Missional or missionary?
I’m still reading about the Missional Church, which to some extent seems to have replaced the Emerging Church, so it seems that the term has emerged (sorry!) from the same circles, or at least that the circles overlapped, or used to.
What I haven’t managed to discover, however, is how the “missional church” differs from what used to be called the “missionary church”. So I’m hoping that someone, perhaps more than one someone, who knows the difference, will read this, and explain the difference for me.
Of course someone might ask what I understand by “missionary church” and that is not all that easy to explain. Someone once asked what the church is doing when it isn’t sitting in its pews, and I think that’s getting closer. Except, of course, that I don’t think proper churches have pews in the first place, and that the presence of pews is a prima facie symptom of a sedentary church, which is pretty well the opposite of a missionary church.
So the difference is in part the difference between the gathered church and the scattered church.
A friend of mine, John Davies, a retired Anglican bishop now working in Wales, observed that
In England – and in Wales – if you ask a priest how many people are in the parish, the reply will be something like ‘15,000 people’ – the population of the area. In USA, Canada, and in much of S Africa, the reply will be something more like ’70 families’ – i.e. the number on the church roll.
That was something I noticed when I was studying in the UK 45 years ago, and that way of seeing things made me think that the Church of England, back then, was not a missionary church, because it would regard the 15000 people as part of its pastoral responsibility, or at least the pastoral responsibility of the parish priest. The parish priest was the “curate” (or “curator”), having the “cure of souls” of all those living within the parish boundaries. And back in those days part of the pastoral responsibility of the parish priest was to pay pastoral visits on all those 15000 people. “A house-going parson means a churchgoing people”, they used to say.
And this way of looking at things made me think that the Church of England failed to distinguish between pastoral and missionary work.
It seemed to me back then that a missionary church would see the 15000 as the mission field of that parish, and the 70 families as the mission team. And part of the job of the parish priest would be to train and equip the mission team.
That’s not all there is to it, of course, but that can give a rough idea of what I understand by a missionary church. And seeing it in that way was one of the reasons I opted to major in missiology rather than in pastoral (or “practical”) theology.
So my question is, how does the “missional church” differ from that?