“Missional” is making the rounds in the interwebs in anticipation of a consensus. I suspect pulling a new word into meaning requires antagonists and allies. After all, “missional” still is adversarial to spell check! If missional emerges from the clutches of its varied uses to become a standardized term, what will it be in 140 years? That is, what word will rescue the “mission of God” from its certain fall once “missional” goes out of vogue? Is hijacked? Or for some, the new liberal?
If an attempt at a consensus is to once for all nail language so we may cast this person or that person out for the “wrong” use of the word, then the attempt is really another “line in the sand.” She’s not “missional.” He’s not “missional.” If by missional we mean participation in the mission of God in the world then it should hold a wide enough swath to be used by a variety of groups. That is, unless one group thinks it has market on the mission of God over another group.
The phrase “missio dei” has itself fallen on hard times as some trace its use in recent Christian history to a move toward an unwelcome ecumenism and a diminishing of the Gospel. Warnings abound and parallels are drawn to say with Marx that history indeed repeats itself. But, for Marx this meant one thing and for those who point to a slippery slope it means quite another. Regardless of what one says about history and its recurrence we need to recover an awareness of the mission of God in the world – the missio dei.
Recently, Callid Keefe-Perry presented at the Theology After Google Conference at Claremont School of Theology. I wonder if for some of us “missional” is the new “chortle.” Watch the video and see if in some way “missional” language has had an impact on the way in which we both experience God in Christ and how we talk about God in Christ. If we are using a new word, as an adjective or verb, to describe the mission of God are we not then doing just what Callid suggests we should be doing, in spite of those who hunt for heresies? (To get the reference for “chortle” you will have to watch the video.)