If the church is to have a future in the countries that once composed “Christendom,” missional church advocates tell us, we who constitute the church must undergo what the Apostle Paul calls a “renewal of the mind.” That means that we must re-imagine the ideal which God calls the church to become. We must rethink the church’s character and reformulate its purpose and goals.
The word “missional” is crucial to this new understanding in several respects. It reminds us that Christian “mission” is not only something for special people who go overseas to foreign lands. It is the work of every Christian wherever each one already lives. It says that the church is not intended to be a comfortable religious “club” for which we recruit new members (especially the “right kind”). It is rather a group of people who are themselves called and assigned a mission by God. The adjective “missional” sometimes stands in contrast to “attractional” — a word that describes the kind of church with which we already are most familiar.
The “attractional” church expects to fulfil its mission by attracting outsiders to special events at the church building. The “missional” church will emphasize meeting people where they normally live and work and play. Meeting people this way is not merely social. It is purposeful, a way for us to join in God’s own mission. This is how we form genuine human relationships that bridge the worlds of faith and unbelief. This is “incarnational” Christianity, meaning that it requires us to get involved as real people with real people — and not just people like us — even when that is hard, tough and dirty.