Baker Academic has a brand new website! Click Here To Visit:

The Missional Church in Perspective

Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation

series: Missional Network, The

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase


"The term 'missional' has been adopted by a wide variety of traditions and attached to many add-on programs. This book brings much-needed clarity to a confused picture. It is no rehash of familiar material but rather breaks new ground and leaves the reader with an appetite for more!"--Eddie Gibbs, Fuller Theological Seminary
In this book, two leading ministry experts place the missional church conversation in historical perspective and offer fresh insights for its further development. They begin by providing a helpful review of the genesis of the missional church and offering an insightful critique of the Gospel and Our Culture Network's seminal book Missional Church, which set the conversation in motion. They map the diverse paths this discussion has taken over the past decade, identifying four primary branches and ten sub-branches of the conversation and placing over one hundred published titles and websites into this framework. The authors then utilize recent developments in biblical and theological perspectives to strengthen and extend the conversation about missional theology, the church's interaction with culture and cultures, and church organization and leadership in relation to the formation of believers as disciples. Professors, students, and church leaders will value this comprehensive overview of the missional movement. It includes a foreword by Alan J. Roxburgh.
Foreword by Alan J. Roxburgh
Part 1: The History and Development of the Missional Conversation
1. Concepts Influencing the Missional Church Conversation
2. Revisiting the Seminal Work Missional Church
3. Mapping the Missional Conversation
Part 2: Perspectives That Extend the Missional Conversation
4. Expanding and Enriching the Theological Frameworks
5. Missional Engagement with Culture in a Globalized World
6. Missional Practices of Church Life and Leadership


"The missional church project endeavored to reconnect ecclesiology and missiology and identified the key convictions that undergirded the church in a post-Christendom, pluralistic world. In the years since, the term 'missional' has been adopted by a wide variety of traditions and attached to many add-on programs. This book brings much-needed clarity to a confused picture. It is no rehash of familiar material but rather breaks new ground and leaves the reader with an appetite for more!"--Eddie Gibbs, Fuller Theological Seminary

"The Missional Church in Perspective is the most precise, informed, and uncompromising parsing to date of the history of the concept of 'missional' both as a sensibility and as a form of praxis. Like all good historical analyses, this book provides not only a basis for understanding where we have been but also a well-honed tool for considering where we may need and want to go next."--Phyllis Tickle, author, The Great Emergence

"Concertgoers are familiar with the cacophonous roar that precedes great orchestral performances. Confusing and competing noises spill out of the orchestra pit as musicians tune and warm up their instruments. When the conductor takes the stand, however, these same instruments--now focused on a musical score--produce music. The Missional Church in Perspective provides sheet music for all those who want to participate in the missional symphony. The book's scholarship and synthesis qualify it to be a common score for us all."--Reggie McNeal, Leadership Network

"This book is a veritable morphology of the term 'missional.' As such it provides both conceptual tools with which to assess the impact of missional ideas on the Western church and a map that helps us chart possible future trajectories of what is clearly one of the most important movements in our times. Whether one fully agrees with the analysis or not, it certainly brings needed clarity to what is fast becoming a dangerously murky concept."--Alan Hirsch, Forge Mission Training Network

"The Missional Church in Perspective is a helpful and well-researched work that traces and evaluates streams within the missional church conversation, showing a wide awareness from evangelical, mainline, and historical sources. I have found a new required textbook for my missional church class."--Ed Stetzer, Wheaton College

"It is a rare book that can clearly and cogently describe a highly complex field while also setting a bold course for the future. The Missional Church in Perspective does precisely this. Making sense out of diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives, it provides a brilliant historical analysis and useful categorization of the diverse voices in the missional conversation, offering a compelling vision for congregational renewal and transformation. I have little doubt that this book will serve as a centerpiece for the missional conversation for the next decade and beyond."--Jack Reese, Abilene Christian University

"I am among the many who have been deeply enriched by the missional church conversation, but I have been concerned lately that the term 'missional' has been losing potency even as it has been gaining popularity. This book comes along at just the right time to help participants in the missional conversation reconnect with the deeper theological themes that originally inspired Lesslie Newbigin and others. It is a fitting follow-up to Missional Church."--Brian McLaren, author and speaker

"The word 'missional' has been tossed around in so many different ways in recent discussions regarding the church that it is tempting to give up on it. But that would be a mistake; something of great importance has been associated with the term even amid all the confusion. This marvelous book helps us move beyond the confusion of tongues, while also pointing us in healthy new directions for a vital Christian presence in the world."--Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Since the 1998 publication of Missional Church, 'missional' has become a buzzword in many church circles with too many church leaders picking up the language and attaching their own meanings to the term. The purpose of The Missional Church in Perspective is to restart and reshape the conversation--I expect it to succeed."--George G. Hunter III, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Dozens of books and articles have explored missional aspects of ecclesiology and church practice in the past decade and followers of the missional conversation have often found themselves confused by the elasticity of the word 'missional'--until now. This book examines the key voices in the missional conversation, plots its terrain, and then with sublime grace values and evaluates the contributions of numerous conversation partners. Don't buy another book on missional theology until you have read this one. It puts all others in perspective."--Clayton J. Schmit, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Van Gelder and Zscheile make 'missional' make sense. While many churches try to 'go missional' and many books on 'being missional' hit the market, this wise conversation guide sorts through the different uses of the term and points us toward a rich, hopeful future for God's people."--M. Scott Boren, pastor, consultant, and author, Missional Small Groups

"The missional conversation, which has experienced explosive growth over the last ten years, has been in sore need of a road map. The Missional Church in Perspective provides just that. In this scholarly and generous guide, Van Gelder and Zscheile clear away the confusion by providing a masterful, historical description of the various tracks of the missional church. Along the way, they tell the whole story of the movement, assessing its weaknesses and making counter proposals. In so doing, they have given us the book that can chart the course for the next era of the missional church, one of the most vital missionary movements in North America."--David Fitch, Northern Seminary

"The use of the term 'missional' has exploded in the last decade, taking on an extraordinary range of meaning. In the midst of this situation, Van Gelder and Zscheile perform two invaluable services: first, they provide a taxonomy of the various usages of the term that clarifies commonalities and differences; second, they set forth a compelling agenda for future reflection. As with any enterprise of this sort there will be disagreement concerning their judgments, but it is hard to imagine anyone interested in the missional conversation who would not find this to be an extremely helpful volume."--John R. Franke, First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, PA; Gospel and Our Culture Network

"This is one of those rare, paradigm-shifting books. More than a constructive synthesis of the various strands of the missional conversation, The Missional Church in Perspective provides a focused yet fluid and participatory approach that serves the church by addressing the future imaginatively and hopefully. This is an indispensable volume for academics, practitioners, and anyone whose heart is responsive to the mission of God in the world."--Linda Bergquist, Southern Baptist Convention California

"With anything outside the church's own walls now being labeled as 'missional,' the authors provide a healthy corrective. They do so not by throwing stones but by shaping content for the conversation, showing how missional is more than simply another strategy. The authors lay out how radically different and revolutionary it is for the church to be a missional people. This book not only adds to the conversation but also shapes and deepens it."--Gary V. Nelson, Tyndale University College and Seminary; author, Borderland Churches

"This is an important book. It represents the theological homework for those who want to take seriously the impulse toward a missional church by powerfully underscoring the vitality of trinitarian theology understood within a social and relational model. It offers a vibrant and relevant ecclesiology and invites a conversation about missiology that goes far deeper than mission studies and church growth strategies. It belongs on the reading list of anyone whose ecclesiological imagination is stirred by the promise of the reign of God."--Paul K. Hooker, Presbyterian Church (USA)--Presbytery of St. Augustine

"The missional conversation has for some time been in need of clarity. This book provides us with an understanding of this term and its origin while also offering helpful suggestions for extending the conversation. Using both biblical and theological resources, The Missional Church in Perspective clarifies and deepens the missional conversation. It is a welcome addition and should enhance our dialogue and work in the future."--John M. Bailey, Southern Baptist Convention

"'Missional' is a word everyone uses and few understand. It is a term that has been used, misused, and at times abused until it has lost its edge. The authors do a wonderful job in sharpening this dull edge so that it will serve the church well. This book provides both perspective and place--a perspective from which to understand the term 'missional' and a place to freshly engage it. Church leaders, pastors, church planters, and anyone seeking to understand God's mission are invited to join the conversation and engage the project."--Jerry Dykstra, Christian Reformed Church in North America

"Van Gelder and Zscheile make a most valuable contribution to the missional conversation. They offer a much-needed theological and missiological framework that invites ministers and congregations to inhabit the 'shalom space' of God's reign coming on earth as it is in heaven."--Terry Hamrick, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

"Over the last decade the missional church movement has proliferated with one casualty of this expansion being clarity about the key issues--biblical, theological, cultural, and ecclesiological--that initially informed and continue to shape the missional conversation. This book provides not only a definitive overview of the history of the movement but also points to a number of critical topics that must be explored as we move ahead."--David Dunbar, Biblical Seminary

"Finally, a book that untangles the web of ideas surrounding the 'missional' concept. Van Gelder and Zscheile provide a road map for the missional journey by sharing insights into its history, conception, and perspectives. With expertise, they engage us in theological thoughts and practical applications, taking readers on a virtual tour of all things missional."--Bo Prosser, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

"Many say the term 'missional' has lost significance because of its wide use and diverse meanings. These authors take the opposite view, celebrating the elasticity of the term and offering an invitation for us to discover the powerful work of the Spirit within the missional conversation. This book challenges readers with its exploration of the intersection of contemporary theological thought and missional dialogue. It advocates a robust theological imagination, a posture of wonder regarding God's presence and work in the world today."--Milfred Minatrea, Missional Church Center

"If you are just starting to delve into all things missional, this is a great place to get the lay of the land. If you are a missional veteran, you simply must read this book in order to understand the history, where the discussion is now, and where we faithfully go from here."--Teresa Lockhart Stricklen, Presbyterian Church (USA)

"The missional church conversation has matured to the point that it is in need of curation, which is what this book provides in careful, faithful, and imaginative terms. But the book is also a call to remember (1) that 'missional church' is not a strategy or an approach but rather the taproot and (2) that mission is core to the church because mission is core to God, meaning that we must come together by the power of the Spirit to find a fruitful way forward. This book is a critical force in clarifying, deepening, and sustaining this important conversation."--Nate Frambach, Wartburg Theological Seminary

"The missional church conversation offers the most important and generative perspectives on theological praxis in a generation. Or the missional church conversation only repackages old habits and missteps in new language. Or the missional church conversation may engage some interesting theological matters, but it is not translated into praxis. With dozens of books claiming roles in this venture, how might we make sense of it all? Van Gelder and Zscheile walk us through these resources, provide historical and contextual perspectives, clarify the center and the fringes, offer connections and critiques, point toward the work ahead, and leave us all in their debt."--Mark Lau Branson, Fuller Theological Seminary

"This volume performs two essential tasks. First, it provides us with a way of understanding the missional conversation so that we can make sense of the many contributions to the debate. Second, it provides a theological framework that propels the conversation to a new level of debate. Van Gelder and Zscheile offer a work that is generous, balanced, and insightful."--Martin Robinson, Bible Society, United Kingdom

"Van Gelder and Zscheile have done a masterful job of unpacking the history, identifying the underlying assumptions, pointing out gaps in the theological discussion, and mapping out various streams of missional church theory and practice. Their emphasis upon the role of the Holy Spirit, within a relational trinitarian perspective, invites readers to envision a more biblically grounded and theologically relevant shape for a missional church. For anyone, lay or clergy, seeking to discern and participate in God's redemptive mission in the world, this book is a must-read."--Inagrace Dietterich, Center for Parish Development

"Van Gelder and Zscheile have succeeded in bringing clarity to the term 'missional' by providing the most rigorous and theologically astute treatment of the subject to date. Beginning with a thorough review of the history and development of the missional conversation, they graciously critique some of the inadequacies of how the term 'missional' has been defined, described, and applied, and they further articulate a clear theological basis for understanding the missional church."--Ken Thiessen, Power of One Consulting

"Why another book on the missional church? The answer is simple: these authors have captured the heart and substance of the conversation about living into God's vision for mission in a post-Christian culture. They offer a rich and powerful perspective about where and how God's Spirit is leading congregations to engage in the life of the world. For churches disconnected from their culture or those seeking to rediscover a sense of God's promised future, this book offers hope and expands our missional imagination."--Rick Rouse, Grand Canyon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

"These authors provide us with the biblical and theological resources that have often been neglected in discussions around missional churches. This is essential reading for all leaders who seek to transform their churches from a maintenance mind-set to a missional one."--Dennis Bickers, American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky

"This book is the most comprehensive and clear analysis of the missional conversation to date, providing helpful historical perspective of the movement as well as needed clarity to the current use of missional language. It interacts with an extensive collection of missional literature, all carried out with great wisdom and grace, and advocates several important theological categories for strengthening and extending the missional conversation. Anyone serious about understanding and engaging the missional conversation will find this latest contribution to be invaluable."--Brad Brisco, church planting strategist

The Authors

  1. Craig Van Gelder

    Craig Van Gelder

    Craig Van Gelder (PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and University of Texas at Arlington) is professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author or editor of a number of books, including The Essence...

    Continue reading about Craig Van Gelder

  2. Dwight J Zscheile

    Dwight J Zscheile

    Dwight J. Zscheile (PhD, Luther Seminary) is associate professor of congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary and serves as associate rector at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    Continue reading about Dwight J Zscheile


"The Missional Church in Perspective will help pastors and teachers at all levels wrestle with and move more deeply into God's calling on his people in his world."

Jason McKnight,

Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"[The authors] provide a bird's-eye view of the [missional church] landscape, along with suggestions about where the missional church movement should go. . . . Van Gelder and Zscheile offer some beneficial material to supplement the essays in Guder's Missional Church in the very important areas of worship, discipleship, and the practices of the church in the midst of cultural change and globalization. They provide a helpful map of a confusing and widely divergent missional church movement, along with some instructive suggestions for coalescing the movement in particular directions."

J. Todd Billings,

Christian Century

"The Missional Church in Perspective is a monumental and ambitious work that gives shape to the burgeoning missional literature that is both coherent and insightful. The bibliography alone is worth the price of the book because it includes both mainline and evangelical sources. This volume also provides insight as to how scholars committed to a Gospel and Our Culture Network perspective would analyze other branches of missional thought using the highly influential Missional Church as a touchstone."

Phillip W. Sell,

Trinity Journal

"A welcome addition to the missional literature. Because [Van Gelder] was a member of the team that wrote the seminal book Missional Church . . . which seems to have launched the current iteration of the missional movement, he is a trustworthy analyst of the current status of the movement. . . . The authors present the history and development of the missional conversation. This is undoubtedly the best analysis of the history of the missional church in print, and anyone interested in the background of the conversation will benefit from their assessment. . . . This review of the literature is a gold mine of information for anyone seeking to know the breadth of the literature currently in print. The remainder of the book is devoted to how the missional conversation might be extended in the future. . . . This is an outstanding assessment of the missional conversation, both where it has come from and where it is headed. But even more, a wonderful spiritual component is in this work."

W. Rodman MacIlvaine III and D. Scott Barfoot,

Bibliotheca Sacra

"Since the inception of the 'missional church' discussion . . . scholars and practitioners have utilized the term missional in several different ways. This diversity of use has led to confusion, and often disagreement regarding what the term missional actually means. . . . Van Gelder and Zscheile provide some timely clarity into this issue. . . . The Missional Church in Perspective is a must read for anyone engaging in the missional church discussion, scholar and practitioner alike. Its synopsis and analysis of the missional church discussion is especially valuable for students of missiology and practitioners preparing for congregational ministry in Western culture. As such, it should be included as foundational reading in any course focusing on missional ecclesiology."

Craig S. Hendrickson,


"Though less than 200 pages, this book packs quite a punch, particularly for those familiar with the missional church literature, or at least sifting their way through it. The authors engage these resources with a critical lens, critiquing their own as well as other publications. This book's greatest strength, however, is in offering new and renewed perspectives to the ongoing conversation. It is certainly not the last word on the topic, but an important one on the ongoing journey."

Kristine Stache,

Lutheran Quarterly