Missional: I was wrong

A quick correction before we enter the new year. The original usage of the word "missional" is earlier than I said in my post "What I mean when I say Emerging-Missional church". I said it was used first by Charles Van Engen in 1991, which is true, but there are much earlier occurrences of the word.

I found this one on Google books but someone else beat me to add it to Wikipedia. The word "missional" was used in 1907 by W. G. HOLMES in Age Justinian & Theodora II, page 687 –  "Several prelates, whose missional activities brought over whole districts and even nationalities to their creed."  I wont say that was the earliest use lest someone prove me wrong again.

UPDATE: I just found an earlier occurrence of missional – 1814

More on Missional:

Friend Of Missional– The biggest fullest post on "missional" I have found is on Friend of Missional [HT: Boars Head]

– Alan Hirsch’s new book "The Forgotten Ways" uses the term EMC which stands for ‘Emerging Missional Church’. I have said before that keeping these two words together is a good idea.

– Baptist missiologist Francis DuBose used the word "missional" often in his 1983 book ‘God Who Sends’. Interesting connection – In 1996-7 I directed San Francisco’s Page Street Baptist Center that Dr DuBose started and Francis and I used to run the feeding program together each week.

The Dark Side of Missional:

I have seen some churches use [abuse] the word "missional" as an excuse for shutting down their intentional cross-cultural or international missionary efforts and replacing them with a local evangelistic emphasis. Sounds to me like they are using their apostolic missions energy to run their local machinery – ie, get more bums on the pews and boost the income. Now I think its great that churches adopt missional thinking and this is vital in our post-Christian environment, but there must be a place for new entrepreneurial work  outside the church borders or the good story will not travel outside our cultural boundaries. Local churches need to be missional BUT they must also be INTENTIONAL about sending their best to places where the name of Jesus is not known. The church should be exporting its blessing to the families of the earth and being "missional" should serve that role, not hinder it.

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

9 Comments

  • I added the info to Wiki a while back when I found they had no entry at all for missional or missional church. Seemed like a strange omission. Both entries could still use some further development.

  • Local churches need to be missional BUT they must also be INTENTIONAL about sending their best to places where the name of Jesus is not known. The church should be exporting its blessing to the families of the earth and being “missional” should serve that role, not hinder it.
    Brilliant! Well said, Andrew.

  • According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Holmes quotation is the earliest use of “missional” – I think you can claim that with confidence…

  • Andrew,
    Our church held its annual “breakfast and bible study” yesterday (this is an informal Sunday gathering where everyone bring food and instead of the all out service, we gather around the couches and chairs in the back of the auditorium to eat, have bible study, and talk about where the church is going). Our pastor’s comments about what it meant for us to be a missional church during the upcoming year were simple: as a churhc, we will not start any new ministries that we know to exist in the community. Instead, we will partner with the existing community ministries to serve the community, be they faith based or secular. At the same time, we will continue to send out and support people who feel called to serve cross culturally.
    I’ll speak for our church in saying that your words are right on the money.

  • Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed the opening look at the origin of “missional.” I love the word “missional” because using it causes the audience to expand their internal dictionaries to include a new view of missionary interaction with the world (both global and local.)
    Your warning at the end is also poignant, but I find it hard to agree that “churches must also be INTENTIONAL about sending their best to places where the name of Jesus is not known.” This just doesn’t sit well with me. I agree that we should never shirk our giving to foreign missions because we’ve found some better “return on investment” or revealed something more efficient through “cost-benefit analysis,” but you shouldn’t underfund local concerns with that same logic (I feel that the call to the whole Earth knows no borders or cultures.) I can only trust that God sends the Spirit to work in people’s hearts so that through prayer and discernment the right monies and people go to the right places and I pray (I actually stopped posting to pray) that it would be an especially efficacious call on those who are to go to the unreached peoples, because my heart breaks for them.
    Bless you and your family and have a wonderful new year!

  • I so appreciated hearing you on this at Fusion! – It has been food for thought ever since.
    I was talking about this on my new blog – having read an excellent NewFrontiers magazine.
    They may not be emergent – but they are one of the growing bits of the UK Church – and they do seem to get being missional. (I am not a member BTW!)
    Thanks for encouraging me to start a blog by the way – I’m enjoying it.

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