What Does "Missional" Mean?

Iona Abbey, Scotland; Photo Credit - Ryan Klinck

Iona Abbey, Scotland; Photo Credit - Ryan Klinck

 What Does "Missional" Mean?
The Missional Community as a Means of Grace, Week 1
Adam White

What does it mean to be "missional" as we live out our faith?

The same question challenged a young John Wesley who, in his mid-thirties, began going out to the English countryside and preaching in open fields to working class women and men who weren't being warmly received within the local parishes that made up the Church of England at that time. (1) For Wesley, going out of the local church and preaching in the open air was one major step outside of his comfort zone. And yet, there were women and men throughout the country whose needs were not being recognized, who were yearning for spiritual growth.

Part of being missional in faith involves recognizing the needs of others around us and then being willing to step outside of our comfort zones in order to be in relationship with those people.

This type of narrative may sound familiar because it is one that has occurred in the Gospels. When Christ sends the disciples out on their own for the very first time, he does so by giving them authority, telling them to take minimal resources, and urging them to rely on the hospitality of others (Luke 9:1-6).

To be missional, then, requires us to rely on receiving from others as we step outside of our comfort zones to be in a mutual relationship.

Also, being missional means we are open to transition and able to move forward when we encounter roadblocks. That was Christ’s advice for the disciples when they were met with inhospitable people, “Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5).

Not everyone was welcoming of John Wesley when he would come into town, wanting to preach and receive people who were in need. Heck, even in his own hometown of Epworth he was met with surprising inhospitality. In 1742 when he came to the very church he had grown up in and where his father once served, St. Andrew’s Church, Wesley asked the head rector if he could come into the church and preach to the crowds that were gathering. The rector refused to allow Wesley to come in, so he decided to go into the adjacent graveyard where his father’s grave was, stood upon the tombstone and preached to the gathered hundreds. (2)

As we go out into different communities, even in the places we expect to be welcoming, we are encouraged to be creative and find the places and people where we can experience spiritual fruitfulness. This is what it means to be missional.

Today, what are our comfort zones that we each must step out of in order to recognize the needs of others? How are we relying on a mutual relationship with others in our service: one that requires us to receive as much as we are giving? And how can we creatively be open to transitions and challenges we meet as we live missionally? These questions will be explored in our new theme for the following nine weeks titled, The Missional Community. In this theme we will explore what it means to follow a missional life of faith as we look at the three parts of the Wesleyan “Way of Salvation” – prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • Who or where around your community do you feel God calling you to be present to missionally?

  • What roadblocks are keeping you from entering into a mutual missional relationship with others?

1. Richard P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and The People Called Methodists: Second Edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013), 109-113.
2. Ibid, 154.