Church: Missional or Traditional?

Adam from Thoughts From The Back Seat gives us two scenarios of church, inspired by Emerging Worship; (Dan Kimball):

Foundation 2-1

Missional . . .or

Foundation 1-1

. . . Traditional


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • alan hirsch says:

    Diagrams can say it all. I love them. These highlight wonderfully the difference between the missional and the institutional model of church.

  • Al, I agree, although my question is this: Given that many of our churches (and certainly many individual believers) might exist on a continuum between these two models, is it helpful to highlight the differences? When I saw these diagrams, whilst i think they are well constructed, something in my gut said, “shouldn’t we be chasing more common ground? Could such diagrams, especially those published by the “MISSIONAL” church (insert loud caps) have a polarising effect? Just wondering…

  • bobbie says:

    the church we just left had as it’s mantra ‘to be and make disciples’ – it was a lie. they have a sign in the parking lot that my husband and i want to vandalize – ‘to be and fake disciples’.
    the traditional way doesn’t work and they off anyone who looks remotely missional. polarising indeed.

  • Thanks Bobbie…I love your blog BTW. (definitely worth a visit, folks)

  • Andrew,
    I agree that we should seek peace, unless there is none to seek. The fact is that most churches are fat and doing nothing — they exist for the weekend service and needs as they arrive from within. The shape of those churches is determined not so much by articulation statements but by practice and momentum.
    The missional model simply won’t allow the fat to develop — if it sticks to its task.
    Missional is the operative word, and I like these charts.

  • Different ways of thinking

    Tall Skinny Kiwi posted two great images that illustrate where I hope to go with FBC Warren. It also explains why I think differently about church than the average FBC Warren member:
    Traditional (FBC):
    Missional (Matt, et al.):
    This s…

  • Graham Doel says:

    Thanks for highlighting those for us. It is a massive shift from the inherited model to a missional approach. As soon as you say “Lets have mission as our priority and not our main meeting” (how ever it is phrased), the reply is “How will we pay the minister or support the building”.
    Deep down in the DNA of the inherited church the institution lurks, ready to rear its head whenever appropriate. The good news is, in my experience in the inherited tradition, the more you read the bible and talk about mission and the implications of the incarnation, the more people begin to understand.
    It can feel slow, but I think it is worth sticking with (he tells himself).

  • Sivin Kit says:

    I prefer cicles , more organic looking diagrams… but this is still very good stuff! I guess, what;s impportant is that it shows the contrast and makes us think!

  • Van S' Blog says:

    Central Gathering: Incarnational instead of Attractional

    Right now at Missio Dei, we’re in a tough spot. The whole situation with Augsburg (read previous post) derailed our plans. We were getting read to start a more attractive Sunday meeting on an attractive campus. We’d put an ad

  • Traditional Church vs. Missional Church…..

    Andrew Jones, over at Tall Skinny Kiwi, has a great post on the traditional church vs. the missional church. This is a topic I am very interested in myself. I will not comment much on this topic as I am…

  • Traditional Church vs. Missional Church…..

    Andrew Jones, over at Tall Skinny Kiwi, has a great post on the traditional church vs. the missional church. This is a topic I am very interested in myself. I will not comment much on this topic as I am…

  • Stephen Gilbert says:

    This comparison disturbs me because I think its unfair to the traditional church model, and unfairly complimentary to the emergent model. Its instructive to compare different models, but you must do so in a way that is honest and balanced. From my experience, emergent churches are no more or less effective at making disciples. And if you ask any pastor or leader in a traditional church, they will tell you that the purpose of their existence is on making disciples. The weekend service and all of the other ministry activities are built on this foundation, the same as in an emergent church. Now, to be fair, there are churches on both sides that get their priorities mixed up, or can fail to produce results. But what concerns me is that the emergent church is creating a straw man out of the rest of the church world, distorting reality in order to encourage loyalty to the “emergent” model. This seems immature and hints that there may be some fundamental issues that the emergent church needs to deal with. I believe that there is great value in behaving missionally, but can’t this be done without the anti-traditional rhetoric? Even if your presumed failure of the traditional church is accurate (and I think its not), why not just let it be? Why not just do missional stuff, and write about that, instead of engaging in the constant stream of self-congratulation and anti-traditionalism?

  • joeturner says:

    OK, I’m thick and I’m ready to confess:
    I don’t understand the diagrams. Can someone explain to a stupid person?
    Is the top the most important aspect or the bottom? Does the width represent the amount of time/importance/resources allocated to each segment?
    I’m also with Stephen to the extent that (no matter what the blocks actually mean), the diagram implies that the ‘traditional’ church is not into making disciples whereas the ‘missional’ church (are we to read that as ’emerging’ or what?) is. This does not match my understanding and experience. Even the most staid and traditional church professes that it is into ‘making disciples’. Conversely, to what extent are emerging/missional churches doing more than making ‘converts’ without the discipling, stability and resources of the traditional church?
    And anyway, maybe we need to concern ourselves slightly more with being authentic and real and slightly less with ‘perfect’ mission techniques. I heard about a small group of people from local churches in my town who stay up late on weekend evenings giving rest, coffee and an ear to people leaving local nightclubs. I don’t suppose they really sat down and decided the ‘cultural philosophy, theology and values’ of a drunk, stoned or depressed reveller, they just saw a need and did something about it.
    OK enough waffle already.

  • Look, it’s 2am and I should never comment at 2am, but this is bugging me. Personally, I’m “missional” to the eyeballs, never been much for traditional models of anything, but the truth is, and I suspect this is true for nearly all of us reading this blog (including Bobbie), that I owe my faith to the traditional church. My new life was born in the traditional church- it is my “parent” and, as such, I should honour it. I’m unsure how we can separate the idea of mission out from any part of the church. God is Mission as much as God is Love. Missio is to “send out”. Isn’t that simply God’s love expression for the world? By sending us out to share His love is how he reveals Himself to the world. The church is one body. There is no either, or. There is just the church. I think this idea that we can separate out into a cooler, more switched on camp labeled “Missional” is an adolescent fantasy. We will grow up at some point and realise that to dishonour one’s parents in faith is to shorten one’s life in faith and we will wise up or drop out. We all need each other. I’m not just a babe in Jesus who needs TallSkinnyKiwi. TSK also needs me. That’s how this crazy family thing works. I believe that such negative labeling from the “Missional” camp won’t help the missional model, it will simply erode the expression of God’s love to the world.

  • Stephen Gilbert says:

    Indeed. Within the larger Christian church, there are people that perceive the need of the lost and dying world and reach out to offer the hope of the gospel. This kind of work, such as the example of hanging out at nightclubs, is hard work, easier to talk about than to do. Its always encouraging to see Christians living out a committed and self-sacrificial evangelistic calling. However, its very rare if more than 10% of a community has this calling, and probably less than half of these have the maturity, wisdom and fortitude to persevere in this kind of outreach for any significant length of time.
    As Joe mentions, there is more to discipleship than ‘making converts’. Having a strong, stable and Biblically sound church community backing up the mission is indispensible for seeing long-term spiritual growth and transformation. And as long as the missional churches choose to lampoon the traditional church, I fear they will be ineffective and frustrated.

  • andrew says:

    hey – great to get some perspective from other countries, especially Joe (UK) and RiverTribeMike (Australia) at the end.
    i find that charts can be terribly simplistic, reductionistic and insulting. others like them.
    i think the chart represents a celebratory step forward for those that have progressed deeper into their understanding of church – but it does not need to be a slap in the face for those in traditional church.
    but i see your point – it does create an US/THEM division and that is unfortunate . .. because .. as you have said . . We all LOVE the traditional church and many of us are still working out of it – in a missional way

  • Missional vs. Traditional Church

    At least three blogs before this one have picked up on a provocative new way of viewing church. I’m taking my turn now to share some strong appreciation and agreement, with just a couple of reservations.

  • bobbie says:

    the us/them is there because there is no dialog. you and other emergent leaders have been more than willing to dialog with those who are polarizing the church (at least in the US) and they are unwilling.
    it is only going to get worse unless we really start to build bridges instead of walls.
    your diagram looks kind of like steps – maybe we can build steps!

  • Adam Young says:

    In response to:
    OK, I’m thick and I’m ready to confess:
    I don’t understand the diagrams. Can someone explain to a stupid person?
    Is the top the most important aspect or the bottom? Does the width represent the amount of time/importance/resources allocated to each segment?
    You must be thick. Just kidding. Let me explain, since I was the one who did these cheesy graphics.
    First off, because each graphic is titled including the word “foundation”, it should be obvious that what is important in each model is the bottom, since that’s where the foundation usually goes. In the typical church model, the foundation of the church is built on the weekend worship service(s). Most energy, planning, cash flow, etc. goes into what takes place on Sunday morning. Think about it from a personal level – if you want to figure out what’s really most important to you, look at your calendar and look at your checkbook/wallet. What you spend your time and money on usually reflects what your priorities really are. Same goes with the church.
    The foundation of the missional church is on the actual mission, not the services themselves. The services are only a means to the end, and are a result of other building blocks that have taken place.
    As for your other question about the width – it does not represent the time, etc. allocated to each. The graphics just looked better that way.
    And remember – these graphics are my depiction of what I read in Dan Kimball’s book “Emerging Worship”. He explains each model much better than I have in these drawings.

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