Scot McKnight Explains “Missional”, Part One

Scot McKnight wears many hats: he is the Karl A. Olsson professor in religious studies at North Park University in Chicago; he is a popular and award-winning author, with his latest offering, One.Life (an excellent read!) hitting the shelves this past December; and, he is an active blogger at the widely-read Jesus Creed blog, rated by as the #1 site for the Emerging Church. I’m also honored to call him a supporter of my book The Missional Mom, both as an endorser and as a reviewer of the book. What follows is the full interview I did with Scot while researching for this book; he sheds light on how to understand the word “missional” and how the term applies to mothers in the church. Here is the first part of a two-part interview featuring Scot’s helpful insights in this area:

Helen (HL): The word “missional” has become a bit of a buzzword; can you help define what it means? Is its popularity matched by its practice?

Scot McKnight: Being missional comes down to answering a simple question: “How can I help you?” Missional behavior becomes the active response to that question. It’s not missional to say, “If you need a help, give me a call.”

More churches have to get on board first with embracing a theology of being missional. I’m not convinced that most are doing this yet. Pastors are using the word, but I don’t know that they understand it. Defining the word has become a game. Being missional has become something that church leaders and theologians yak about.

It’s one thing to say that we are to be missional, but it’s another thing to develop concrete strategies and specific behaviors that will motivate people in the church to be missional. In contrast, the good missional thinkers today are combining sound theology with concrete illustrations. These people are getting it down to the grassroots level. Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford’s new book, Right Here, Right Now, is very good. Darrel Guder’s Missional Church is also important.

HL: So how does “being missional” manifest itself in the church context, for those whodo understand what the term means?

McKnight: In missional churches, people’s ears are open, their eyes are open, and they are asking, “What does our community need? How can we help our community?” However, it is not missional to say, “We know the answer, and going to give it to you.” Being a missional church means showing responsiveness to the central issues of community.

A pastor friend of mine wrote to the local police department and asked, “What are the biggest problems you deal with in this community?” The police said, “Drugs and alcohol.” Most pastors would rather hear different answers. But if that’s the answer your church hears, what are you going to do about it? Being missional is helping to answer that question in your community.

HL: Women have not been at the leading edge of the missional voices thus far, but I know you believe they have something to contribute to the conversation. Could you explain?

McKnight: Women have done the bulk of ministry in the church in the West for a long, long time. Here is my analogy. If you want to know what missional churches look like, go to the African American church. They’ve been doing it all along. And if you want to know what missional behavior is, watch mothers.

Mothers are almost instinctively in the western evangelical world the most missional people in the church. They hear the cries, they are the ones praying, they are in small groups, hearing about needs, helping people. I don’t think we are using the word “missional” for what women are doing in churches, but they are some of the most missional people in the entire church world.

(Part Two of the interview will be posted on Monday. Stay tuned!)

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