History of Missional Church – Part I
History of Missional Church – Part II
History of Missional Church – Part III

Other Notable Authors and Contributors

There are a number of other authors who have contributed significantly to the missional church conversation in the past decade. Two of the more notable voices have been that of Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. Their first collaborative effort was The Shaping of Things to Come [1] published in 2003. In that book, the authors built upon the twelve indicators first offered by the GOCN by adding three additional overarching principles that provides perhaps the best direction for what it means for a church to be missional. The additional principles include the following:

  1. The missional church is incarnational, not attractional, in its ecclesiology. By incarnational we mean it does not create sanctified spaces into which unbelievers must come to encounter the gospel. Rather, the missional church disassembles itself and seeps into the cracks and crevices of a society in order to be Christ to those who don’t yet know him.

  2. The missional church is messianic, not dualistic, in its spirituality. That is, it adopts the worldview of Jesus the Messiah, rather than that of the Greco-Roman empire. Instead of seeing the world as divided between the sacred (religious) and profane (nonreligious), like Christ it sees the world and God’s place in it as more holistic and integrated.

  3. The missional church adopts an apostolic, rather than a hierarchical, mode of leadership. By apostolic we mean a mode of leadership that recognizes the fivefold model detailed by Paul in Ephesians 6. It abandons the triangular hierarchies of the traditional church and embraces a biblical, flat-leadership community that unleashes the gifts of evangelism, apostleship, and prophecy, as well as the currently popular pastoral and teaching gifts. [2]

Hirsch and Frost believe the missional “genius” of a church can only be unleashed when there are foundational changes made to the church’s very DNA, and that means addressing fundamental issues like ecclesiology, spirituality, and leadership. It means there must be a complete shift away from a Christendom way of thinking, which, as mentioned above, has been attractional, dualistic, and hierarchical. [3]

Several other books that have added much to the missional church conversation in the past decade are included in the following abridged annotated bibliography:

Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000).

In The Essence of the Church, Van Gelder shares his concerns for many churches taking a functional approach to ecclesiology. He then moves to articulate a missional ecclesiology, which he places in the context of God’s purposes within creation and his eschatological intention. According to Van Gelder, the church is the redemptive reign of God implemented in a fallen world. Furthermore, it is the Spirit which carries out the redemptive purposes of God through the church as the Spirit empowers it for ministry. After describing the church from a redemptive, Trinitarian theological perspective, Van Gelder reserves the second half of the book to give practical advice about what the church is, what the church does, and how the church should organize to best live out its missionary nature.

Milfred Minatrea. Shaped by God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004).

In Shaped by God’s Heart, Minatrea offers a good introduction to the missional church conversation. The book is organized in three sections. Part one is titled, “The Church in a New and Changing World.” In this portion of the book Minatrea discusses the difference between being “mission-minded” and “missional.” In part two, “The Nine Essential Practices of Missional Churches,” he presents the core of the book as he shares nine practices that he has observed in studying missional churches. Part three is titled “Structures and Strategies for Becoming Missional.” In this last section Minatrea shares strategies for church leaders who desire to move their churches towards becoming more missional. Additionally, each chapter includes helpful reflection and application questions to be used in group studies.

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006).

In The Forgotten Ways, Frost and Hirsch describe the current form of church in two simple ways. A missional church is one that goes to where people are to engage them on their own cultural turf while an attractional model expects people to leave where they are and come join the church culture. They contend that the attractional, institutional church that in large part is the creation of the church growth movement, has created a spectator Christianity that is largely irrelevant at reaching 85 percent of the culture. However the book is much more than a simple attack on the attractional church or the church growth movement. Building upon theological reflection and missiological principles, the authors develops a sound missional theology for the church. The Forgotten Ways will certainly remain one of the most significant contributions to effective missional engagement.

Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006).

In The Missional Leader, Roxburgh and Romanuk draw upon many years of experience as consultants to church leaders across the United States and Canada. They offer a realistic approach to leaders who are struggling with what it means to be a missional church in a local context. The authors caution against adopting business models and church growth techniques. Instead they continually emphasize the importance of recognizing that the church is a spiritual entity that is lead and empowered by the Spirit. The goal of spiritual leadership therefore is to discern where and how the Spirit of God is working in the context of the local church.

Ed Stetzer and David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code (Nashville: B&H, 2006).

Breaking the Misisonal Code is one of the most practical introductions to the missional conversation. The book is built upon the premise that the church is a community created by God to be sent as a missionary into a local context. To do so effectively means that the church must break the “missional code” of their context. Each church must function as a missionary people exegeting their culture in order to better present the Gospel.  Throughout the book Stetzer and Putman provide numerous examples of churches that exhibit missional qualities. They also offer multiple definitions to bring clarity to missional terminology. For any church leader who desires to better understand the basics of missional practice Breaking the Missional Code would be a great place to begin.

Patrick Keifert, We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era (Eagle, ID: Allelon Publishing, 2006).

In We Are Here Now, Keifert offers a framework for deep change in churches and leadership teams that are striving towards missional engagement. Similar to other books on the missional church, Keifert agrees that as a result of vast cultural changes the church is in desperate need of recapturing its missionary nature. However what sets We Are Here Now apart is that Keifert lays out a long-range plan of spiritual discernment and transformation for a local congregation. Keifert maintains that when it comes to serious missional commitment, there are no quick fixes and real change is shaped by Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and attention to each other.

Craig Van Gelder, The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007).

Van Gelder writes that the premise of The Ministry of the Missional Church is to encourage churches to recognize the ministry of the Spirit in the midst of constant congregational change. He believes that God’s intent is often to use change either directly or indirectly to move a congregation in new directions of meaningful ministry under the leading of the Spirit. Furthermore, Van Gelder desires for congregations to understand that the Spirit-led ministry of the church flows out of the Spirit-created nature of the church. In other words, being precedes doing. Or to put it another way, the nature of the church establishes the foundation for understanding the purpose of the church and its ministry and determines their direction and scope. Van Gelder does an excellent job of showing that when a church begins with its nature, or essence as a Spirit-created community, growth and development are the natural outcome.

Craig Van Gelder, ed., The Missional Church in Context: Helping Congregations Develop Contextual Ministry (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007).

The Missional Church in Context is a collection of eight outstanding papers presented at a consultation held at Luther Seminary in December of 2005. The premise of the consultation, and exemplified by the book title, is that every context should be seen as a missional context, and every congregation as a missional congregation that is responsible to participate in God’s mission in that context. The book does not promote a method or model of ministry but encourages various congregational expressions to enter a discernment process, with the Spirit, to identify the theological foundations and insights in order to develop the capacity for ministry engagement. Again as indicative of the title, context does matter. Collectively the contributors state that the church needs to develop a “formation triad” that includes congregational formation (the shaping of a concrete Christian community), spiritual formation (corporate and personal attention to initiatives of God) and missional formation (local church’s identity and agency in its encounter with the immediate context). This text represents another important voice speaking on the significance of context in the formation of the local church.

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008).

The Tangible Kingdom is a guide to the planting of missional communities written by two missional practitioners and church planters. One of the strengths of the book is the use of stories to illustrate the power of incarnational community. They show what it looks like to leave the safe “bubble” of much of modern evangelicalism and ventured out into the lives of those around us. Further it provides helpful direction on combating consumerism, living out our mission in the context of an entire community, and what it means to practice biblical hospitality.

Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways Handbook: A Practical Guide for Developing Missional Churches (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2009).

The Forgotten Ways Handbook is a follow up to the 2006 publication by the same name. However, the handbook moves beyond the theological foundation built in the original The Forgotten Ways to a place of practice that very little resources provide. This extremely practical handbook includes many helpful tools including summary sections encapsulating the ideas contained in each chapter of the original book, suggested habits and practices to help readers embed missional principles, and adult learning-based techniques and examples from other churches that enable readers to process and assimilate the ideas in a group context.

Reggie McNeal, Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009).

The most significant contribution that Missional Renaissance makes to the missional church conversation is McNeal’s attempt to establish a new way of measuring success in the church in the United States. For years the measure of faithfulness and vitality in the church has been in terms of growth in attendance, finances and facilities. However to assist the church in making a shift in a missional direction, McNeal argues that the church must begin to measure success by using a new scorecard. He asks, What would happen if we measured vitality in terms of growth in the area of people, service, prayer and outreach?


1. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003).

2. Ibid.,12.

3. Ibid.