6.23.2008

Missional Defination in Art and Scripture








Philippians 2:6-7
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

Matthew 28:18
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go...

John 20:21
As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.

Mark 2:16
But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?

1 Corinthians 9:22
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

A word of explanation
Rich over at Blindbegger, as well as many others I am finding, feel that the word missional is loosing it's meaning. Consequently he has called for a synchroblog event, happening today, to discuss the defination of the word missional.

Since I'm sure other people will do a better job than I at putting pen to paper, what you see above is my contribution to a working defination. Those pictures were not chosen randomly, rather, I believe they each carry great meaning. The word missional means the life of we who are the church centered on three things: Jesus, The Mission of God, and a sense of community; meaning an awareness of the interrelatedness of humanity, and the need to be in relationship.

The first picture obviously depicts Jesus, the center of all things, but just as important is the fact that in this picture Christ is incarnate in and for a particular ethnic community. There is nothing wrong with a blond hair/blue eyed Jesus'... in Scandinavia, or any community that is truly that homogeneous. (though I would question how truly homogeneous communities that think they are, are.) Jesus was God made flesh, for a particular community, the Jews in his historical case. We too must seek to reflect Christ in our particular communities, authentically engaging people where they are at.

People should not have to cross cultural boundaries to come to Christ. Unfortunately on it's worst days, the size and weight of the evangelical community has created its own sub-culture, one allian to those not initiated. It is a subculture wholly un-Christ like in that it serves as a barrier to those on the outside. We don't GO as Christ taught us, we say COME; and when your just like me you can belong... if you take this class and pass the test. (Of course there are good days too. Take a look at who is actually rebuilding New Orleans.)

The second picture is meant to convey a sense of "going", or being on the move. It's an added bonus, that in the picture the world seems to be passing the church by. How true. To avoid this we have to evaluate how we spend out time. How many relationships do we have with people outside the church? And how much of our time goes to those people? Jesus left the comfort of church err... heaven, and went to where people were at, usually the "sick" not those who are "well"... (in church?) (This is an area I certainly struggle in.)

The final picture is meant to convey a sense of community and relationship. To love our neighbor as ourselves demands an awareness of our communities both local and global, and an understanding of how what I do impacts others. The teachings of Jesus demand lived beliefs that impact the communities we are a part of.

In contrast, much of the church lives with a dualism that acts as if A) doesn't impact B). Ironically the church often talks about breaking down this dualism, and in some ways does. But several Biblical concepts,
justice and equality in particular, have been given very little attention. Instead, we who are the church have reflected a greater commitment to a kind of capitalism which is unencumbered with the ethics of Christ or a concern for those most in need. Sure we give of our time and money. But then our spending and investing habits, and the actions of our elected representatives (on both sides of the aisle) undo all the good we were tying to do, illustrating the dualism we are talking about.

Having said all of this, I am concerned that we who are authentically using the word missional (i.e. not just tagging it on to a very attractional thing.) none the less struggle to live it out. I certainly do, especially in the area of economic justice. There is a real danger that all we are talking about is degrees of separation on the wrong side of the equation. Do we really want to trumpet Jesus as our guide and example if we struggle as much as we do to live up to his over-the-top example?

Take these pictures for what their worth, and by all means, feel free to critique. For a fuller defination see the links below.

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