How would you define “missional”? I would identify 3 characteristics which, combined, indicates that a person or a community is being missional.
Missional is Incarnational. To be incarnational is to spend time with “sinners” (Luke 5:29 – 32 and 15:1); Jesus was present on a regular basis with people who needed God’s grace and love. To be missional means taking the time to sit down with those who do not yet know God, to be involved in their lives, to participate in their activities, and to earn the right to share one’s own experience of life lived by faith in Jesus. To be missional takes time!
Incarnational also means having the right attitude toward those “outside” the church. It indicates an attitude of acceptance, love, compassion and care for those who do not yet believe in Jesus. It sees all people as those whom God loves. Because of this attitude, incarnational people use the language of those they are with. They put aside their “religious” jargon and express the love of God in words and phrases that arise out of the experience of their friends rather than out of their own personal experience of God.
A missional church is apostolic. The best example of what it means to be apostolic is found in 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23. It means to be adaptable and flexible, able to fit in whatever situation one finds oneself. It is the ability to discern between the essential elements of the gospel and the changing shape of Christian life as the gospel enters into different cultures, social communities, and economic ghettoes. Apostolic is to be able to differentiate between what I like and what we have always done from what is needed and required to engage unbelievers with Jesus.
A missional church is genuinely Christ-like. While this encompasses moral purity (the negative aspect), it also entails integrity (the positive aspect). Integrity is about being grace and forgiveness to others. It is about acceptance not judgment, about forgiveness not revenge, about service not selfishness, about compassion, not consumerism, and about caring not apathy.
In the end, missional is not about what you do as much as it is about who you are. Churches and individuals “do” so many things, but fail to be missional because they are not present with people outside the church, they are not able to adapt to the changing forms required of a faith community, and they are not Christ-like in their expression of self-sacrificing love and commitment to those who need a physician – Jesus, Himself.