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Ten Characteristics of a Church on Mission - Part 6

Ten 6

By Pastor Scott Thomas, President Acts 29 Network

We are examining the characteristics of a missional church.

  • Part 1 is found here where characteristics one and two are discussed.
  • Part Two is found here and examines the third characteristic.
  • Part Three is here and examines the fourth and fifth characteristics.
  • Part Four is here and explores the sixth characteristic.
  • Part 5 is here where characteristics seven and eight are described.
    1. Understands the centrality of the gospel expressed in all aspects of a person’s life (1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2:2; Gal. 6:14).
    2. The missional church is committed to the authoritative, infallible, inerrant, inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14-17; Acts 2:42).
    3. Gatherings are characterized by God-centered worship, preaching of the gospel, prayer, Lord’s Supper by penitent souls and baptism as a response to the gospel (John 4:23-24). 
    4. A missional church understands it has been sent by God as missionaries in their own culture (Mt. 4:19; John 20:21; Acts 16:20; 17:6) to make disciples of all peoples (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). 
    5. Boldly & intentionally promotes the gospel through making disciples and church planting globally through collaborative expressions of mercy and generosity.
    6. A missional church is dependent upon the Holy Spirit to empower and lead believers as agents for evangelizing and making disciples (Acts 1:8; Luke 4:1, 14, 18).
    7. Missional churches utilize relationships and sacrificial love as the expressions of love to others in their journey toward faith (Matt. 5:13-16, John 15:12-17, 1 John 4:19-21).
    8. The goal of a missional church is to walk in community with others as Jesus pursues them in His own way and timing (1 Cor. 9:20-23).
    9. A missional church is a hands-on training ground for missionary training (Acts 4:13, 31-35).

      His mission is nothing short of the redemption of peoples and cultures, the renewal of all creation for his own glory. God’s great, burdensome, and glorious mission is the renewal of all creation! God, in his mercy has invited us to participate in his mission.

      The community of believers provides opportunities and they practice hospitality for living out the gospel in word and deed with one another. Church leaders must set the pace for pursuing the mission of Jesus. As Jack Miller noted, churches become “religious cushions” that tranquilize the guilt-ridden person with the religious warmth of its liturgy.[1] Jack said the contributors of these religious cushion churches are the following:

      • Quiet acceptance of churchly dullness as normative
      • Fear of extinction
      • Extreme sensitivity to the negative opinions
      • Demand for comfort – a nice church with a nice pastor preaching a nice sermon about a nice Jesus.
      • Unrestrained Gossip

      Members of a missional church are expected to serve on the frontlines of the mission. The missionary emphasis of the body overtakes the self-serving individual and they either hide, escape or they get trained in living life as a missionary across the street, across the seas and across the socio-economic, ethnic, religious and political boundaries.

      10.  Godly, biblically qualified elders lead a missional church (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; Eph 4).

      While most descriptions of a missional church do not include this characteristic, I don’t think it is possible to maintain a missional emphasis without what Jack Miller calls “pacesetting pastors” who continually remind the body of the mission for which Jesus has called and the Holy Spirit has empowered to pursue until the return of Jesus.

      Titus was commissioned by Paul to establish the churches with qualified elders in Crete to rebuke false teachers, teach sound doctrine, establish godly homes, preach the gospel of grace, do good works, confront rebellion and multiply followers of Jesus. The key to straightening out the crooked churches in Crete was the establishing of qualified elders to guide the rest of the body toward the gospel.

      Elders are to be above reproach in every area of their life.[2] The gospel will never take root in the body until it takes root in the leader’s lives. Spurgeon writes, “Brothers, I beseech you, keep the old gospel, and let your souls be filled with it, and then may you be set on fire with it!” [3] A church will never be missional until its elders live missional lives in front of their followers.

      The real value of an elder in a missional church is the equipping of non-vocational leaders to lead and share responsibility for the mission and for the discipling of new believers (Eph. 4:11-12). Reproducing churches unleash the whole body to exercise their gifts (1 Cor. 12:8-10) and encourage them to lead others on mission to proclaim the gospel in new ways and new places in the community. New believers are incorporated quickly in the mission and receive on-the-job training through an organic mentorship rather than top-down control.

      Missional or Biblical?

      Looking over the description of a missional church, one understands this word to be equated with the pattern set forth in the Bible. The church established by the Apostles was a church on mission. It was missional. It seems that the evangelical church just needed a new word like missional to describe the “Biblical church.”

      Complete Ten Characteristics of a Church on Mission is found here.

      [1] C. John Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), p. 20 ff.
      [2] At least 17 characteristics are found as descriptors of Paul’s general heading of “above reproach” in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 with additional thoughts from 1 Peter 5:1-3 and Acts 20:18-35.
      [3] C.H. Spurgeon, An All Round Ministry (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), p. 126.