4 Qualities of Missional Movements Born at the Margins

Missional movements are born at the margins. They thrive there. And they spread out from there.

God doesn’t only place the margins at the center of his love, concern, and mission. He begins movements there.

God’s mission is from the margins. Jesus was a Galilean Jews. He didn’t just care for the margins: He was from the margins himself. If the church’s mission, ministry, and message are to reflect the way that God places the margins at the center of his love and concern, then the church must see the margins as not merely being incidental to the whole.

Recently, Jayakumar Christian spoke at the launch of my new book GlobalChurch. I also had the opportunity to do a filmed interview with him for The GlobalChurch Project. Jayakumar Christian is the Partnership Director for Faith and Development at World Vision International. He’s based in Chennai, India.

At the book launch, Jayakumar Christian offered 4 qualities of missional movements born at the margins.

Mission Must Disrupt and Disturb the Status Quo

Mission is about challenging the usual questions that are asked, and raising disruptive questions.

In God’s “upside down kingdom,” Jesus confronts the god-complexes of the rich, powerful, influential, connected, and religious. And he births missional movements at the margins, among the poor, weak, rejected, discriminated-against, discarded, powerless, and “unclean.”

Missional movements challenge and redefine power. Jesus reveals a kingdom where the god-complexes of the world (most commonly enjoyed by the rich and powerful, since wealth and power always tempt us to play god in the lives of others) are shown for what they really are: illusions, distortions, and lies. Mission must disrupt & disturb the status quo Click To Tweet

Mission born at the margins confronts our god-complexes. It calls them out for what they really are. In such mission, Jesus demands repentance, and dependence on the one true God. He reveals himself in the weak and unexpected places and people. And he calls us to use what power, privileged, wealth, and status we have to enrich others, care for those most vulnerable, address injustice, usher in peace, and support human flourishing.

If our mission isn’t disturbing and disrupting the status quo, then there’s a problem.

Mission born at the margins challenges the usual questions, and their religious and power-based assumptions. It asks disruptive and disturbing questions about religion, wealth, identity, national pride, race and gender relations, power, and more.

Jesus disturbs and disrupts the comfortable status quo. And in missional movements he reveals that he is present among the margins, and moving from there. He invites us to confront the status quo and to offer another way.

Mission is about Holiness that is Relational and Inclusive

Mission is about washing feet and embracing others. It’s about my life and your life—whole faith matters, character matters, spirituality matters: these things are primary, not programs and strategies.

Too often, our mission and church life is characterized by a piety that excludes and builds walls between people. In self-righteous exclusivity, we shut people out of our communities unless they conform, “shape up,” or mirror our dysfunctional religiosity.

But mission born at the margins reveals a holiness that’s relational and inclusive. It shows a salvation committed to reconciliation, peacemaking, and embrace. The reconciliatory spirit of salvation holds unique possibilities for human interaction and peace. He is our peace, who has broken down all walls of enmity and division. Acts of God’s love form us as human begins, bring us into community, reconcile us to others, and recreate the world.

The church needs a missiology of embrace—especially in relationship to the despised and the vulnerable.

Mission born at the margins shows us that freedom from hatred and indifference towards others comes by engaging them as full human beings. They’re persons created in God’s image. They’re persons for whom Christ has died. They’re persons who have been called and destined for future glory. We must situate the “other” person in the grand narrative of Scripture, and, consequently, embrace them.

Embracing the “other” isn’t about abandoning truth or the gospel. But it is about embracing people while respecting their distinctive cultures, views, histories, and futures. The Cross is a symbol of overcoming enmity. The Cross is a symbol of coming to fellowship with those who have been estranged. It’s difficult to open oneself up to the other in a posture of embrace. But the Spirit enables these counter-cultural, kingdom-based acts.

Christianity is a faith symbolized by the basin and the towel. It’s the faith of the reconciling Cross. Mission is about holiness shown through washing feet and embracing others.

Mission Movements Create Ripples of Transformation

Missional movements are born at the margins; monuments are built at the center. Movements often occur when we choose intentional powerlessness—relinquishing power and control, and depending on the Spirit of Christ. Missional movements are born at the margins; monuments are built at the center Click To Tweet

Jesus shapes movements that cause

“ripples of transformation. It is critical that a prophetic community becomes a movement. Sporadic examples of excellence will not sustain change. Movements are critical. Movements are rooted in neighborhoods. The prophetic community must be incarnated in the neighborhood; otherwise, its work would be mere activism. Solutions for a transformative movement affecting the nation should be molded, tested, and shaped in the neighborhood.”[1]

Missional movements are incarnational, cruciform, weak, and ethical movements. They’re movements of and from the margins. They create surprising, unstoppable ripples of transformation.

Missional Being Precedes Missional Doing

Mission is about being in Christ. Mission born at the margins shows us that missional being always precedes missional doing. More than that: Missional spirituality and missional activity must be inextricable.

My being matters and my relationship with Christ matters. Only life reproduces life. Programs don’t. In mission, whole-of-life spirituality and character matters.

Jayakumar Christian says that the church needs a spirituality of dirt and dust. David Bosch calls this a spirituality of the road.

Christian spirituality and discipleship grow in mission. They resource mission. They’re inseparable from mission. They’re the oxygen for mission. They need mission to flourish. David Bosch says we don’t have to choose between spirituality and mission.

“Spirituality is not contemplation over against action. It is not a flight from the world over against involvement in the world… The involvement in this world should lead to a deepening of our relationship with and dependence on God, and the deepening of this relationship should lead to increasing involvement in the world. Pouring out our love on people in selfless dedication is a form of prayer… Spirituality is all-pervading.”[2]

Spirituality and discipleship and mission are inextricable. There’s no true mission without discipleship. And, there’s no authentic discipleship without mission.

A spirituality of missional engagement means that missional being precedes missional doing. And a spirituality of missional engagement means that worship, community, discipleship, and mission are inseparable. There's no true mission without discipleship, and no discipleship without mission. Click To Tweet

Jayakumar Christian offers 4 qualities of missional movements born at the margins: Mission must disturb and disrupt the status quo. Mission is about holiness that is relational and inclusive. Mission movements create ripples of transformation. And missional being precedes missional doing.


My filmed interview with Jayakumar Christian will soon be available at The GlobalChurch Project

Information about The GlobalChurch Project, and about unique Missio Alliance member discounts, can be found HERE

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[1] Jayakumar Christian, “Rise of the Urban Poor,” In Graham Hill (Editor) Signs of Hope in the City: Renewing Urban Mission, Embracing Radical Hope (Melbourne: ISUM Publishing, 2015), 23.

[2] David J. Bosch, A Spirituality of the Road, Missionary Studies (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1979). 13–14.