Developing Missional Churches

A missional perspective means viewing the church as mission. J. Todd Billings writes about a pastor friend who started making changes...

Written by Burt Braunius /
February 8, 2016

Developing Missional Churches

The members of a Classis Commissioned Pastor Support Team were talking about their appreciation for the work of Church Leadership Center. One member said, “CLC provides quality, missionally minded leadership.” Later in the discussion, someone referred to CLC as “launching missionally minded, equipped people into ministry.”

These are affirming words. We work at having a missional perspective.

A missional perspective means viewing the church as mission. J. Todd Billings writes about a pastor friend who started making changes so that his church would be more intentionally missional. Various church members became involved in leading worship, and it was “suggested that the church advertise in the yellow pages and think of ways to reach those without a church home.

The response of the church’s board of Elders was a surprise. “’Leading the Sunday service is what we’re paying you for,’ they said. The elders also objected to any attempts to make the church’s life more visible to the community. ‘You need to pay attention to our needs.’ Although church attendance was dropping, the Elders were locked into an internal mode, fixated on members’ desires rather than on God’s ministry in the world” (Christianity Today, March 5 2008, Vol. 52, No. 3, p. 56 ).

The above gets to the heart of what it means for a church to be missional. We need to ask these questions: 1) To what degree is our church “locked into an internal mode?” and 2) What value do we place upon reaching out to others and upon “God’s ministry in the world?”

One definition of a missional church is given by Ronald Carlson: “A missional church is an authentic community of faith that primarily directs its ministry focus outward toward the context in which it is located and to the broader world beyond.” (

the-most-important-currency-a-congregation-has-to-spend-is-hopeCarlson identifies six primary characteristics of a missional church.

  1. It views its own context as a constantly changing mission field;
  2. It is both engaged in and supportive of missions;
  3. It recognizes that its mission includes both the Great Commission (making new disciples) and the Great Commandment (loving God and loving others as self);
  4. It recognizes all people as being both the “subject” and “object” of God’s mission;
  5. It is engaged in the transformation of persons, churches, communities, and cultures;
  6. It multiplies churches, disciples, and mission.

The above provides a beginning summary. We also emphasize that the missional message includes being able to describe terms such as the following: baptism, Christ, communion, faith, forgiveness, God the Father, grace, the Holy Spirit, mercy, prayer, repentance, resurrection, salvation, Scripture, service, sin, witness, worship, along with additional words that are basic to evangelistic outreach and church planting.


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  1. Avatar

    Thank you for the encouragement on the missional front. It is necessary due to the fact that the term “missional” is not easily received (even when it comes to my spellcheck). I do want to point out that the title of “Developing Missional Leaders” had me excited being a missionary through neighbourhoods. The article went on to to dealing with the church, asking ‘church’ questions and dealing with the presuppositions that come with the word ‘church.’ I do believe these are two different trajectories. Basically, I would love to read this article as it deals with the discipleship aspect of life; how the missional leader makes disciples much like we read in the gospels. But I find myself reading more about answering questions about the church. I have currently written a book from the few years of being a neighbourhood pastor; interesting, eh? This has helped me think through what it means to be a missional leader as a disciple maker. I am in need of finding others who walk down this road. Can the CLC help? -Rick

    1. Church Leadership Center

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I have changed the title to better reflect the article. Nonetheless, I have informed the CLC leadership of your comment and trust they will reply to your request for help soon.

  2. Avatar

    Hello Rick,
    My colleague, Jim Lankheet is planning on contacting you. He is on vacation and having Internet difficulties. So, I want to thank you for your response. Please feel free to call me (616-745-6482) if you would like to further discuss this article.
    We are blessed by you comments and by what we know of your ministry,

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for your thoughts and suggestion. It is great to find others like you who have a heart to take the Gospel out and make disciples. Your role of neighborhood pastor is interesting for sure and it would be great to know more about it. Having been involved in planting numerous churches myself, I can testify to the fact that new models are not easily embraced and sometimes you need to search near and far to find people who understand what you are doing. True missional leaders are pioneers in taking the Gospel out and they are often neither understood nor properly resourced. You kind of make it up as you go. It would be interesting to see how we might be able to help in what you are doing. Thanks again for your comments and for reaching out. It encourages me to know of people like you that are out there doing pioneering work. Let’s see if there is a way to help.–Jim


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