Nine (or 10) Keys for Transitioning from Traditional to Missional

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Keys to missional square

Many church leaders are seeking to understand how to move existing churches toward a missional direction.

Brad Brisco of the Missional Church Network offers nine elements that he believes need to be considered when making a missional shift.

Here they are (with excerpts from each). After this list, I have a suggestion for an additional major element that I feel needs to be clealry dilineated and emphasized. Read my comments below. And be sure to read Brad’s full article here.

1. Start with Spiritual Formation

God calls the church to be a sent community of people who no longer live for themselves but instead live to participate with Him in His redemptive purposes. However, people will have neither the passion nor the strength to live as a counter-cultural society for the sake of others if they are not transformed by the way of Jesus… This means the church must take seriously its responsibility to cultivate spiritual transformation that does not allow believers to remain as adolescents in their spiritual maturity.

2. Cultivate a Missional Leadership Approach

This missional leadership approach will involve creating an apostolic environment throughout the life of the church. The leader must encourage pioneering activity that pushes the church into new territory. However, because not all in the church will embrace such risk, the best approach will involve creating a sort of “R&D” or “skunk works” department in the church for those who are innovators and early adopters.

3. Emphasize the Priesthood of All Believers

Martin Luther’s idea of the priesthood of all believers was that all Christians were called to carry out their vocational ministries in every area of life. Every believer must fully understand how their vocation plays a central part in God’s redemptive Kingdom.

I think it was Rick Warren who made popular the phase “every member is a minister.” While this phrase is a helpful slogan to move people to understand their responsibility in the life of the church, God’s purpose for His church would be better served if we encouraged people to recognize that “every member is a missionary.” This missionary activity will include not just being sent to far away places, but to local work places, schools and neighborhoods.

4. Focus Attention on the Local Community

As individual members begin to see themselves as missionaries sent into their local context the congregation will begin to shift from a community-for-me mentality, to a me-for-the-community mentality. The church must begin to develop a theology of the city that sees the church as an agent of transformation for the good of the city (Jeremiah 29:7).

5. Don’t Do It Alone

Missional churches must learn to create partnerships with other churches as well as already existing ministries that care about the community.

6. Create New Means of Measuring Success

The church must move beyond measuring success by the traditional indicators of attendance, buildings and cash. Instead we must create new scorecards to measure ministry effectiveness. These new scorecards will include measurements that point to the church’s impact on community transformation rather than measuring what is happening among church members inside the church walls.

7. Search for Third Places

In a post-Christendom culture where more and more people are less and less interested in activities of the church, it is increasingly important to connect with people in places of neutrality, or common “hang outs.” In the book “The Great Good Place” author Ray Oldenburg identifies these places of common ground as “third places.”

Third places might include the local coffee shop, hair salon, restaurant, mall, or fitness center. These places of common ground must take a position of greater importance in the overall ministry of the church as individuals begin to recognize themselves as missionaries sent into the local context to serve and share.

In addition to connecting with people in the third places present in our local communities, we need to rediscover the topic of hospitality whereby our own homes become a place of common ground. Biblical hospitality is much more than entertaining others in our homes.

8. Tap into the Power of Stories

Stories create new possibilities and energize people to do things they had not previously imagined. We can capture the “missional imagination” by sharing what other faith communities are doing and illustrate what it looks like to connect with people in third places, cultivate rapport with local schools, and build life transforming relationships with neighbors.

9. Promote Patience

The greatest challenge facing the church in the West is the “re-conversion” of its own members. We need to be converted away from an internally-focused, Constantinean mode of church, and converted towards an externally-focused, missional-incarnational movement that is a true reflection of the missionary God we follow…Because Christendom still maintains a stranglehold on the church in North America – even though the culture is fully aware of the death of Christendom – the transition towards a missional posture will take great patience; both with those inside and outside the church.


First, let me say that this is a great article by Brad Brisco. Pastors will do well to heed his very helpful advice.

As great as this article is, I would like to ask Brad to consider adding one element as a separate and distinct category. I’d call it “Equip people to be missional in and through their vocations.”

To his credit, Brad mentions the workplace in his emphasis on the priesthood of all believers in #3. But the workplace is not just one of three places (along with schools and neighborhoods) where he says a person can be a missionary. According to Genesis 1 and 2, human beings have, as a major facet of their being created in the image of God, the calling to work. As such, vocation must be emphasized as one of the major ways God wants us to be missional in this world.

Also to his credit, Brad talks about Jeremiah 29:7 (in #4, Focus Attention on the Local Community) and encourages the church to begin to develop a theology that sees the church as an agent of transformation for the good of the city. But, again, the major way by which people in the church can bring "shalom to the city" is through our vocations – it is the place where Christians spend most of their time, energy, and thought-life. What would happen if each Christian saw his or her work as the means to bless their city? What if missional church communities were the training outposts for people to work alongside each other in overlapping networks to bless the city? What if a missional church set out, as one of its primary mandates, to equip and encourage the individuals in their community to bring about change in and through their daily work?

Lastly, to Brad’s credit, he talks about the Third Place (#7) as a great opportunity to create relationships of common ground for a natural path for living and sharing the gospel. Then he talks about the First Place (our homes) and the desperate need to regain a biblical view of hospitality. I totally agree with both of these ideas. But what about the Second Place, the workplace? In our culture, the workplace is where most people develop their closest relationships, have the greatest impact on the city, and have the most natural opportunities to proclaim the gospel in both word and deed.

So, I'd like to add a tenth element to this excellent list:

10. Equip people to be missional in and through their vocations.

Image by Terence Faircloth. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.