Mission, being on mission, being missional—anything having to do with this topic—is popular. Just type in "missional" on Amazon and see just how many books come up. How do you navigate the various options. No church leader will disagree with the call for the church to be on mission, but there is all kinds of disagreement about what this means. The best book on this topic is The Missional Church in Perspective by Craig Van Gelder and Dwight Zscheile. In it, these authors map out the various trends by looking at tons of books on the subject. They offer 4 primary branches and additional sub-branches under each of those four. Reading this book is worth the time. I've found that most leaders have not taken the time to understand the kind of mission that they are leading people on.
From my research, I've developed a simplified way of comparing the various perspectives of mission in the church. This is not so much based on any sets of books, but on how I see leaders actually leading their churches.
The church's mission is itself. For many leaders, the mission of the
church is the growth and success of the church itself. The assumption is that if the church grows that
the world will be impacted. This a a very church centered approach and anything that is done is usually controlled from the center. The mission of the church with this mindset
it to enlist church members to help the church do its unique mission more effectively.
The church has a mission.
In this imagination, mission is one of the things that the church does,
alongside other purposes like worship, community an teaching. Mission is the outreach activity and a part if
its church strategy. Usually, this comes with statements like "if
everything is mission then nothing is mission."
The church is on mission.
Those who take this perspective, emphasize the work of the church in
the world. Usually there is a focus on doing what Jesus would do in the
world. This sounds very correct, but usually it comes with a set of
rules and lists of what Jesus would or would not be doing in this
The church is mission. In this
point of view, the church does not have a mission, the way of the church
is the mission. The church is viewed as a enclave that is withdrawn
from the world and is not so much called to impact or engage the world
but to be a world in and of itself.
The church participates in God's mission. This view seeks to discover how to encounter the God of mission and join
the Spirit who is on mission. The focus is not just on "what" we do, but even more so on "who" we are. The church seeks to develop practices that help people engage the local context and join in on what they see the Spirit of God doing in the local. The focus lies on what God is doing on the fringes, in our local neighborhoods, and not so much about what's happening at the church center.
How do you see the mission of the church?