As Missional Theology matures, it’s producing a growing body of literature. It can be a lot to sort through, so here I’m collecting those resources that I’ve found helpful, with some comments along the way. I’ll start by providing a handful of foundational texts that I think are indispensable, and then point towards some other useful works along the way. I’ll be updating this page over time, so let me know of the ones I’ve missed in the comments!
Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America Darrell Guder and Friends, 1998. This is the mothership, people. It’s a foundational text, and if you really want to study the missional church, you have to read it. The good news is it reads pretty well, even after a couple of decades. For me, reading this was like finding the spring that fed the stream I’d been drinking from for years.
Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness by Lois Barrett and friends. This is essentially the same gang of writers as Missional Church (Guder 1998), and in this text they try to put a little more flesh on their ideas. It’s based on case studies, and is a quick read—much less dense than Missional Church.
The Missional Church in Perspective by Craig Van Gelder and Dwight Zscheile, 2011. This another piece from one of the original collaborators (van Gelder) that strikes me really as an extension of Missional Church. Since it’s a fairly easy read, I’d think of this as going into the essential toolkit. Part of what this book does is to frame the how the missional conversation has forked and taken different turns since 1998. Since different people use missional language to mean different things, a book that takes high view of the conversation, mapping it out, becomes very useful. This book is also useful for sending you in new directions, expanding your reading list.
The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission by Leslie Newbigin (1995). This is a key predecessor to Missional Church, and no missional reading list is complete without it. Newbigin, upon his return to the Western World, helped it to see its own identity as a mission field, and provided theological language for our engagement with our neighbors.
Other Missional Books
Staying is the New Going by Alan Briggs (2015)
Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. David Bosch (1991) One of the significant predecessors to Missional Church, Bosch gives a thorough account of the trajectory that led to the missional movement.
Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier by David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw (2013)
The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church by Michael Frost (2011)
The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch (2003, 2013) The revised editions has some pretty useful reflections in the introduction. This is a passionate and useful text, even if I have a couple of reservations about the way they ditch the trinitarian emphasis in favor of a heavy Christology.
Surprise the World: Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost (2015) is a great little book that would be useful for a small study group. Very readable.
The Continuing Conversion of the Church, by Darrell Guder (2000) This book provides a perspective on what’s happening inside the missional church, and why that formation is key for the mission of God. I love this text’s fundamental premise.
Called to Witness: Doing Missional Theology, by Darrell Guder (2015) collects essays Guder published on the missional church after the landmark publication in 1998.
A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story by Michael Goheen (2011). I haven’t read this personally, but my friend Greg McKinzie sent me a note suggesting it’s a worthy contribution from the reformed neck of the woods.
Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (The Gospel and Our Culture Series (GOCS)) by Michael Gorman (2015). Gorman’s expertise is in missional hermeneutics (how we read and use scripture), and I think they’re fantastic.
Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation by Michael J. Gorman (2011). This is an earlier piece on Revelation, and I love it. It’s very readable, but will leave you chewing.
The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch (2009)
The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight (2011) provides the sort of biblical backdrop that fuels the missional movement.
The Trinity and the Kingdom, Jurgen Moltmann (1993). Moltmann fits the description of a theologian whose writing has deeply impacted the missional movement, even if not explicitly missional.
Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition by Alan Roxburgh (2010) There’s been a lot written about missional leadership—Roxburgh is a trustworthy guide.
Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood by Alan Roxburgh (2011) this is a pretty central text, and is probably one of the better introductory piece out there. It may end up getting moved to the foundational list above.
The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality by Alan Roxburgh (1997). This is a more academic piece than Roxburgh’s other writing, and is sort of a forgotten little book, unfortunately.
Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One Alan Roxburgh and Scott Boren (2009)
Doing Local Theology: A Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity Clemens Sedmak (2003). This is a jewel of a book with an unfortunately hokey cover. I advise you to defer judgment.
The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit Craig Van Gelder (2007)
A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf (1996) Volf isn’t explicitly a missional theologian, but his work seems to be an important piece of the conversation, in my view.
A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good by Miroslav Volf (2013)
The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative by Christopher Wright (2006) Like Gorman, Wright is a significant figure in missional hermeneutics. His focus has typically been in Old Testament Studies, and that provides the backdrop for this book, which is a landmark work for the field.
Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright (Revised in 2013) is excellent, and the book makes a fantastic case for a missional understanding of how scripture fits into the story of God. If you haven’t cut your teeth on Wright yet, you should, and this is a great place to start.
Missional Web Hubs
Missio Alliance has one of the best missional blogs around the web. Most of the articles here are at a popular level, though often by respected missional leaders.
Missio Dei is an online academic journal with articles about missional theory and practice.
The Journal of Missional Practice has a vision “to be like a table around which theologically informed practitioners gather with others to share the stories of what they are doing and discerning on the ground and in the local.” I’d say they pull it off.
Mission-Shaped Church (2004) is a church of England publication I’ve heard good things about, and I know it’s been influential in the Anglican Fresh Expressions circles.
Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (American Society of Missiology Series) by Bevans and Schroeder (2004) is a recommendation I recently got via twitter (hat tip to @MuellerBSSabrina), bu I haven’t had the chance to peruse it yet. Let me know if you have.
Missional Hospitality with Alan Roxburgh is episode 2 of the Fresh Expressions Podcast.