Missional Church: A Historical and Theological Analysis of an Ecclesiological Tradition


  • Jeppe Bach Nikolajsen

  • This article is a translation and a reworking of my article written in Danish, “Missional ekklesiologi. En teologihistorisk analyse af en ekklesiologisk tradition,” in the Norwegian Journal of Missiology 63:1 (2009). The article is published here with permission from this journal. Section two and parts of section three of this article were included in the second chapter of my dissertation. See Jeppe B. Nikolajsen, Redefining the Identity of the Church: A Constructive Study of the Post-Christendom Theologies of Lesslie Newbigin and John Howard Yoder, PhD thesis, MF Norwegian School of Theology, 2010. However, the full argument in this article has never been presented in English before.


This article argues that an understanding of the development of a missional ecclesiology requires we recognize three closely connected and significant matters in 20th-century mission history: first, the increasing appreciation of the interconnection of church and mission evinced at major ecumenical conferences in the mid-20th century; second, the contributions of influential missiologist Lesslie Newbigin and his theological integration of mission and church; and third, the breakthrough of the phrase “missional church” with the 1998 publication of the book Missional Church. This article traces this three-part development through both historical and theological analyses.