Missiology precedes Ecclesiology

I was asked by Len Hjalmarsen to write a response to the question; “Do you think missiology precedes ecclesiology, or is it the other way around?

Here is my response.


Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch in The Shaping of Things to Come established for me some real clarity regarding this issue. With their help I came to understand that missiology precedes ecclesiology and our Christology informs our missiology (p.209). I believe John 1:14 and Philippines 2:5-8 affirm this reality.

The supremacy of Christ demands that He is the center of all that the Church is and does — the shaping influence. For me John 1:14 in THE MESSAGE describes for the Church its correct missiological paradigm:

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

Philippians 2:5-8 describes how Christ fulfilled his mission by becoming “flesh and blood and moving into our human neighborhood” — on an incarnational mission so to speak. He did this as He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil.2:7 NASU) Christ’s ecclesiological nature (form) was that of being a human being; inhabiting human form and likeness. Like Christ the church should take what ever form/structure necessary to facilitate the missio Dei (the mission of God); its missiological responsibility.

As further stated in John 1:14 the form (ecclesiology) must reflect Christ’s glory in a way that is culturally observable in whatever neighborhood it finds itself. This glory in unlike any other glory — “one-of-a-kind,” as described in the remainder of the verse.

Every time the church manifests another order other than Christology, missiology, ecclesiology, it looses its missional edge and focus; becoming distracted by the forms and structures. Christ determines our mission, and our mission must shape our ecclesiology.

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