As we continue to challenge churches to “Join God in our neighbourhoods” can I tell you a BIG fear that is keeping me awake at night?
Well first, let me back up a little. This #1neighbourhood vision was always supposed to be a movement, a movement of people joining God's work in the places they live, work, study and play. The challenge is “Will you join God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time?”
Here is my big fear for our churches and Christians – that we are just slapping the term “missional” (or the hastag #1neighbourhood in our CBAC context) on top of what already doing and saying “sure” we are already doing it!
Before we just go slapping the buzzword “missional” onto everything, let me explain it a little more.
Missio Dei is a theological term meaning “the sending of God”, we have a God who takes the initiative to redeem His creation. God comes to us and seeks us out.
We have a sending God, who sent His Son, who sent His Spirit, and who sends His people into the world, to redeem the world and reconcile all things. “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said, “even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Jesus came preaching and demonstrating that the Kingdom of God is breaking into our world here and now. Jesus demonstrated the good news to those around him, even to people that didn’t believe in Him. Jesus came bringing justice, liberation, healing, and reconciliation (see Luke 4:16-21).
Now through His people (Christians), we are supposed to continue to be a demonstration of this same good news – through us the confused are loved, the broken-hearted are cared for, justice is advocated for, forgiveness is extended… And I’m not talking about demonstrating these things to other Christians, I’m talking about showing the good news to non-Christians in this way.
In the incarnation, God sent Jesus. Similarly, we are sent into the world, we don’t expect people to come to us, we are the sent ones, on mission. This is a going out ourselves, getting into our fishing boats and spending lots of time in the water, in the culture. This is not shining our light from the hilltop and expecting people to come to us, this is us being sent into our world. In our culture today, we need more Christians going out every day in fishing boats.
Missional means joining God’s work in the world…every…single…day. Everyday. You. Me. Alone. In our groups. With other Christians.
We are a taste of the Kingdom of God here and now.
We are the aroma of Christ to those that don’t know him yet.
We are the picture of the telos (telos is a great word, meaning "the ending, the end purpose of everything, God's ultimate vision for the Kingdom") for people and neighbourhoods.
Yet people can’t taste, smell and see this foretaste of the Kingdom of God if we are not out in the world, if we hide in our Christians huddles, and hide in our buildings. We are to demonstrate, to embody, to “incarnate” the good news of God’s Kingdom of peace, healing, justice, and reconciliation now.
Through us people are supposed to get a real taste & see experience of God’s inbreaking Kingdom, the “already” of the Kingdom started by Jesus, and continued by His Spirit in and through us, His people.
Do you see why I don’t want to just slap “missional” as a buzzword onto what we are already doing?
Missional is not a program. Missional is a way of life. God is on mission, and God has invited us, Christians, into that mission every day. This is joining God every day on mission in the places we live, work, study, and play. Which is going to require us living differently and making sacrifices. Missional is the church seeing itself as a foretaste of the coming full Kingdom of God. The church seeing itself as the sent people of God joining God’s mission in the world, outside the walls of the physical church building. Missional is moving outward into the culture, into non-Christians lives.
The #1neighbourhood vision, in a nutshell, is asking churches and Christians “Will you join God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time?”
We want every Christian and every church to be able to answer – how are you being tangible good news to your neighbours? How is your neighbourhood better and being blessed because you are there? We literally think Christians should regularly be blessing non-Christians with their generosity, acts of service, kindness, listening, fellowship, fun…
Here’s where my fear comes up. We’re just slapping “missional” onto what we are already doing because I think we, as churches, have really lost the art and skills of knowing how to move outward towards the culture, towards the lost sheep, in a way that doesn’t scare the sheep! We just really like our sheep pens, and we've made them mighty comfortable for us, our little huddle of sheep. Get out of the sheep pen!
Jesus did it. Jesus, who was the only One who walked this earth without sin, and yet ordinary people, even “sinners” felt the most accepted, loved, welcomed and embraced by Jesus. Jesus was even accused of being a drunkard, glutton, and friend of sinners (Luke 7:34). You only get that reputation by hanging out with stinky sheep outside of the pen.
We (our churches) like to say, “Sure, we’re missional, we are trying to reach our community, we…”
-put a sign out front
-have a community dinner now and then
-had an outreach service
-do a soup kitchen once a month
-let community groups use our building (for a fee and when we're not there ourselves)
-send money to others doing mission
It is not that these are bad things, they have their time and place.
It is that these things don't personally involve you in God's mission and with connecting, blessing and building relationships with non-Christians in your community.
Here’s the problem with the above list. We are still expecting people to come to us.
That’s not their job.
God doesn’t say build the biggest, best boat and they’ll come to you.
We have flipped it around. It’s not “Build it and they will come.” Or even (for all my Baptist friends) “Feed them and they will come. It is “Go into all the world…”
God calls us to be fishers of people, to go into the world.
Our job is as the sent ones. We are to go out into the community, build connections with our neighbours, bless our neighbours, be a demonstration of good news to our neighbours.
Build real relationships with non-Christians around you.
The same goes for our denomination (CBAC), this can’t just be a tagline – it has to change how we equip leaders, how we equip churches, what we celebrate, where we put our resources, how we “send out” missionaries right here in our backyard...
If we just slap “missional” onto what we are already doing, or even just add another program, that changes nothing – it doesn’t change us and it doesn’t change our community.
Instead, what would it look like for you to go into the community to bless others, with no thought of return.
The posture is different. Rather than resting on being one of the sheep and enjoying the sheep pen, taking a missional posture is intentionally befriending the lost, bewildered, confused, and forgotten sheep. Then give them a taste of God’s generosity and goodness through you.
Seriously who is one person you know, that is not a follower of Jesus, you can bless this week.
Go be good news to them, start there.
Start being a demonstration of God’s good news.
Trust me, the “word” part of the good news will come, in time. I’ve seen it again and again, when we demonstrate the Gospel, God is faithful and He brings Himself up in conversation, at the right time.
The choice is up to you really. “Missional” CAN be just another buzz word, or it can transform you and your neighbourhoods.
So here is a challenge for you:
- As an individual - Who is one non-Christian you can bless in some tangible way? How? Do it within the next 7 days.
- As a group (either a group of Christian friends, others trying to be more missional, small group, family, youth group, kids ministry…) - Who is one (or a group of) non-Christians you can bless in some tangible way? How? Do it within the next 14 days.
- As a church - Who is one (or a group of) non-Christians you can bless in some tangible way? How? Do it in the next 30 days.
It is really important these blessings are directed towards non-Christians. We’re pretty good at taking care of other Christians this way, but we’re terrible at blessing non-Christians in this way, to whom we are to be demonstrating the Gospel.