In an age when the traditional church is facing all the currents of post-modernity, including a loss of denominational loyalty and a crisis with regard to membership, what might the renewal of the mission of the church look like? I like the ideas of the Gospel and Our Culture Network, which takes inspiration from the work of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, who asked and pursued the answers to basic questions about the purpose and mission of the church. Here's their list of characteristics of what we'd call a missional church; a church that hasn't forgotten that it exists only to serve the mission of God embodied in Jesus Christ:
1. The missional church proclaims the gospel.
What it looks like: The story of God’s salvation is faithfully repeated in a multitude of different ways.
2. The missional church is a community where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus.
What it looks like: The disciple identity is held by all; growth in discipleship is expected of all.
3. The Bible is normative in the church’s life.
What it looks like: The church is reading the Bible together to learn what it can learn nowhere else – God’s good and gracious intent for all creation, the salvation mystery, and the identity and purpose of life together.
4. The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.
What it looks like: In its corporate life and public witness, the church is consciously seeking to conform to its Lord instead of the multitude of cultures in which it finds itself.
5. The church seeks to discern God’s specific missional vocation for the entire community and for all of its members.
What it looks like: The church has made its “mission” it priority, and in overt and communal ways is seeking to be and do “what God is calling us to know, be, and do.”
6. A missional community is indicated by how Christians behave toward one another.
What it looks like: Acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of one another both in the church and in the locale characterize the generosity of the community.
7. It is a community that practices reconciliation.
What it looks like: The church community is moving beyond homogeneity toward a more heterogeneous community in its racial, ethnic, age, gender, and socioeconomic makeup.
8. Peoples within the community hold themselves accountable to one another in love.
What it looks like: Substantial time is spent with one another for the purpose of watching over one another in love.
9. The church practices hospitality.
What it looks like: Welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community plays a central role.
10. Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future.
What it looks like: There is a significant and meaningful engagement in communal worship of God, reflecting appropriately and addressing the culture of those who worship together.
11. The community has a vital public witness.
What it looks like: The church makes an observable impact that contributes to the transformation of life, society, and human relationships.
12. There is a recognition that the church itself is an incomplete expression of the reign of God.
What it looks like: There is a widely help perception that this church is going somewhere - and that "somewhere" is a more faithfully lived life in the reign of God.