The term “missional” has gotten so bogged down with baggage from previous movements that it’s hard to know what it means. The story goes that Leslie Newbigin coined the term after returning to England from a lifetime of mission work in India. The are a list off essential changes the Church must undergo from his essay “Can the West Be Converted.” You can, and should read the full work at Newbigin.net. All edits/emphasis are mine.
1. Ditch the Professionals
“I would put first the declericalizing of theology so that it may become an enterprise…in that corner of the private sector which our culture labels “religion,” but rather in the public sector where God’s will as declared in Jesus Christ is either done or not done in the daily business of nations and societies, in the councils of governments, the boardrooms of trans-national corporations, the trade unions, the universities and the schools.”
2. We’re Banking on the Sky to Fall. “Second, I would place the recovery of that apocalyptic strand of the New Testament teaching without which Christian hope becomes merely hope for the survival of the individual and there is no hope for the world. The silencing of the apocalyptic notes of the Gospel is simply part of the privatization of religion by which modern culture has emasculated the biblical message.”
3. Knowing Jesus Doesn’t Mean You Know Everything
“…I would put the need for a doctrine of freedom which rests not on the ideology of the Enlightenment but on the Gospel itself. The world will rightly distrust any claim by the Church to a voice in public affairs… But the freedom which the Enlightenment won rests upon an…illusion of autonomy – and it therefore ends in new forms of bondage. Yet we have no right to say this until we can show that we have learned our lesson: that we understand the difference between bearing witness to the truth and pretending to possess the truth…
4. Kill the Denominations
“…I would affirm the need for a radical break with that form of Christianity which is called the denomination. Sociologists have rightly pointed out that the denomination (essentially a product of North American religious experience in the past two hundred years) is simply the institutional form of a privatized religion. The denomination is the outward and visible form of an inward and spiritual surrender to the ideology of our culture. Neither separately nor together can the denominations become the base for a genuinely missionary encounter with our culture.
5. Remember, Most the World’s Christians Live in the Southern Hemisphere
There will be the need to listen to the witness of Christians from other cultures. The great new asset which we have for our missionary task is the presence among us of communities of Christians nourished in the cultures of Asia, Africa, and the West Indies. We need their eyes to see our culture afresh.
6. We need more than the weapons of the world
But finally, and this is fundamental, there will be the need for courage. Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers – realities to the existence of which our privatized culture has been blind. To ask, “Can the West be converted?” is to align ourselves with the Apostle when he speaks of “taking every thought captive to Christ,” and for that – as he tells us – we need more than the weapons of the world.