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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

missional does as missional is

Though I don't use the term "missional" much in everyday conversation (I've stuck with the lighthouse/searchlight metaphor in our context), I do use it in conversations with others beyond my local context.

But both in my own context and in conversations with people outside it, I realize that many of us continue to struggle with BEING or BECOMING missional in our identity.  The default for American Christianity, even bombarded with missional teaching and resources, is to try to create one more new program - that is to focus on DOING "this missional stuff" and hope that makes us missional.

There is proverbial wisdom to "one is as one does" - (perhaps immortalized in the negative sense by Forrest Gump's "stupid is as stupid does").  Certainly if we repeat behavior, our identity is shaped and molded, whether for good or ill.  But when several generations of "mission and outreach" in our churches has resulted in a small handful of go-getters doing hands-on mission and most of us simply paying others to do God's work, I wonder if "missional is as missional does" is going to work out.

I have been wrestling with flipping that around: missional does as missional is.  As strong as the dynamic of behavior shaping identity is, the dynamic of behavior flowing out of identity is even stronger.  And we find so much more energy and LIFE in the latter (again, for good or ill - and even as I type this I realize the far-reaching implications of this observation beyond the scope of the "missional" conversation... but that'll keep 'til another day). 

The huge apparent challenge of primarily approaching missional BEING over DOING is that naming and re-shaping Christian identity so that it results in action seems (and is!) a humanly impossible task.  But in the same way that it is God's job to save people, so it is the declared work of Christ (so says the scripture) to give us a new identity.  My job as a pastor, and indeed our job as Christ-followers, is to declare what is already true in Christ.

Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost - to obediently serve the mission God gave him.  As believers, our identity is found in Jesus Christ, and as Christ followers, we follow him into mission.

We can create "mission (or missional) programs" or send money for people to "do Christ's work," and it is possible that doing so may begin to inform us as to our Christian identity.  But would it not be far more effective and LIFE-GIVING to root our missional activity in the missional identity we have in Jesus Christ?

Missional does as missional is.  What would that look like in your context?

-----Additional Resources-----

Some narrative on how we've cultivated missional identity in my own context.

Preaching to cultivate and confirm missional identity (partial list):
God as Inviting Host (series)
How Can I Be a Part? (sermon and lay testimonies)
Sheep for the World (Pentecost sermon)
Discipleship – focusing outward on our neighbors (series)

Reposted and revised from May 2010

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