the missional question
Question: How does a person live missionally?
Here is a practical look at this question that was in the Neue Weekly e-newsletter today. After reading it, what do you think:
By Ashley Wolpert
In a culture that feeds off a vast array of social justice causes, it seems that the term missional living is being bandied about increasingly in our churches. But what does this really look like? Recently Dr. Ed Stetzer, co-author of Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living, spoke with Neue about what exactly “missional living” means, how church leaders can encourage their community live missionally and what some major barriers are. Philip Nation, Stetzer’s co-author, follows with a list of practical tips to help communities engage in missional living.
How would you define “missional living”?
Missional living is essentially living with our primary perspective as that of an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. It means making our lives not about us, but about Jesus and His Kingdom.
In an alliterated sense, missional living is an incarnational (being the presence of Christ in community), indigenous (of the people and culture) and intentional (planning our lives around God’s agenda) focus on the power of the Gospel to bring the reign of God into people’s lives.
When did you first arrive at this idea of “missional living?”
I think I first read missional ideas in The Missional Church (1998), edited (primarily) by Darrell Guder. I believe the subtitle of the first chapter is a great summation for the entire work: “From Sending to Being Sent.” After that, I was most impacted by Francis Dubose’s God Who Sends, which I read during my Ph.D. in Missiology.
Through their writings, and those of many others, the late 21st-century Church was again reflecting a local missiology for churches that moved from “pay for others to go” to “pay the price for me to go.”
Working through these ideas for nearly a decade as a church leader and missiologist, I arrived at the conclusion that the vast majority of missional literature and conferences were solely for the benefit of church leaders. So, I asked Philip to co-write with me to address that. Compelled by Love is a remedy for the average believer who is looking for a theological and practical bridge to move their lives in a missional direction.
What would you say is the greatest example of “missional living” in the Bible?
Without hesitation—it is Jesus Christ. He is sent by the Father. He is the incarnation of God. He sets aside His privileges (and rights) to live in our neighborhood. He communicates the Gospel in a way that is understandable to us. And, He is supremely sacrificial in the manner of His life and death.
Choosing one such example from mortal humanity is tough. However, for today, I’ll choose Moses. Without his knowledge, God was preparing him to participate in God’s work of deliverance. After he had failed miserably because of his sin, God still chose to use him—an imperfect vessel for God’s great work. In his old age, Moses served as God’s emissary to declare the glory of the one true God, awaken hope in the people of God and shake a society.
How can church leaders encourage their community to live missionally?
Missional living must be motivated with the truth and from the heart. Without the truth of Scripture and the Gospel, there is no reason to live any particular way. Since God has revealed the truth of His character and will, we should teach it to the Body of Christ as what we should do. Church leaders leading people boldly to understand God and His Kingdom should influence our manner of living.
We are blessed that God also desires for the truth to affect us. So through such heart motivations as love, hope, urgency and compassion, believers can be shown how missional living must be a compelled portion of life. Obviously, that was the point of Compelled by Love, as we used 2 Corinthians 5:14–15 as the central theme of the book. Because they are learning the greatness of God and His truth, believers must exhibit a deep desire to share such with the world.
What keeps people from missional living? Would you say there are any unique barriers for twenty- and thirtysomethings?
Believers do not live missionally for two primary reasons: a) because they believe someone else is doing it; or worse, b) they are selfish.
Too many Christians assume or deceive themselves into believing that someone else has explained the Gospel to our neighbors, co-workers and friends. Beyond that, believers choose their traditions over the mission. Entire congregations have decided that “the way we do things” is superior to the mission to go, be and tell the Gospel in understandable ways to the culture surrounding them.
The unique barriers for twenty- and thirtysomethings are also twofold. First, many are trying to await the renewal of the Church. Their hope is to show up one Sunday and it will suddenly be different—more missional, more externally focused, more compassionate. The problem: It won’t, unless they are willing to lead the way by serving in the church to which they are committed.
The second barrier is that the culture they face is farther from the Gospel than any other in American history. The young adults and families today have grown up without a mooring to biblical truth, and young Christians now have to begin at the beginning. They were raised to present five-point Gospel outlines, and it is not working very often. Instead, they must describe God in Genesis 1 and then Colossians 1. They will need to share about the freedom God offers first from Ecclesiastes and then Galatians. What I am trying to say is that twenty- and thirtysomethings must recognize the distance their culture is away from the cross and be prepared to work in soil that is dry and parched.
Ten Tips for Missional Living
1. Understand the Gospel. The mission of God is consumed with the person and work of Christ. As you understand Christ, you can accurately participate in God’s work of redemption. So read the Gospels—a lot.
2. Take an eternal view of people. The friends, neighbors and co-workers around you have an eternity in front of them. We need to see them as God does and care for them accordingly.
3. Be friendly. A Christian should be the most trustworthy confidant another person has in the world. Believers should be the kind of people everyone else wants to be around.
4. Watch for a chance to serve. People use up all of their energy on family, work and menial chores. Look for ways you can care for your neighbors—even if it is just cooking a simple dinner for them.
5. Be truthful. Missional believers contend for the faith while speaking in a way understandable to the hearer. No matter what, be ready to talk about the truths in Scripture.
6. Love like Jesus. He lived a robust life of caring for the lost. In elevating sacrificial love far beyond any previous thinking, He gave an example for us.
7. Be on guard. As you work alongside the King to extend His Kingdom, our spiritual enemy will immediately attack. Guard your heart in holiness.
8. Live missionally at home. Family is the first place for the mission of God in your life. When people see the impact it has on your home, they will be more willing to trust its veracity for their own lives.
9. Show patience. People are farther away from understanding the Gospel than in previous generations. Do not hesitate to invite them to submit to Christ, but know that they have plenty of questions that might need answering first.10. Do it for one reason—the glory of God. The only reason to be missional is to make Christ more widely known. God is worthy of being honored by all of creation, and it should be the main reason why we participate in His mission.