In a copy of The Gospel and our Culture Newsletter I recently received there is an article by Edwin Searcy (pastor of University Hill Congregation in Vancouver, BC) called “Mission or Mission.”
He tells how he has grown to understand the word mission in a different light in his journey as a pastor. He writes how this “small shift in emphasis” to “hearing again, for the first time, the ancient news of the ‘missio Dei’ – the mission of God. It seems such a small emphasis, but it is huge.”
I feel like God has been giving me glimpses of what he is talking about here. It is almost like my understanding of the word mission is radically different, yet it seems like such a small thing. I am still trying to grasp the implications of “being missional” as a community and how the church can be, together, a witness to the in breaking Kingdom of God.
I, as Searcy writes, typically think of “mission” in the personal sense. That is, me being a witness to the things of God by the way I live. But, when I start to think about mission in the context of an entire community, that is, the community itself being a public witness, things become very different…and challanging…
How does a community, in suburbia especially, live together as a “public witness.” This would require us to do something the suburban life doesn’t allow us to do very easily: Live together (not literally, in the same house…but some other way).
Here are some more thoughts from his article:
“This focus on God’s mission here, among us, is the hallmark of those who speak about becoming a ‘missional church.’ No longer is mission something that we do. It is not project oriented, nor is it other oriented. It is focused on the changes God intends in our life together so that our distinctive ways are a sign of God’s activity in the world.”
“we learn again not to think of this community as our property (as in ‘Welcome to our church’). Instead, we are recovering the ancient language of Christian hospitality. Frequent celebrations of the Eucharist teach us that Christ is met as both host and stranger here. This is Christ’s church, not ours. These worship practices have led to the daring witness of newfound voices that testify to the radical hospitality of Christ. To my wonder, our move to focus single-mindedly on the hospitality of God in Christ has resulted in a number of families in the congregation making major household decisions to make room for others.”
That’s radical discipleship. Families making “major household decisions” based on the mission of God. Looking into buying a house one day (probably many years from now!) my wife and i have been in conversation about this very thing. Where do we buy a house? An area that is comfortable in a nice middle class neighborhood that (nothing wrong with that!) or is he calling us to live redemptively in an area that needs to see Jesus.
I was convicted of this as we went to go look at a house in a very poor part of our town. My first thought was “we do NOT want to live here! Look at this place!” A few other people said “oh, you definitely don’t want to live there…that’s where the poor people are and its kinda dirty.”
Too bad i just go done preaching a message about how Christ came to heal (literally and spiritually) the people in society that most thought were not worthy of healing. My response to seeing that house in light of my message was quite convicting. What if? What if we moved into that neighborhood so that through sharing Jesus, we could bring life to it? What if we took a great risk and lived in an area that was a little less safe? What if we gave up the nice fenced in backyard and all the luxuries of normal suburban life? (this house is in suburbia!) What if another family chose to move their lives to move into this same neighborhood with us? What if more than one did? What if no one else felt called to this? What if this is just me wanting to feel like we would be doing something great and its really all about making me feel needed? What if we moved there, and we couldn’t handle the pressure of that environment? But, what if we moved in and God, through Christ, brought redemption and new life to that neighborhood…
I read the stories in Acts and the early church. I see their radical commitment to The Way. Why aren’t we called to the same life? Maybe not all of us. But I think more of us that we realize. In Matthew 8, Jesus says tells a young disciple that “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head….Follow me; Let the dead bury their own dead.” That is radical followership.
(Soren Kierkegaard has an amazing article on this idea of “followers vs. admirers” on this site. Props to this blog for the link.
There are a ton of things that go into this whole issue, I don’t know that God is calling us to that. We can’t even afford to buy a house now (even that “cheap” one). But for now, the question is enough. What if?