MISSIONAL ETHOS AND PRACTICE
From 2005-2008, a Moderator-appointed Long Range Planning Committee, representative of all the presbyteries, met to evaluate progress on “Vision 21” and to begin envisioning the EPC’s mission beyond 2010. As it studied and met, the committee saw its purpose as developing missional ethos and practice in denominational life.
The missional focus of the EPC is not divorced from Vision 21, the denomination’s previous strategic initiative. Many of the themes and concepts captured in the terms “missional church” and “missional denomination” build upon Vision 21 and speak to the kind of operational and ethos changes necessary to get Vision 21 “off the shelf.”
The 29th General Assembly (2009), having received the work of the Long Range Planning Committee, the Theology Committee and the Committee on Administration (now known as the National LeadershipTeam) approved the following:
THE MISSIONAL CHURCH
The term “missional” has become common and therefore highly nuanced. We desire to define missional in a simple and specific way so that each EPC church can commit to a unified, obedient pursuit of the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
• A missional church grasps that God is a missionary God and that “it is not so much that God has a mission for His church in the world, but that God has a church for His mission in the world.”1
• A missional church believes that the mission of God is rooted unalterably in the Bible, God’s infallible Word. Therefore, a missional church believes that the essence of God’s mission is to extend the reign of God and is summed up in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
• A missional church is a visible community of authentic disciples of Jesus Christ who gather for celebration, prayer and teaching and then disperse locally and globally as His missionaries to love and serve people. In so doing, a missional church both pursues and welcomes sinners as they are drawn into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The greater purpose in all of this is that the earth will be filled with the worship of God.
• A missional church believes that it is more than just a collection of individuals, but that it is a community called together by God both to love Him and serve Him.
• A missional church is concerned with more than maintaining programs for existing members; it is called to mobilize its people both individually and as a community to daily self-sacrifice for the hurting world around them. A missional church is both inwardly strong and outwardly focused.
• A missional church perceives that the essence of these things is the essence of its existence. Therefore, a missional church will constantly seek to reevaluate itself as to whether or not its emphasis, organization, and activity effectively position the church to partner with God in His mission.
THE MISSIONAL DENOMINATION
In addition to the missional church, the missional denomination has an important role to play in the ethos and practice of the EPC going forward. The missional denomination:
• Believes ministry begins with the local church.
• Is made up of local congregations committed to being missional.
• Believes that the presbyteries and Office of the General Assembly, being expressions of the larger church, have an important role to play in identifying, equipping, and supporting leaders and churches. They are a key link in the principle of mutual accountability toward missional ministry and biblical standards.
• Constantly examines whether its polity, structures, and programs are supporting or inhibiting that missional commitment.
1J. Andrew Kirk, What is Mission? Theological Explorations (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 23-37.