Are Christians supposed to be missional? What does it mean to be missional?
To be "missional" typically means to live with a missionary mindset. Instead of viewing one's life as existing in a "Christian culture," those who write and teach about a missional mindset encourage believers to view life as living within a pagan culture with the intent to bring people to faith in Christ.
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Many popular writers and speakers have popularized the idea of missional living since the 1990s, including Tim Keller, Alan Hirsch, Dan Kimball, and Erwin McManus, among others. Common themes among these writers include the ideas that Jesus served missionally, America is less Christian than in past generations, and that missional living offers a biblical corrective to the cultural Christianity often seen in American society.
In particular, certain biblical examples are often used regarding a missional lifestyle. Popular ones include Joseph, who lived a godly life among Pharaoh and pagan Egypt and had great influence; Esther, who used her godly influence to save the lives of many of God's people; Daniel, who served God in a pagan context to bring glory to God; and the apostle Paul, who taught God's truth among the pagan Greeks in Athens from a missional perspective (Acts 17).
Another common theme in missional writings is the incarnation of Jesus. Just as Jesus left His heavenly home to live among those He served, His followers are also to go to those in need of Christ and live out an incarnational lifestyle of ministry and service (John 1:1-4). In the same way a cross-culture missionary seeks to adapt to the culture in which he or she serves to communicate Christ, the missional Christian seeks to share Christ within a particular cultural mindset to better impact lives.
A look at these biblical examples shows that a missional lifestyle can reflect the godly principles taught in Scripture. However, there are some concerns regarding possible associations with the term "missional." In particular, some of those who have popularized the term interpret it in more radical ways than most Christians would accept or hold to other theological views that would be concerning. Because of this, it may be more helpful to say we are to live with a missional perspective, but are not part of the missional movement.
In addition, some have sought to combine both the missional church and emerging/emergent church into the same movement. While this is often not the case, the associations have caused some Christians and churches to refrain from using the term "missional" as a result.
In summary, it is certainly biblical to live as a missional Christian or church. However, due to associations with this term, many believers may prefer to avoid using the term or associating with those who have popularized it. In the end, the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31 should serve as our basis for our actions: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
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