your volunteer work and the way you use money, do you demonstrate that God's mission is your primary concern? Is your sphere of mission both as close and as large as God's-"across the street and around the world?" Does your congregation's life and "personality" demonstrate an alignment with God's mission?

How does God's passion for reconciliation shape your attitudes and your behaviour in the aftermath of September 11? What would your family and colleagues at work say about you? What would they say about your congregation?

The question deserves a longer discussion and the answers will be different in every setting. I invite you the Missional Travelbag on this web site, use the study guide Discover Anew: What God calls us to do! in your congregation, and view the new video, "A Missional Vision for Mennonite Church Canada" sent recently to your church.

When the answer becomes clear, send it to us as a testimony to what the missional vision means to you.