The more I read and get to know Alan Hirsch, the more I appreciate and resonate with his thoughts on the term "missional" and what that means for us as individuals and for our church communities.
His latest post Missional the New Emergent? Not On My Shift! does a great job of communicating the different purposes of "emergent" and "missional" focuses.
From his post:
Why I am so fussy about this word is because I believe it carries the full weight of the hope for the church in the West. I wholeheartedly believe that the recovery of the missional idea of God and Church is critical to the survival, let alone the growth, of Christianity in the West. Much is at stake here!
Missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world.
The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus. To obstruct this is to block God’s purposes in and through his people. (From his book, The Forgotten Ways)
in my opinion what is expressed through Emergent, the Alt-Worship movement, and what has been called Post-Evangelicalism, is not by-and-large a missionary movement, but is rather what I would call a renewal
As for me, I am happy to call the so-called ‘emergents’ friends and fellow travelers, I personally do not feel the need to question the inherited theological tradition as many of its adherents do.
Emerging forms of the church must always be subservient to the missional purposes of the church. My advice to ‘emergents’ is therefore, don’t emerge before you have a mission.
My advice to all you folks on both sides of the debate that mix up the term, be warned! What you are doing is only making it harder for the Church to come to grips with its deepest sense of call and purpose in this time and place–no less! For God’s sake, be clear in your use of the term or can I suggest that you stop using it.
To guard against a further degrading of the word, I want to suggest (as I did in The Forgotten Ways) that we combine the term ‘missional’ with the associated term ‘incarnational’ to come up with the term missional-incarnational.
If ‘missional’ carries the sense of being ’sent’, then ‘incarnational’ gives definition to the nature of that ’sentness.’ If ‘missional’ means being thrust into the world as witnesses to the redemption that is in Jesus, then ‘incarnational’ shows us that we ought to engage the world in the same way that God did in and through the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus the Messiah.
Mission always sets our Agenda and Incarnation must always describe our Way.