A friend of mine (Steve Lutz of Liberti church in Philadelphia, and a CCO campus pastor at Penn State) who’s in campus ministry in the Northeast recently gave me the privilege of reading a paper he’s working on entitled “A Missional Approach to Campus Ministry.” In it he defines what missional is, how it relates to the world of campus ministries, the marks of a missional campus ministry, and different models that are being used by missional campus ministers. It was a great read, strewn with insights taken from Guder, Newbigin, Keller, Driscoll, and Stetzer. Anyone familiar with these writers and in campus ministry keep a look out for this paper when it emerges from Steve Lutz’s study, its a keeper for sure.

Steve’s paper brought to my attention again the matter of “missional,” what it is and where it came from. A common answer is that as a term it emerged in popular use about fifty or so years ago and in terms of academic use people have pointed back as far as 100+ years. This caused me to wonder is missional just the newest adjective in the ministers toolbox by which he or she names their labors or is it as a concept much older and more essential to the churches identity. The answer I believe is both yes and yes. Being missional is trendy but being missional is a non-negotiable for the church – particularly as it enters further into a post-Christian climate.

NT Wright, as I quoted in the title of this post, says that the one thing that stands out in the early churches praxis more than anything else is its missional nature, a nature that led her out to all the world (Jew and Gentile). Here’s a few paragraphs where he unpacks this from his New Testament and the People of God (standard reading for Reggie Kidd’s RTS Orlando New Testament course);

Why then did early Christianity spread? Because early Christians believed that what they had found to be true was true for the whole world. The impetus to mission sprang from the very heart of early Christian conviction. If we know anything about early Christian praxis, at a non- or sub-literary level, it is that the early Christians engaged in mission, both to Jews and to Gentiles. ‘The irresistible expansion of Christian faith in the Mediterranean world during the first 150 years is the scarlet thread running through any history of primitive Christianiy.’ This missionary activity was not an addendum to a faith that was basically ‘about’ something else (e.g. a new existential self-awareness). ‘Christianity was never more itself than in the launching of the world mission.’…

World mission is thus the first and most obvious feature of early Christian praxis.

 For Wright to be a Christian was to be on a mission extending to the whole world. Taking this praxis to our current situation in the West its not hard to see why the emphasis toward missional ecclesiology comes so easy for so many in the church today. One thing that has changed is the consciousness of missional church leaders concerning the what the whole world means, as a concept “the whole world” is less about including Jew and Gentile into one community (though from God’s covenantal standpoint is will always be chefly this) thereby beaking down covenantal, redemptive-narrative, and racial prejudices or assumptions in his covenant people; and now more emphatic about including the Christianized West which is becoming more and more a Post-Christian atmosphere in the missional senstivities of his covenantal people thereby breaking down situational and traditional mindsets at work in the PostColonial church of “where missions is needed” and “who is without the gospel.”

So is missional the latest trendy descriptor in the ministers handbag of tricks, yes; but is missional something intrinsic and necessary if a Christian community is going to be like the early Christian movement in Acts, absolutely.

Thoughts, criticisms, suggestions anyone… 

(Photographic art by Fusaka, piece entitled “Full of holes“)