The Missional Manifesto

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By Ed Stetzer, CP Guest Columnist
April 29, 2011|10:20 am

Today, I want to point you to a newly released Missional Manifesto.

You can find the full document here. Our purpose is to encourage and bring clarity-- to encourage believers to live missional lives and to clarify what we mean when we use the term "missional."

As you can tell from the definition at Wikipedia, there is no clear definition of the word. That should not shock us-- watch people debate words like grace, justice, and gospel. But, Alan Hirsch and I wanted to assemble a group of people to help us "frame" a document that might speak into what we mean when we use the word. Others will
use it differently-- fair enough. However, this is what a group of Christians put forward to say what they mean when the use the term--and to encourage others to do the same.

We say in the preamble:

God is a sending God, a missionary God, who has called His people, the church, to be missionary agents of His love and glory. The concept missional epitomizes this idea. This manifesto seeks to serve the church by clarifying its calling and helping it theologically understand and practically live out God's mission in the world today. Although it is frequently stated "God's church has a mission," according to missional theology, a more accurate expression is "God's mission has a church" (Ephesians 3:7-13).

Properly understanding the meaning of missional begins with recognizing God's missionary nature. The Father is the source of mission, the Son is the embodiment of that mission, and mission is done in the power of the Spirit. By nature, God is the "sending one" who initiates the redemption of His whole creation. Jesus consistently spoke of Himself as being "sent" in John's gospel and subsequently commissioned His disciples for this same purpose (John 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25). As the "sent" people of God, the church is the instrument of His mission (John 20:21).

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Missional represents a significant shift in the way we understand the church. As the people of a missionary God, we are entrusted to participate in the world the same way He does--by committing to be His ambassadors. Missional is the perspective to see people as God does and to engage in the activity of reaching them. The church on mission is the church as God intended.

But, the primary focus is on the affirmations. It is our hope that these affirmations will encourage us toward biblical fidelity and missional engagement. Here are some excerpts from those affirmations:

We affirm that God, who is more holy that we can imagine, looked with compassion upon humanity made up of people who are more sinful that we will admit and sent Jesus into history to establish His kingdom and reconcile people and the world to Himself. Jesus, whose love is more extravagant than we can measure, gave His life as a substitutionary death on the cross and was physically resurrected thereby propitiating the wrath of God. Through the grace of God, when a person repents of their sin, confesses the Messiah as Lord, and believes in His resurrection, they gain what the Bible defines as new and eternal life. All believers are then joined together into the church, a covenant community working as "agents of reconciliation" to proclaim and live out the gospel.

We believe the mission and responsibility of the church includes both the proclamation of the Gospel and its demonstration. From Jesus, we learn the truth is to be proclaimed with authority and lived with grace. The church must constantly evangelize, respond lovingly to human needs, as well as "seek the welfare of the city" (Jeremiah 29:7). By living out the implications of the gospel, the missional church offers a verbal defense and a living example of its power.

It is also a manifesto -- it calls us toward action. Our hope is that it might help Christians, churches, and denominations to press toward missional activity in the world. The last paragraph hits on this important part:

Because we believe these things, we are compelled to action. We urge God's people to align around the lordship of Jesus, the missional nature of His church, and the reality of His kingdom. We invite the body of Christ everywhere to see people and the world through the lens of God's kingdom, to live holy lives as Jesus' disciples, and to intentionally represent Him together as the church. We affirm that Jesus was sent to fulfill God's purposes in the world through His perfect life, substitutionary death, and physical resurrection so that redemption could be made available to us. With Christ as our focal point, His kingdom as our destiny, and His Spirit as our empowerment, we accept the privilege and joy of His mission.

Adapted from Ed Stetzer's weblog at www.edstetzer.com. Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. Ed is Visiting Professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and Visiting Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Ed blogs daily at EdStetzer.com.
 

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