Ryan Kelly, Pastor for Preaching at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM, and TGC Council Member, has a helpful post here on missional discussions.
Here are his three main points:
- Insisting on a definition of missional or asking for specifics of one’s view of the mission is not curmudgeon fundamentalism—it’s still needed.
- Especially we younger evangelicals have to give a more sober and careful hearing to our fathers in ministry when they warn us with historical examples of when the church’s deeds eclipsed, or became, her gospel.
- Partly influenced by the need to protect the gospel (see #2 above), but mostly based on the Bible itself, it seems to me that there is warrant for prioritizing gospel proclamation over other important commands Jesus gives his followers.
Read the whole post to see an elaboration on each point. It may be helpful to reprint below his explanation for point #1 to give you a flavor of his perspective:
There are plenty of books that have the words mission or missional in the title which describe that mission primarily in terms of deeds, justice, culture, community, etc. (e.g., McNeal). Some missional authors are so post-modernly squishy that when they try to define the word missional they get lost debating the definition of “definition” (Roxburgh and Boren). And there are many ministries and seminaries that still use the term missional to describe what most of us TGC-type think of as emergent.
On the other hand, Driscoll, Keller, Stetzer, et al, use the term missional in a way that prioritizes or centralizes gospel proclamation among the many other good things Christians are called to do. I’m enormously thankful for such men—for their minds, their labors, and for God’s blessing through them. Nevertheless, what this demonstrates is that we have good reason to ask what this or that person means by being missional, even if we are willing to use the term for ourselves and our churches. It’s not necessarily a critique of everything missional to ask for a definition. In fact, it’s rather bubble-ish to think that no one uses the term poorly any more.
There are a few take-aways here.
1) Those skeptical of the term missional should give the benefit of doubt about another’s definition until there’s reason to be concerned. The term itself has no necessary bearing on gospel fidelity.
2) Conversely, those who identify themselves with the term missional should be gracious and eager to clarify when another asks him what that word means. I’ve seen too many young pastors get bent out of shape simply for being asked what missional means to them. That’s silly.
3) We should all strive to avoid repetitive empty vocabulary, and instead make pains to be clear about what we think the church should be doing. Again, this is a good discussion if we navigate it openly and graciously.
Again, I commend the whole thing.