For the last couple of weeks we've been exploring the missional movement and its implications. By way of reminder, the missional movement began as a response to the decline of cultural and institutional Christianity in the West. The movement essentially named the problem that God's mission was not at the center of the life of the church in the West, and asked what it would look like if that mission was returned to the heart of the church.
Let's start our conversation today by reviewing first three points of the missional movement:
Point #1: God is on a mission (which flows out of the love intrinsic to His nature).
Point #2: The church is a product and expression of God’s mission and exists for that
Point #3: We don’t get to determine the mission, God does.
Today's point should come as no surprise...
Point #4: Since it's God's mission, He also gets to determine the methods.
You might think that this point would be obvious and hardly warrant mentioning. However, this point is often the deal-breaker when folks are considering joining the missional movement. All too often people like the idea of returning to God's mission as the organizing center of church, and are excited about discovering their calling in the scope of that mission, but are ultimately unwilling to make this next step.
At this point you might ask, "Why is that the case, John?"
Well, let's consider what God's methods for pursuing His mission look like in the New Testament (brief survey here!):
- absolute trust and reliance upon God's power and provision
- constant attention to developing loving relationships and a loving community
- the slow work of training, equipping and empowering others to whole-heartedly love God and seek the Kingdom first
- on-going sacrificial service and risky witnessing as the means to engage with outsiders
- humble leadership that gives itself away to lift up others
If we're honest, that's a very difficult set of methods for us to adopt. Culturally, we're inclined to pragmatism, which means seeking the biggest result (or the "most effective strategy") for the least amount of sacrifice. Unfortunately for us, pragmatism is antithetical to God's methods of pursuing His mission. Adopting His methods requires embracing our limitations, embracing slowness, and embracing sacrifice. (Of course, the upside here is that we're also embracing God!)
Now, let's ask, "What methods do we like to employ to pursue God's mission?"
- trust and reliance upon our natural abilities and available resources
- constant attention to developing programs that will entice others to join our community
- attempting to quickly socialize newcomers to live as respectable, nice, well-balanced individuals who have room for Jesus in their busy lives.
- large scale projects that make us feel like we "made an impact" without jeopardizing our lifestyle
- charismatic and powerful leaders who make us feel excited
Now this is what we like: make a plan, get the right people, get the resources, and make it happen baby! We do good and we're doing good at the same time!
Down the road I will explain how I see our methods supplanting God's methods in typical American churches (always good to save the controversy for the end!). But for now, I simply challenge all of us to consider our methods in whatever ministry we're involved in. Are we committed to employing the methods we see in New Testament (not that we can't use the OT, but that requires a little more interpretive work), or are we committed to using the methods which are prevalent in our culture and which we believe will bring us the most success?
Book Recommendation: This is a special one for me... The House of Jesus, by my father, Charlie Halley! I'll give you a full review on this down the road, but it's all about how we've adopted our culture's methods for growing the church and how we can return to Jesus' methods... Way to go Dad!