Paradigm Profiling in The Missional Zone Part 1-Missional SynchroBlog Post

SUMMARY. The overall topic of the Missional SynchroBlog was, “What is missional?” The SynchroBlog came about in part in response to misapplication of the term missional, perhaps because it is a new buzzword, or genuine misunderstanding of how a missional paradigm and perspective differs from conventional approaches to evangelism, discipleship, and missions. My post gives a very extensive introduction to how to profile a paradigm. I chose this topic to help explain how the missional perspective inherently arises from a holistic set of assumptions. So, perspectives and methodological models that are not from a holistic paradigm cannot be missional … although it is possible to mimic missional at least for a while, thought that won’t be sustainable unless there is movement toward adopting an underlying holistic paradigm. I offer a seven-layer model of paradigm analysis, numerous techniques for interpreting the results, and a case study in the Tessera Learning Trail as a representative of a holistic paradigm and missional methodological model. I conclude with a do-it-yourself section for readers to discern what kinds of models that may be CLAIMED as missional but in fact ARE NOT, what models are NOT NECESSARILY missional, and how could missional models BECOME MORE HOLISTIC. The do-it-yourself section provided the basis for a series of follow-up posts on Paradigm Profiling in The Missional Zone.

Welcome to the Missional SynchroBlog on “What is missional?” (Be sure to see the full list of other participants, posted below this entry.)

I have a lot that I would like to say on that topic. A huge amount, in fact … which will not come as a surprise to anyone who’s delved into futuristguyblog before. Unfortunately, I have been ill the last few days. I simply could not finish what I really wanted to do, which was to present a tutorial on culturology that would detail the background to what I’m about to say that critiques multiple aspects of missional, with suggestions for transitioning to missional or beyond.

I thought doing a paradigm analysis would be the most positive and constructive thing I could contribute to this Missional Synchroblog, given my studies on culture and my passion for helping God’s people understand and pursue God’s “Kingdom Culture” best within their local cultural context. But alas, and I lack … but okay. It’s the providential situation I find myself in, and I’m goin’ with it! At least I got the tutorial partway done, and I trust I’ll be able to finish it up and post it sometime. Anyway, I learned long ago that you do what you can when you can. I’m not sure my Plan B post will come out sounding constructive, but at least I am going to try. When there’s a historical “Esther Moment,” it could be that one of the most important things is to show up and do at least something, not to opt out until you get it perfect because that day will never come.

So, here it is.

[Postscript: Okay, so this entry isn’t exactly what I wanted, but by cutting, pasting, and editing chunks of text from other materials I’ve written, it’s almost turned into the tutorial I wanted. Go figure … guess that was what was meant to be! But … ummm … it turned out reeeeally long, so you might want to just download it for later …]


What is “missional”? Now, I am known as a pursuer of questions. (In fact, I was once introduced as someone who was “working on answers to questions that no one else was asking yet.” It was the late 1990s and I was there to give a lecture on emerging postmodern cultures.) But What is “missional”? is one of many questions I find quite vexing these days. Seems like the real question that some North American churches, ministries, and agencies are fighting over is WHO is “missional”? As if we are all Dogs Who Love the Lord and are trying to mark our territory.

Well, that’s not exactly productive, yet there seem to be ever so many more turf wars over terms these days to be dragged into (e.g., emergent-emerging, missions-missional-missionary, seeker-disciple). I do believe it’s legitimate to profile a paradigm so we can be intentional in contextualizing ministry within a given cultural setting. However, sometimes the discussions focus on getting the definition wording exactly right – and actually, that’s more a manifestation of a modernist philosophist drive to achieve perfection in our conceptual understanding than a call to ministry. The philosophist approach builds a new Babel, only with words instead of bricks.

But if someone is pursuing the missional question out of genuine attempts to lead God’s people to the absolute fullness of what He intended us all to be and to do, then that’s worth the effort.


It vexes me when I sense there’s been apparent misappropriation of terms – hijacking them, if you will – and acting as if it is being used accurately. I’ve seen it over and over since the ’70s, and I believe that it’s happening now with the term missional. So, instead of wrangling over rarified abstractions of the term, how about doing a concrete analysis? What would we find if we conducted a content and concept analysis of the blogs and books and teachings of people/organizations whose MAIN approach is self-proclaimed as missional? What do they demonstrate as being the essence of “missional”? I suspect we would find vastly different word choices and lifestyle activities than where missional seems to be a MINOR approach or a ministry add-on.

You may know from previous visits here that I’ve been working for about 15 years on a curriculum to train people for cultural interpretation, ministry contextualization, and social transformation. What you may not know is that I’ve been studying various elements of paradigm systems, culture, and contextualization for over 30 years. In recent days, I’ve applied some of this knowledge to an informal “content analysis” of what makes missional what it is. (Check out this post for an overview of what a content analysis entails.)

Some of my questions of interest were:

  • How do we interpret the “appropriate” boundaries of missional as a full paradigm?
  • What are the “barometer issues” (info processing and critical values especially) that help differentiate the clusters of groups that claim to be missional?
  • Where does this missional paradigm stand in relation to fully integrative, holistic paradigm and the comprehensive Kingdom Culture that would result?

Of course, I’m not neutral in this endeavor. I would consider myself more of the missional-incarnational tribe than not. However, there are areas where I don’t think what’s typically considered “missional” goes far enough toward a holistic paradigm. And certainly there are areas of my own perspective and lifestyle that truly missional people would find as not meeting commonly accepted understandings or standards for what missional means.

This process involved studying surface behaviors and statements of people and groups that say they are missional (or that don’t say so, but come across that way anyway). Then I approximated the underlying paradigm system. In other words, I gathered a set of relevant data, then analyzed it to “backcast” and see what “deep structures” would inherently and consistently serve as starting points and processes that lead to such a specific set of surface behaviors in culture and organizations. It also included figuring out what “differentiates” approaches that may sound or look similar to missional, but actually aren’t … or aren’t yet. This is an art, and you’ll have to decide for yourselves whether I’m an artist, an artiste, or just fakin’ it while drawin’ stick-figures …

Anyway, here’s how my cultural interpretation theory organizes the layers in a paradigm.


A paradigm system is a multi-layered system of ways that a group of people deal with life. Each person functions from a paradigm, and cultures hold a paradigm in common. In my current model for analyzing cultural systems, paradigms include seven interconnected elements. (I’m still beta-testing and refining my approach, but this seven-layer approach seems to work.) Going from the deepest to the most surface layers, they are:

  1. Information Processing Modes
  2. Critical Values
  3. Critical Theology, Religious Perspective, or Philosophy
  4. Organizational Strategies
  5. Organizational Infrastructures
  6. Methodological Models
  7. Surface Style and Lifestyle.

A paradigm is integrated at the deepest level by the primary way people process information. These processing modes represent a combination of things I have learned from technical studies on comparative logical and rhetoric in language (i.e., cross-cultural discourse analysis), learning styles and perception, epistemology, and hermeneutics. Our information processing mode colors how we perceive everything. They are the “logic” by which we categorize information, decide what we find valuable, create a philosophical worldview, consider how to interact with other cultures, and attempt to maintain power over how people behave.

My framework of five information processing modes is based on an important quote from a now-mostly-forgotten pastor-preacher-theologian-author, A.J. Gossip (yup, that’s his real last name). Gossip passed on the following idea: “A basic trouble is that most Churches limit themselves unnecessarily by addressing their message almost exclusively to those who are open to religious impression through the intellect, whereas … there are at least four other gateways – the emotions, the imagination, the aesthetic feeling, and the will – through which they can be reached.”

I have “essentialized” what I know into a set of four distinct information processing modes related to Gossip’s terms. I’ll spend a bit of time on these, because they are the primary integration points for paradigm; they determine everything else that flows upward toward the surface of actions.

The Mind focuses on analysis. Analytic “logic” is about creating discrete pieces of information, and reducing large amounts of material into a singular principle. It involves sifting through a set that includes multiple pieces of data, and boiling down the similarities in the data, or dissecting all the differences, until you can extract out one principle or pattern from that set. It also typically expresses itself in lists of items, “either/or” rules, and segmentation of items into categories. From it we get an emphasis on hierarchical order, procedures, and strategizing. Examples: Atheism, agnosticism, and philosophical postmodernISM (but not cultural postmodernITY) rely on analytic skepticism to process information.

The Imagination focuses on synthesis. Synthetic logic is about putting several things together to create something new. It begins with a single idea or principle or parameter, and combines it with one or more other ideas, in order to expand the new approach out into multiple applications. Synthesis is all about options, variation, and choices. We could do this, or that, or the other … From it we get an emphasis on creativity, arts, and entrepreneurship. Example: The “Lost Generation” of 20th-century artists (for example, Gertrude Stein) could be viewed as espousing amorality, an internally consistent belief set where every option is equally valid, acceptable, and tolerated.

The Emotions focus on symbiosis. Symbiotic logic is about bringing multiple things or people together into a new kind of organism, where the original distinctions become blurred or lost because of the new combination or cooperation. For instance, the lichen is a form of symbiosis between two types of plant; they co-exist for the benefit of both. Parasites are a form of symbiosis where one “partner” benefits, to the detriment of the other. In its extreme forms, symbiotic logic moves beyond “infusion” where various elements support each other, to “fusion” where all distinctions between elements are collapsed into non-distinctions. From it we get an emphasis on community, justice, and mentoring. Example: Religious monism (e.g., Hinduism, animism, pantheism) asserts that everything in the universe is joined together as an extension of one another. Things may seem temporarily distinct, but ultimately they are not separate.

The Aesthetic Feeling (soul) focuses on analogies. Analogic logic is about holding two seemingly contradictory principles together simultaneously. This creates a paradoxical, dynamic, “both/and” tension, as when light is comprised of both waves and particles, even though that doesn’t seem to “make sense.” Or when Scriptures declare that Christians are both sinners and saints. But don’t view paradoxy like walking a tightrope where you might fall off this side or that side if you don’t “balance” correctly. Paradoxical tension works more like a violin string, which is anchored at one end and then cinched up from the other end so it can sing. (This allusion is from Klyne Snodgrass in his excellent but unfortunately out-of-print book, Between Two Truths: Living with Biblical Tensions.). From it we get an emphasis on ecological/organic systems, interpretive reflection, and mysticism. (UPDATE: This book has been reprinted – thank you, thank you, Wipf & Stock!)

And yes, I know there is the fifth term from Gossip: The Will. In my system, The Will focuses on integrative processes – doing what it takes to bring together two or more of the other logics in combinations that bring about a more comprehensive, holistic paradigm. From it we get an emphasis on righteousness, reconciliation, and complementarity. In fact, the profile I’ll present later as missional is actually closer to what I think is the ideal integrative paradigm that uses all five processing modes in dynamic balance.

I know this may seem awfully esoteric, and you may be wondering, How can this have any practical value? Stick with me, and hopefully you’ll see. This set allows me to develop four “pure types,” each of which presents a substantially different approach to interpreting the world around us. If I’ve done my theorizing well, this set should explain sources of conflict that are based in various aspects of paradigms. (So, again, information processing modes prove a most critical element to understand.)

So, that way of integrating information and directly related ways of life inherently flow upward and manifest themselves in a consistent set of ways of how we view being individuals and organizing our communities, and of dominant philosophical/theological systems. As these interact, out flow our end-state values (the way things should be, our purposes, what goals we are moving toward), and our instrumental values (the ways we should treat people, our means, what legitimates our purposes). Core values are qualities held by any number of paradigms, but critical values are the dominant characteristics that differentiate it. Critical values are the heart-pulse of a specific paradigm – take those away, and you’ve removed its very life force.

To give an oversimplified example, both the Celtic monastics and the Eastern desert monastics could be said to hold CORE values for spiritual formation and personal reflection. The CRITICAL value difference is demonstrated by Celtic monasteries generally establishing themselves at the crossroads of societies, while Eastern monasteries generally set themselves in areas apart from society. One embraces connection, the other isolates. When two things have similar names, differentiation between them requires interpreting their underlying core values in light of overt activities to find the critical difference.

Deep-level information processing mode and critical values lead to the operational systems we typically use to achieve our goals. Operational systems consist of our strategies and structures. These lead to methodological models, which I would describe as a clear cluster of specific goals and routine means for implementing them, consistent with the prescriptions of our underlying strategies and infrastructures prescribe. Examples of methodological models: mega-church, missionary shadow team, house church, seeker-sensitive. And perhaps some people even use emerging and missional more as a methodological model instead of as their paradigm. Now, there’s something to think about …

The very surface level consists of style (how people present themselves) and lifestyle (how people act). This includes both personal and social behaviors, social groups and their distinctive lifestyles, and acceptable objects and activities. That is where a paradigm seems most apparent, but the easily observed level of concrete actions does not always tell you where that comes from. Vastly different paradigms can potentially support very similar looking style and lifestyle elements, but it comes from wholly distinct integration points.

So, what about changing a paradigm? All of these factors and layers together interact as a system, governed by the key integration points indigenous to the paradigm’s information processing mode and critical values. This means that sustainable change requires transformation at the deepest level in order to effect long-term changes at the surface level. It also means that the opposite approach does not work – significant changes (i.e., rearrangements) at the surface level do not automatically reorient our operational systems, our modes of social organization, our values, or our epistemology.


Okay, so we’re finally here. An overview of some key deep-level aspects of “The Missional Zone” Paradigm! I don’t think it would’ve made much sense without all that background, and I hope it makes some sense with it! I know this is dense stuff, however, if we say we really want to engage in dialog about the essence of what it means to be missional, I believe we have to take a deep-level look at what drives our paradigm. If we don’t, we’ll end up in frustrating arguments over surface-level issues like methodological models, styles, lifestyles, and vocabulary usage. No, we need to look at the deep issues, because those are what differentiate paradigms.

Before you read this section, two important notes:

  • You may want to take a moment to think through and perhaps jot some notes about what you would say are the distinctive features of the deep- and middle-levels of a Missional Paradigm.
  • I do not necessarily agree with the overall substance or particular nuance of any statement that appears in this section. I am attempting to present my best approximation of a Missional Paradigm.

Deepest level – information processing modes and critical values.

The Missional Paradigm involves a relatively holistic perspective based on a process of intentionally choosing (the will) to integrate the processing modes of analysis (mind), synthesis (imagination), symbiosis (emotions and relationships), and analogy (aesthetic feeling or soul). The imagination, emotions, and aesthetic feeling are likely stronger than mind/analysis. Followers in a Missional Paradigm apply the resulting perspective as consistently as possible to a comprehensive range of life-categories, academic domains, and spiritual disciplines.

Some of the critical values for followers in a Missional Paradigm are these:

  • We value integrating all systems for biblical, theological, and cultural study for us to learn how best to interact in ways that allow contextualization to any culture. In part, contextualization means letting the everyday issues and concerns and needs of people in our neighborhood or other social setting create the agenda for our responses. However, within that, we will seek to empower instead of rescue, show compassion without compromise, and come alongside instead of control.
  • We value ongoing relational-incarnational presence within our neighborhoods over occasional event-attractional possibilities at some other location.
  • We value setting all theological divisions and disciplines in a larger framework of redemptive transformation. This requires us to develop strategies, structures, models, and methods with sustainability, anti-toxicity, and cycles of change and rest involving persons, cultures, and the earth.
  • We value setting all lifestyle issues in a larger framework of respect and mutuality where individual and corporate participation are always held in dynamic tension. This includes sustaining our community by considering the potential consequences for future generations of our current decisions. Also, as a learning community, we seek to listen to one another, discern as a body, and learn to interpret together the observations and perspectives of all members.
  • We value God’s providential provisions to use through the gifts of both individuals and the community. Every person “leads” through their spiritual gifts, though not all are called to be leaders. The contributions of any individual are never quenched by the group for the sake of conformity, and the actions of any individual are never allowed to lead to chaos in the group for no good reason.
  • Life is meant to move toward Christlike transformation as individuals, and Kingdom Culture as groups. Therefore, discipleship is the largest framework for transformation because it includes and leads to evangelism and social activism.

Deep level – guiding theological or philosophical perspectives.

Some of the guiding principles for followers in a Missional Paradigm are these:

  • Choose organic principles over programmatic approaches.
  • Choose to create a culture of producers instead a culture of consumers.
  • Choose the contextual local approach over generic universal materials.
  • Choose the intentional and strategic over the experimental and pragmatic.
  • Choose gradual change and impact, unless the Holy Spirit presses for urgency.
  • Choose corporate participation over institutional ownership.
  • Choose an external/Kingdom focus over an internal/Christendom focus.
  • Choose narrative theology over systematic theology.
  • Choose mentoring systems approaches to multiplication discipleship over informational program approaches to discipleship.
  • Choose words of Jesus over those of other biblical authors.

Middle level – operational system – our strategies, infrastructures, and “methodological models.”

Here is a sample of what an operational system could look like in a Missional Paradigm.

  • In general, our strategy involves extended (even multigenerational, when seems indicated) response for gradual but sustainable impact on important community projects and issues. We should use unique local perspectives and resources whenever possible in the short run and absolutely so in the long run. Sometimes there should be an immediate response for an urgent need, but that is more the rarity rather than the standard.
  • This strategy requires structures involving teams (not individuals) that lead us. We will use intentional compositing of teams according to individuals with complementary gifts and strengths. The teams will work together to “cast the vision,” and they will become our vision carriers in those endeavors, embodying the attitudes and actions we need to see in order to become more like Jesus. Participants will work together to develop clear written descriptions of their community or ministry, and clear written descriptions of what constitutes qualitative “success.” They will consider how to make appropriate adjustments to “imported” materials developed elsewhere, based on local cultural studies and contextualization. They will establish intergenerational mentoring to make their community or ministry sustainable, and engage in periodic evaluations and course corrections.


Learning Trail Values and Vision – January 2007

The following statement of values comes from the Tessera Learning Trail. I posted it a few months ago in the second part of the history of this innovative network. At that time, I said of it: If you’re looking for a decentralized network model for creative missional start-up of holistic Kingdom enterprises – contextual ministries, micro-businesses, social transformation movements – the Tessera Learning Trail has one of the best track records I’m aware of.

The following Values and Vision Statement was drafted by a six-member “Design Group” on behalf of the 30+ participants of the larger international workgroup at “Houston Summit” in November 2006. They produced the first draft at the end of a week of meetings, and refined it over the next three months. The Design Group consisted of: Mark Berry (SafeSpace, UK), Karen Campbell (UBA, Houston), Daniel Ehniss (Kubik, Germany), Shannon Hopkins (Walking Missional Incubator, UK/US), Mark Reichmann (Kubik, Germany), and Brad Sargent (Superhero Sidekick, US).

Here is the introduction to Tessera’s values statement. Consider this as a case study in a well-developed deep-level and middle-level missional paradigm. It presents their 12 core values. What do you think could be considered as critical missional values in this statement – those items that, if they were missing, would mean that Tessera was not really function from a missional paradigm?

This values statement is much more than some list of 12 items. It represents the providentially interwoven stories of dozens of people over several decades. It is not a manifesto of what we think we or others should do, but is a snapshot of what we are already being, doing, and becoming. It represents the integration of our heads and hearts, our imaginations and emotions, our spirits and our will …We love being part of this thing, because we find God is before and behind it, beside and above it, guiding us onward, step by step together. Perhaps you will find yourself led to join in our journey of transformative living and learning!

We Are …

1. We are an international network of communities and individuals engaged in transformative learning and creative partnerships for discipleship. We know what it feels like to be missional pioneers, and have found ourselves in providential relationship with one another.

2. We are committed to continue developing each other and the next generations of missional practitioners. Our participants provide transformational, reciprocal learning experiences that include the following (but are not limited to):

  • Self-directed learning.
  • Learning in missional community.
  • Learning with mentors.

3. These kinds of transformational, reciprocal learnings apply to individuals and to communities. They experiences include general spiritual disciplines and healing needed by all who follow Christ, as well as specific skills for applied ministry.

We Value …

4. We value holistic learning. Transformational learning impacts the whole person. It’s not just about a series of courses with content, it’s about experiencing ourselves in a context and in community. When we engage our whole self in active learning in a cultural context, we find it affects our physical, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of personhood.

5. We value just inclusivity. We seek to treat each other as colleagues to learn from each other in a community of disciples, where each individual brings multiple perspectives based on gender, generation, family of origin, racial background, national ties, socio-economic status, and many other factors.

6. We value accessibility with responsibility. We show our trust by sharing life together. We are intentional about including others in our network of relationships, listening to one another, participating in learnings and activities that will change us, and opening ourselves for truthful accountability.

7. We value reciprocal learning. Everyone’s learning needs and contributions providentially overlap with the needs and contributions of others eventually. This is mutuality in action: What I have right now to share matches what someone else needs, and vice versa. Also, we value the wisdom of those who have experience and we also value the contributions of those who are new to our network. SO there is reciprocal learning in an environment of trust that allows for risk,

8. We value fluid leadership. No one leader or team directs, speaks for, or oversees our network. We do not expect every network participant to be involved in every function that happens. Instead, leadership in any given event, project, or partnership is based on giftedness, expressed in humility, in response to invitations based on the Spirit’s leading in whoever catalyzes a function, and often with surprises based in God’s provision for whom He wants to participate.

9. We value entrepreneurship. We desire our lives to have Kingdom impact that leads to personal and social transformation. Such ministry that is both appropriate yet challenging for a given cultural context calls forth an entrepreneurial spirit. This involves the freedom to be creative and take bold risks, as well as the responsibility to engage in critical reflection and exercise community discernment.

10. We value being independent and interdependent. We value what we learn and do independently as individuals and communities, but we are not about individualism. We also value interdependence among network participants, but we are not about conformity. We see the need to strengthen each other by sharing our resources and relationships, and by keeping connected and accountable. We are especially concerned that we maintain dialogue among disciples from “established” and “emerging” cultures.

Our structures and our commitments …

11. Our structures flow out of these values, and we work intentionally to have them embedded and embodied in all we do as a decentralized network. Many of our “structures” are actually individuals or communities who carry specific giftings, and who are passionate to serve in ways that facilitate our remaining as organic a system as possible.

12. Our purposes, relationships, networks, and lifestyles reflect God’s missions and the ministry of Christ incarnate. So, we are committing ourselves not only to be accountable, but to pursue spiritual formation, holiness, ethical and just living, with honesty and integrity, with humility and respect. This is who we are, and who we strive to be with God, each other, and the world. We do not enter or exit relationships lightly, and our promise with each other is to help each one be, become, and do all that God intended.

Endnote about Tessera … If this statement of what’s at the core of the Tessera Learning Trail intrigues you, be sure to check out my “Matryoshka Haus – Training Trail” category for the history leading up to the creation of this statement!


If you have visited futuristguyblog before, you know I regularly interject a “do-it-yourself” section. After I completed The Missional Zone Paradigm Profile section, I decided to include one here. If you’ve been willing to read 50 Missional Synchroblog posts on the subject of What is Missional?, I assume you’re serious enough about the topic to tackle some questions that may raise your hackles.

Here’s the framework: Assume the Paradigm Profile I presented is relatively accurate. Apply these two questions for each statement below.

First, why do you think I would make each of the following statements about what is NOT missional, what is NOT NECESSARILY missional, and where missional needs to BECOME EVEN MORE holistic?

Second, in each case what suggestions for transformation could you give to disciples who want to journey toward missional, toward being more consistently missional, or beyond missional to even more holistc?

I will state up front that I believe any church, ministry, or Kingdom enterprise could transition toward a holistic, missional paradigm profile. However, it will be harder for those from some paradigms and methodological models than for others. The cultural distance may be so much, and the change process so intense, that it will cause enough culture shock to send them into culture cardiac arrest.

I will also state up front that I believe this transition is what needs to happen anyway. It’s a whole ‘nuther topic, but I believe the churches of Western civilizations really don’t have more than 25 years to do this – if even that long – if we want to become viable and sustainable. We’ve got to choose …

[ADDED LATER: This transition from Traditional and Pragmatic Paradigms to a more Holistic Paradigm is an absolutely critical issue for us. Even if we want to make that change, I’m not sure we know how. And yes, I certainly believe change can happen just in response to listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit – yet every command in Scripture is an appeal to intentionality. It’s both/and, not either/or. So, part of my reason for this extensive post on paradigm analysis is so that eventually I could write on some of the intentional HOW to make that paradigm shift. But, it really doesn’t make any sense to talk about “paradigm shifts” when we don’t have language or framework for “paradigms” first … So, thanks for your patience in slogging through this. There is a point to the many words therein!]

This is one of the rare do-it-yourself sections that I will plan to come back online sometime and share my responses and reasonings to the questions I posed. Can’t promise when, but I will make every effort to do so sometime.

  • If our church uses a chaplain pastor model or a CEO-manager model, that is inherently NOT missional.
  • If our church is staff-led, that is inherently NOT missional.
  • If our church uses a program-based model, that is inherently NOT missional. (By program-based, I mean it uses organizational modules, projects, and/or curriculum that is supplied by outside publishers, agencies, or providers.)
  • If our church is a mega-church or multi-campus church, that is inherently NOT missional.
  • If our church uses a seeker model, that is inherently NOT missional.
  • If our church, ministry, or agency advocates “church planting movements,” it is NOT NECESSARILY missional.
  • If our church or ministry relies solely on the leading of the Holy Spirit to connect us with other people, that is NOT NECESSARILY missional.
  • If our leaders and teachers say that we need to be a Gospel/New Testament church and do everything like Jesus and His disciples did, that is NOT NECESSARILY missional.

What other issues come to your mind that address the distinctives of what is and is not missional? If you’d like to add them to the comment section. That will give others a chance to consider your do-it-yourself questions …

Meanwhile, thanks for your efforts in reading this post and thinking it through. I hope it was of help and a blessing to you.

Jump to Paradigm Profiling in The Missional Zone – Part 2.

20 thoughts on “Paradigm Profiling in The Missional Zone Part 1-Missional SynchroBlog Post

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  4. Thanks Brad.

    At the end you become very clear and definitive about governance etc. Is this part of your traditional/ holistic distinction?

    Can a church be missional if it has a CEO-manager model or is staff-led?

    Thanks again,

  5. Hi Robert, and thanks for dropping in! I’ll plan to post thoughts on each of the specific do-it-yourself statements another day, but will offer some general input at the mo.

    You stated: “At the end you become very clear and definitive about governance etc. Is this part of your traditional/ holistic distinction?”

    Yes. If I were laying out a grid of the paradigm profiles for all of the “methodological models” on governance that I could find, I think it would become easier to categorize them according to the Traditional / Pragmatic / Younger Evangelical-Holistic paradigms as described in Robert Webber’s book, *The Younger Evangelicals.* I hope to do this eventually … and in the meantime, check out Webber. His book includes some great charts in that book that cover many features of structure and governance.

    Using a paradigm framework, by the time our choices filter up from the depths of our information processing mode, through our core values and critical values, they finally get into the realm of operational systems, methodological models, and governance. There’s likely to be a relatively small range of overall church/ministry structure possibilities and governances to work in from a specific set of deep-level critical values.

    When there’s a distinctive difference at a deep level, but people use similar surface vocabulary, we tend to get a sort of situation that I’m currently calling “paradigm parallax.” In other words, it looks like these groups are similar, until you look far underneath. (For instance, Latter-Day Saints and Christians both use terms like “salvation” and “grace” and “Jesus” and “atonement,” but underneath that, they mean very very different things.) The surface seems similar, but there is a lot of paradigm system distance between their underlying deep-level features!

    I’ll write more about this issue of “parallax” later, but for now I think the basic concept helps explain why some people co-opt terms, whether thru intention to be more relevant or hip – or through sincere ignorance because they don’t see the distinctives. They think because they do missionary activities that they are missional, or they think the term missional is the new term for evangelical, or whatever.

    Maybe it will turn out that governance – which is a fairly visible form to identify deeper-level integration points and values – is one of our best indicators of actual cultural space where an organization resides. Stay tuned on that …

    … and also, regardless of the specific situations in the do-it-yourself section, I’d reiterate that I believe those from any kind of governance form could embark on a trajectory toward something more missional, more contextualized for the future, more friendly to multiple generations, etc. More on that later as well.


  6. Well done, brother! I’m getting ready to travel to Napa tomorrow, so I’m pressed to try to get all of the synchrobloggers read! I may have to continue in Napa. :^)

    Talk to you soon.

  7. Brad… I particularly appreciated your thoughts about deep and mid-level principles of a missional approach. At our foundation we are beginning to take baby steps at adopting a missional-incarnational approach to our grantmaking. Your thoughts in these two sections could be easily adapted by us for guidelines in what makes a missional grant.

    Best wishes.

  8. Hi Mark, and thanks for your comment. I’m delighted that some of the material will be of help in your foundation work! For a mini-case study in “what it looks like,” you might want to check out the posts on the Tessera Learning Trail. That network’s statement of values captures a lot of what is both core and critical to living missionally. Cheers – Brad

    EDITED LATER: Actually, I think I’ll go add that statement into my post. It’s such a great statement, and it comes out of multiple people working on multiple projects over about a five-year period, so it’s been forged out of practice, not just conceptualized from theory.

  9. Brad,

    Appreciated so much the “Identifying Paradigm Elements within ‘The Missional Zone'” Extremely descriptive of what is missional. Thanks for your contribution to this conversation.

  10. Pingback: 50 Ways to Define “Missional” - II : Subversive Influence

  11. Yo – Allelon friends -thanks for dropping by! Rob – glad the material resonated, and hope it helps in the long run, being a rather long-winded monologue in the “dialog” of missionality. And Bro. Maynard, thanks for reframing my framework and making it more accessible … interested in editing my entire universe of stuff?! B-

  12. Brad, wow nice work here. Your ten-item deep-level summary is one of the best I’ve seen on missional – I resonate with all of it.

  13. G’morning John! Thanks for dropping by. Glad the list is a helpful summary. I think the more we understand the paradigm “seeds” that are sown at the deepest level, we’ll better understand the fruit …

  14. Brad,
    I am very interested in your thoughts about transitioning traditional churches. Your statement about having <25 years to do so is provocative.

    I have been thinking about this. It seems that the core issue is whether the central purpose of the organization is for itself or for others. That is basically an either/or choice that will ultimately result in changes that are beyond the surface level as you have described.

    You’ve given us lots to think about.

  15. Hi Grace – thanks your comment, and glad the material has been meaty. I felt this provocative statement about a maximum 25-year shelf life of non-missional churches needed some back-up, and I had some time, so I wrote a follow-up post. I’ll likely deal with some of the other aspects of paradigm shift and cultural system transition at a later date. Thanks again, and please keep helping me to know how best to be of help in guiding thinking toward the future(s)!

  16. One of the key concepts in T. Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” was that paradigm change only takes place as the newly seen model, actually represents the way the world looks and makes it make sense again. It is clear in the book that not everyone will ever be able to make the shift to the new paradigm. Seeing the world through “missional” as you describe it is a new model of reality that many people in now different cultural contexts are saying yes, that is how I want church to be. But it is more than that, people are saying: “that is who I am and how I see my world.”

    For me that means that many if not most contemporary churches, including most of what you name as “not missional” will never make the change. Rather than lament the fact, we need to be providing discussions like this one to the people in our churches who do feel “the world is a ‘blooming buzzing confusion.’” More than that, creating new missional communities that share the mental model you describe will change the nature of the church, maybe. (I personally could talk about this aspect all day.)

    One thing that missional does so very well is to recreate a paradigm that is inherently cross-cultural. Being missional means you have to confront what ever culture is in front of you, not the faux culture of the church. The so called “culture-wars” are at times merely internal wars between mechanistic/rationalist church people. This model, unlike other missions’ models, that did accomplish a great deal after all, is one that can land on its feet anywhere, and begin to take root.

    Thank you for a provocative, well designed answer.

  17. Hello Michael, and thanks for your feedback. There are so many things I could riff on from your comment, but they’re all probably too deep of diatribes … ummm … essays for here. So I’ll plan to launch into those in future posts rather than here. I do have one thing on my mind for now. It sort of bridges my posts on the significance of paradigm analysis, missional, culturologist versus philosophist, and interpolators.

    It’s the personal narrative aspect of the whole thing: I didn’t start out to do paradigm analysis just because I could do it. I ended up here because of what I COULDN’T do. I could not understand the craziness around me, and felt driven to make sense of why I felt such an outsider. Being a hands-on concrete person in a world that preferred theoretical abstractions. Having an innate sense of social interdependence and cultural fluidity in a society of independence and isolation. Trying to cope with the crowd-damaging power-plays of pseudo-leaders in the very institutions that were supposed to be helping people.

    I had to come up with frameworks for organizing things as I saw them, that made sense to me, that made sense of a world in constant conflict and cultural dissonance. So, with a providential ability for analysis, I’ve ended up putting it to use in paradigm profiling.

    And now, gladly, it appears that the anguish which drove me this direction may prove a highly redemptive way to help the Kingdom at a time when, sadly, we have so many interconflicting paradigms among churches in a time of global paradigm shifts. If possession is nine-tenths of the law, then perception is nine-tenths of the flaw. With this tool of paradigm profiling, maybe I can suggest very specific elements that explain culture clash between factions within our own “tribe.” Maybe I can offer specific practical ways we can all conduct course corrections to align our trajectory with God’s goal for us of Christlike transformation. Maybe I can outline processes that help us learn to connect cross-culturally with any tribe of any race, place, and cultural space. Maybe I can assist those who used to be from the dominant paradigm in seeing they still have vital roles to play in the world as it is emerging, but it won’t be what they expect …

    Also, personally, what I’m looking forward to is working my way toward explaining why I am convinced of something I’ve stated a few times before: The missional paradigm is good, but it is not yet comprehensive and integrative enough. We’ll see if I can do that in the long run, and if these challenging ways that the world makes sense to me will help it make sense to others, too …

  18. I didn’t know really whether to post this response here or at one of the newer blog entries. A couple of things you mention are very key to what is taking place now. The very fact that missional leaders had to blog about what is missional is enough to convince anyone, that we are still in the defining stage of that. Or as my wife say, “I don’t care how you define it, why are you always talking about it and not doing it!”

    You said:
    And now, gladly, it appears that the anguish which drove me this direction may prove a highly redemptive way to help the Kingdom at a time when, sadly, we have so many interconflicting paradigms among churches in a time of global paradigm shifts.

    I personally believe we have lived through the first ever global paradigm shift in history. When you say conflicting models, that is exactly how Kuhn describes the pre-paradigm shift situation: there are many models. That shows two things, one, the old paradigm does not explain reality, and two, there is no “sure winner” for the new paradigm. I think however being missional hits at some key aspects: organic not industrial; experience oriented over intellectual; related more to God’s mission than man’s progress. You are helping with that process I think.

    You also mentioned: The missional paradigm is good, but it is not yet comprehensive and integrative enough.
    To me, if it doesn’t explain reality, real reality, then it isn’t a real candidate for a paradigm. This has nothing to do with “Early adapters” and all the Covey descriptions. It has to do with the base idea of paradigm: that it describes reality and integrates life/work. Missional has the potential for both, but not the definition. I believe there are several things happening however that could lead to its success. One, it is being used as a term to describe a specific idea about how church is in the world. Second, texts are being written and being taught. The one thing it lacks is that aha moment of “this reality makes sense.”

    Ok, now I need to go and read your last post.

  19. Hello again, Michael, and thanks for your input and encouragement!

    If you have a chance sometime, it’d be helpful if you could share what sources you’re aware of (or even if you haven’t found many or any) where Christians are trying to portray missional, emerging, monastic, renewal, traditional, etc. “models” with a full PARADIGM ANALYSIS approach. Not just listing a set of practices that make it a “model.” And not just offering a theological approach that justifies “the model.” And not just telling leaders that they need to make a “paradigm shift” or giving a list of specific actions to take that supposedly constitute a “paradigm shift.” Resources that go to the deepest levels.

    I think we’ve lost sight of the FACT that the ingrained ways we process information inherently structure what kinds of values are critical to defining our paradigm, and also then what theological approaches we will have. So, if we don’t use a full paradigm approach, we’ll be arguing for “fixes’ that will never go deep enough.

    If you know sources, that’d be a great resource! And please – any other readers who have input on that – please feel free to post comments also. The closest thing I’ve found would be Robert Webber’s *The Younger Evangelicals* and my copy is in storage but I think Paul Hiebert’s *Incarnational Ministry: Planting Churches in Band, Tribal, Peasant, and Urban Societies* gets to the deepest-level details also.

    As I’ve noted before, since about 2000 or 2001, I have avoided reading books about generational dynamics, methodological models, and this or that movement or church planting concept or critique of emerging or missional or emergent or etc. Most of my available energy for processing has gone into analyzing and interpreting my own experiences, and trying to create a system for cultural analysis and contextualization. (Actually, it was to create a system to try and prove I’m not crazy!) (Wonder if I’ll ever succeed at that.) (We’ll see …)

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