DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> What is Incarnational Ecclesiology?
Lo-Fi Monk

What is Incarnational Ecclesiology?

I’ve been collecting definitions for “Incarnational Ecclesiology,” mostly from Emerging and/or Emergent Church writers and bloggers. Why? Well, because I believe in it. I think we should live it. I believe that the Good News of Jesus Christ and the supernatural movement proceeding should organically bloom in a given context. In other words, it should grow from the inside. So, individuals called to missional activity should plant where they live and interact everyday with authentic friends and neighbors. Moving into a differentiated cultural context for the singular purpose of making converts or church-goers is not incarnational ministry, at least according to the following definitions:

Draft definition: The immersion in the life of Jesus rooted and growing in a particular context. Emergent Kiwi.

Stage 5 - Incarnational Faith Communities - Also known as the Emerging Missional Church. I sense this is where many of us are at today. The key difference between this arrangement and its predecessors is that IFCs seek to understand the culture first, then do mission and from there create worshiping communities. It is a go to them approach rather than a come to us - a fundamental reconfiguration of the DNA. Emerging Church Info

Why isn’t the emerging church getting criticized for its trinitarian missiology? Why not? Its at the heart of what we are doing and it flies in the face of an imbalanced attachment to a particular person of the Trinity at the expense of the Godhood and a whole gospel. What about being too literal in following the incarnational example of Jesus? Of being extreme in going to his level of contextualization and yet maintaining integrity and purity? Tall Skinny Kiwi

By contrast the incarnational approach to mission is refreshingly simple. It requires us to live amongst the people in our communities, love them, share the good news of the kingdom both in action and in speech and then as people become followers of Christ to form up indigenous communities of faith that reflect the specific context. Backyard Missionary

Incarnational rather than attractional ministry. Church goes to people rather than getting people to come to church. Subversive Influence

A missional community is a group of Jesus’ apprentices who so trust his brilliance and mastery of life, that they learn from him how to be like him for the sake of the world. Through this apprentice/master relationship, the community journeys together to become the fullness of God and thereby become a finite earthly expression of the infinite Tri-Community just as Jesus was in his earthly life. A missional community is about becoming by grace what Christ is by nature. As the community experiences this, wherever the community members live their daily lives, they are learning how to easily, naturally, and routinely embody, demonstrate and announce God’s life and reign for the sake of the world around them. The Off Ramp

“Missional” is not the same as “mission-minded,” … A “missional church” is a church that acts like a missionary in its community … A missional church responds to the sending commands of Jesus by becoming an incarnational, indigenous, and intentional Gospel presence in its context. When Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, so send I you,” (John 20:21) that was not to a select group of cross-cultural missionaries. Instead, that was a commission to you, me and our churches. We have a sender (Jesus), a message (the Gospel), and a people to whom we are sent (real people in culture). It is worth the effort to go beyond our personal preferences and to proclaim a faithful Gospel in whatever context we find ourselves. That’s missional. Christian Index

They no longer see the church service as the primary connecting point with those outside the community. Connecting with those outside happens within the culture, by insiders to that culture who express the gospel through how they live.

The term ‘incarnational ecclesiology’ refers to a priority of cultural contextualisation to a host community so that the church can infiltrate and transform from the inside, rather than drawing converts out to a separate community and culture. The Emerging Missional Church: A SWOT Analysis

I spent some quality time with Google searching for these definitions. I would personally like to thank all the Emerging/Emergent writers and bloggers who put these thoughts online for our benefit. On more than one occasion, I discovered these definitions as links created by other bloggers. I apologize for recreating them here on my blog, but my present real-time ministry situation requires me to remind some who claim to be “Emerging,” “Emergent,” “Postmodern,” “Missional,” and/or “Incarnational,” of the basic definition of the words they preach and claim. The suburbs are not the city. If the majority of folk you gather aren’t indigenous to the context you are gathering in, then that’s a pretty good sign things have gone awry in the old ecclesiology department. Incarnate in your community. The friends and neighbors you live with daily will thank you for it.

Today, while hanging, mudding, and taping drywall with the leadership team of IMG and a few awesome volunteers, we chatted about all of this and a few other things. We reached a pretty good conclusion too. We think we should not continue this seeming competition (which we did not launch), and actually hang out with, befriend and try to help everyone involved. So, if there is anything within our means we can do for anyone meeting near us, let us know! We are here to help you be the best you can be, for Christ Jesus’ sake. So, enough … and welcome!


  1. Rich Kirkpatrick
    Posted September 9, 2007 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    I agree with the incarnational approach for sure. I do think, however, that there could be a “both and” reality here, however. Is it possible to both do a “go to” and a “draw in” in your community. Or, is this strictly an “either or”–coming from a moderately emergently missional guy? Jesus did draw crowds, for instance, as well as sit in small settings. He both fed crowds and healed individuals. Just a thought.

  2. Shawn Anthony
    Posted September 9, 2007 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Absolutely, Rich. In fact, if done honestly, a movement dedicated to an “incarnational” missiology actually attracts a certain segment of people. I am of course, seriously pushing the definitions of these terms in that example, but I think the truth is apparent.

    I believe that occasions will arise when the Gospel must be presented in an immediate sort of way. In other words, sometimes you do have to point those with whom you have not had the chance to build a relationship yet towards the Gospel. I think this is your “both and.” I still think that either method is seriously benefited if you are an authentic part of and participant of the larger culture in which all of this is unfolding.

    Take Jesus for example … he made use of both methods, for sure. He was incarnational and attractional, right? Yes, he was. He also lived in the host culture for 30+ years before he actually began his ministry.

    So, yeah, the goal is to draw, either incarnationally or attractionally, but both should be done contextually.

    Thanks for the comment, brother. BTW: I downloaded your CD from iTunes a while back. I love it! I listen to it often. Thanks and keep the great music coming! Blessings to you …

  3. Rich Kirkpatrick
    Posted September 11, 2007 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for buying the CD! I hope to finally record some more material soon.

    I think Hudson Taylor would be and emerging church guy today, don’t you? He lived out the contextual thing well. Now, we live in a mission field in our own neighborhood. So, this such an important discussion for sure! The church has to contextualize. I think I am getting this finally.

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