'Missional,' is Missionary-ish. The Question is, 'What Kind of Missionary Will You Be?'

Hugh Halter once said that the word “Missional,” is problematic and perhaps it would be better to just say “Missionary-ish.”

Having just concluded a week of Missional focus with Missional folk, I am inundated with thoughts and concepts on how to be missionary-ish. I know, I am a missionary and you’d most likely assume that I’ve got the Missional/Missionary-ish thing down. I hope that it’s never the case. There are folks from way back who have embraced missional thinking like Francis Dubose and Newbigin, but it’s gone through many conceptual changes since then. Missionaries, or so it has been thought, have a heightened understanding of cultural nuances and the ability to transmit the Gospel of peace & kingdom to those different cultures. It is also assumed that missionaries are better trained, better prepared, and better suited to do the work. This assumption, while accurate in some cases has served to further divide everyday people from being missionary-ish to everyday people. The word “Missional,” is a conversation catalyst that seeks to break down those boundaries and assumes that everyone, or all believers, are already on mission. The question remains;

What kind of missionary are you going to be?

As I heard stories from across the globe this past week, I heard people asking this question in diverse forms. It’s actually music to my ears. People have asked my wife and I, “How do you do what you do?” I know that what some are really asking is, “how can we do what you do in our own context?” It’s the wrong question. The Missional pragmatist asks that question. The Missional practitioner should focus more on who works than what works. (Philippians 2:13)

I do understand. There’s a certain frustration in trying to “become” Missional. We must all get passed the first hurdle which assumes that only some are missionaries. The truth is, we’re all sent. (John 17:18) (John 20:21). The Church is Christ’s body and it’s inherently missionary-ish. When folks who are beginning to embark on this Missional journey, when they are looking to others as examples on how to be missionary-ish, and when they are seeking to emulate other missionaries, we must be careful not to impose our mission values on them or suggest that this is “the right way.” If anything, a practitioner should help others to originate and not emulate. Now, I believe that there are core principles, but great caution should be taken so as not to demand from others what the Spirit convicts in us.

This will serve as Part 1 of a series on what it means for YOU to be missionary-ish. In the mean time, a few questions:

1. In what ways are you already a missionary?
2. In what ways are you not a missionary?
3. What would you say are the critical characteristics of someone who is missionary-ish?

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0 thoughts on “'Missional,' is Missionary-ish. The Question is, 'What Kind of Missionary Will You Be?'

  1. Billy says:

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing the thoughts ping-ponging in your head.

    What you just said is why I choose not to use these buzzwords. To me they divide the body or the house of God into “those who go” and “those who stay”. I just can’t do it. I like the language “follower of Jesus” and let a life and message model what that means as one who is sent. It’s not very sexy, but fits with the calling Jesus gave His boys.

    Sometimes I feel like we are out-kicking our coverage. We rush to cling to the next word or phrase. I think Jesus has already given them to us.

  2. Eli says:

    This is a very important topic and discussion. I have grown tired of missional or missionary being used to separate and elevate some from others.
    I have to ask myself at what point does someone go from being just a standard run of the mill believer to becoming a missionary or missional. I have concluded it mostly just comes down to the language they use to define their lifestyle and values.
    There is a strong desire wthin us to differentiate ourselves and thereby validate our way of life and have something tangible to sell/promote/explain to others. To some extent this is natural and normal except that Christ showed us a way to really strip things back, yet we insist on adding more layers. Sometimes we are concerned about being mislabelled or associated with the wrong crowd, ironically ending up distancing ourselves further from those we are united with in Christ.
    All that said I agree we are all sent. My particular flavour of missionary-ish-ness at the moment is trying to think purposefully, be open to new seasons, influence change, align my life with my aspirations and language or vice versa. Discern rhythms of grace or at least just become responsive to grace even if im consciously clueless of what god is up to. Make time for those that others may not.
    And to be honest most of that looks very mundane which is ok by me in this season as i’m thoroughly unimpressed with much of what the official missionary or missional people i’ve encountered have over past years.

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