I have been thinking about the idea of “missional”. It’s a word and an idea which is floating around a lot. I really appreciate how Nicole defines the word. Others seem to mean something different.
I agree that missional is good (when it is defined Biblically). But I have been struggling with how to get there. I wonder if my problem is in trying to be missional?
When I am trying to be missional a few things happen*.
- I make missional my identity. It’s not. My life is hidden with Christ in God (Eph 3). My identity is in Jesus. I will have my identity in Jesus long after mission has stopped. My identity in Christ does not lead me to do everything Jesus did. My identity is as someone who the unique Jesus has acted for and in the place of. Ephesians puts my identity with Jesus’ church before it is in being missional (more in point 6).
2. I feel I should be able to justify every activity by measuring its “missional-ness”. But many things are good, because God says they are good. Things don’t get their “goodness” only from being connected to evangelism. They get their goodness from God’s good design.
As an example, my relationship with my husband is not good only because of it’s usefulness in spreading the gospel. It is good because God made marriage good (Gen 2). It is good because it is a picture of Christ and his church (Eph 5:22ff). This picture is good, whether the world sees it and is persuaded by it or not.
3. I care more about the world seeing what I do than pleasing God. Living for God’s glory is for reflecting God’s character and goodness for his own pleasure, whether people are watching or not. God’s glory will be at work for eternity, long after the opportunity for people to repent has passed. It is not only an evangelistic tool.
4. I become disheartened and guilt laden in seasons when I cannot do much beyond my own family (and sometimes barely anything then!). These seasons are long and frequent at the moment. Am I being any less missional when this season’s obedience has me loving very few people in intense ways?
5. It trains me to value the short term and (and sometimes superficial) over the limited and lasting. A narrow mission field might not make much difference for the gospel in the next two years, but God might cause it to have a bigger impact in the next two hundred. I get to obey now, leaving God to use the days’ work as he pleases.
6. I feel like I am not doing mission when I am spending time caring for other Christians. But Ephesians tells me my primary task, as someone joined to Jesus, is to build his body, the church (Eph 2:11-21, 3:1-10, 4:1-16). God’s plan is to show his glory and manifold wisdom in the church (Eph 3:10). The Bible has me spending most of my time and effort with them. God’s mission is about the church. I’d love to do a study weighing up the NT instruction to see how much is geared toward the Christian community and how much is directed beyond it.
7. I feel that, unless I am doing something which other people can see and measure, God is not bringing people to himself. But the battle belongs to the LORD. God will not fail to bring everyone of his elect to Jesus. No one will be missing from heaven. I get to obey by boasting in Jesus at every opportunity (Lord, make it so!), God gets to make it effective in gathering his scattered people to himself.
8. I lose my God focus. I start to think, speak and live as if the salvation of people was at the centre of God’s cosmic purposes. But Jesus being exalted over all things, bringing order to all things in every way (of which the salvation of sinners is one part) is God’s great mission. Ephesians 1-3 tells us that. God’s great mission is something I am swept up in, not something he leans on me to achieve.
I hope to be more missional. But I don’t think the Bible tells me to pursue “missional” as an end in itself. It tells me I am saved to be a person who does a whole lot of particular things. When I joyfully take the everyday details of obedience seriously, I will happen to be more missional.
*I actually mean “me”, not “me” as a literary construct. My struggles will not always be the same as other people’s.