In the first place, the root of the word ‘missional’ is the word mission. Mission is derived from the Latin word missio, which has the core meaning of being sent. Most of the people who use the word ‘missional’ in the church link it more specifically to missio Dei – “the mission of God” (or “the sending of God”). The specific mission of God identified by missio Dei is that of bringing the redemptive work of Jesus to the world through the faithful witness of His people. With this as its basis, the word ‘missional’ describes the attitudes, perspectives, and activities that reflect the calling we have as God’s people sent by Him into the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
A second important attribute of the word ‘missional’ is that it’s an adjective. As an adjective, ‘missional’ is paired with and describes nouns. Interestingly, in these pairings the world ‘missional’ tends to take on shades of meaning that range from beneficial to destructive. Three of the most common pairings (‘missional church,’ ‘missional living,’ and ‘missional community’) demonstrate this fluid nature of the word ‘missional’ – and how it can be both beneficial to and dangerous for us as we seek to be faithful in our roles in the mission Dei.