Every few years a new label is given to a movement in the church, usually some branch of the church that considers itself evangelical (a slippery term that used to mean belief in the bible as God's inerrant Word and Jesus as the only way of salvation). In the last twenty years alone we have seen movements labeled "spiritual warfare", "seeker sensitive", "church growth", "house church", "word of faith", "emerging church", and "new Calvinism". The most recent label I hear tossed around is "missional" or "incarnational". Of course, not everyone means the exact same thing by these terms, but a relatively common explanation from those who say they are "missional" is as follows- missional churches see their primary function as one of actively moving into a community to embody and enflesh the word, deed, and life of Jesus into every nook and cranny. To some degree, missional churches are a reaction to the kind of church that is all talk and no action. They are responding to "holy huddle" churches that seem to dichotomize what they do on Sunday morning with everything else in their life.
In each of these movements there are things to be commended. Each of these movements are in some way an reaction to a perceived or real deficiencies in the church at large.
But...in each of these movements there are inherent weaknesses. Each seem to eventually wane and morph in to something else. The modern "missional" movement provides a worthy challenge to those of us in more "traditional" evangelical (and Reformed) churches (I despise most of the labels I just used...but I'm not sure how else to describe "us"). Nevertheless, I have long believed the missional movement has a lack of intentional, biblically deep discipleship among it's members (I know, such a statement will get a rise out of some of my "missional friends"). The drumbeat of "community" and "incarnational living" is nice, but without a communal commitment to the Word and Sacraments, and an accompanying accountability between church leadership and church members, what are we left with? We need more communal living in our churches and should reach out to the larger community far more than we do. Furthermore, there shouldn't be a dichotomy between who we are at church and the rest of our life. At the same time, however, we ought not stop being the church God ordained- committing ourselves to biblical, Christ-centered, worship and holistic discipleship. What is true and what to do is our calling. Biblical exposition, doctrinal study, and theological training are necessary callings for a God-honoring church. Often times these features are viewed as too impractical and theoretical by missional church folk.
Michael Breen wrote an excellent post on the "Missional Church" that I hope you read in it's entirety here. Here's a blip to get you started-
It’s time we start being brutally honest about the missional movement that has emerged in the last 10-15 years: Chances are better than not it’s going to fail.
That may seem cynical, but I’m being realistic. There is a reason so many movements in the Western church have failed in the past century: They are a car without an engine. A missional church or a missional community or a missional small group is the new car that everyone is talking about right now, but no matter how beautiful or shiny the vehicle, without an engine, it won’t go anywhere.
So what is the engine of the church? Discipleship. I’ve said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.