I've had a couple of conversations recently that have revolved around the theme of church and missional living. Of course the church ought to be defined as missional, but we all know that in many places it is stuck in a legacy model of church focussed primarily on meeting the internal needs of the members.
So, what shape church should take in order to fulfil its primary mandate of being a people living on mission with God, partnering with him, incarnating the gospel in everyday life? For me it begins with what we believe about Jesus, this in turn shapes our mission which then shapes our view of church. Christology, missiology, ecclesiology.
The order is important because if we put church before mission we will define the mission in church-centric terms. The world becomes a dark place full of people bent of doing evil, a place that threatens the purity of the church and seeks to undermine our faith. When I first became a Christian in the mid 70's discipleship seemed to demand that you left your non-Christians friends behind. Spending time with them caused question to be asked about your spiritual life. Unless you could demonstrate that you'd "shared the gospel" it was almost assumed that you were "backsliding"! Putting church before mission feeds a doctrine of separation from the world and mission becomes a sort of commando raid into enemy territory.
When you allow missiology to flow from Christology you get a different perspective on the world and the church. Mission becomes a life to be lived, the world becomes the residence of those missing from the kingdom rather than those enemies of the kingdom. Church becomes a gathering of those who live missionally, a place to share stories of God's mission, to encourage each other in that mission as well as a place to engage in worship, prayer and reflection. To me this seems a far healthier and more biblical view of church.