The most helpful, readable introduction to missional ecclesiology I have found is Craig Van Gelder’s The Essence of the Church. Many readers were grateful for my partial review of his book The Ministry of the Missional Church. In The Essence of the Church, Van Gelder explains what the church is, its historical development (pros and cons), articulates a clear missional ecclesiology, and charts a way to organize the missional church.
I am currently working on a master document that re-roots our functional ecclesiology in biblical theology, while also outlining a long-term vision of mulitiplication and growth. I forgot that Van Gelder does some of this in Essence. I went back to Van Gelder for a refresher and have been wonderfully refreshed. He describes the church as “a people of God created by the Spirit to live as a missionary community.” Though this description doesn’t include the gospel, it captures the missional nature of the church very well. He certainly is gospel-centered and warns us that “Failing to understand the anture of the church can lead to a number of problems. Defining the church functionally—in terms of what it does—can shift our perspective away from understnading the church as a unique community of God’s people.” A good word. A good book, for that matter.