I just finished up a book this week titled, Missional Church: A Vision of the Sending of the Church in North America…it was a great book. One of the most insightful and challenging books I’ve read in awhile. Basically, its saying that the church in north america as it is today, or when the book was written – 1998 – is dying. Actually, its been dying for awhile. What will the autopsy say? Cultural conformity, along with a loss of purpose should be somewhere on the report. The Church should be different from the world…plain and simple…Otherwise, why did Jesus give Himself on the cross? Was it not to sanctify us? To give us NEW life? To give us freedom — there’s a word we use way too often in this country — ..real freedom? Freedom from what? The world! The flesh! Sin! Ourselves! Each other! Freedom in every way that was made possible through the love and sacrifice of Christ, not taken by force by a nation that too often confuses the redemptive mission and purpose of God with its insatiable desire for power.
Thats actually not even why I’m writing tonight.
On to the point…after reading so much about the Church, the community of believers, and how it might be more faithful to God’s mission, I began to look at my own life. If I’m going to criticize the church for not living God’s mission, I must first examine my own life. Am I living missionally? I ask that question for several reasons. The first being integrity. But, more than that, I think the balance between our personal life and our community life is very important. I think the trend now is to focus entirely too much on our personal lives. When that happens, our faith becomes something private. It becomes ineffectual to the world…we lose our saltiness. So I think my tendency sometimes is too over-react and focus too much on community life, without taking a look in the mirror. Another reason I ask this question concerns my definition of prophetic leadership. As a leader, I naturally want to show the way. But, how do I know the way if I’ve never been to where I’m trying to lead? Its something I’ve heard for most of my life, “You cant expect people to follow you to somewhere you’ve never been before.” Now, I say that with caution because ultimately I’ll never be able to go where I would like to lead people. I think faith has to come into the picture somewhere. If I wait until I’ve been to the place where I’d like to lead, then I’ll be waiting to lead all my life. I think sometimes all you need is the right direction. As a wanna-be prophet, according to Walter Brueggeman, I have 2 main functions: 1) To criticize the dominant conscience: to point out the compromises (2)To energize: to offer something new, something different. With that being said, am I living missionally? Am I offering something new, something different? How am I to know the something different if I myself am not seeking it?
So I ask myself…Am I living missionally? I think the answer is a resounding no. This week I’ve tried to really pay attention to how I act around others. I started a new job about 4 weeks ago, so I’m around a group of guys that are pretty much all my age, that I dont know very well. I’m not real sure if any of them are Christian. So I’ve tried to notice how I act. What I say and what I dont say. And I’ve been dissatisfied to say the least. Am I making any impact on these guys? Does my presence at the office change anything? Sure doesn’t. That’s not living missionally. That’s not being the salt and light. I’m intimidated. I’m scared. I want to fit in and for the other guys to like me. It’s that simple. I’ve been compromising the freedom and new life of Christ for comfort.
So, I’m praying. I’m trying to seek, to become more like a child that i might enter and receive the Kingdom. In my new book, Radical Hospitality, I read this last night, “A spiritual practice is an action intended to make a change or adjustment in the deepest realm of the self. A spiritual practice is a thing we do that opens a door. It might be meditation or prayer. It could be serving the poor. Stripping life of what is unessential and practicing simplicity–that is a spiritual practice. The spiritual practice creates a possibility or opportunity, but the change itself is more gift than effort. The spiritual practice puts us into a receiving place where we are open to the something more that we call God.” …and thats encouraging to me. I trying to learn and grow in my spiritual practices. They are few and weak. But His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in my weakness.