It is the most obscure thing to be a missionary in your own country and culture. The state of the nation, its spiritual temperature, its distance from the ‘church’ lead us to a very specific challenge. That challenge is how do we share Jesus with people.
In many ways, we face a not to dis-similar challenge to that the Army faced at its birth…a nation far away or excluded from church and in desperate need of redemption. It was on this stage that the Apostolic Genius which Alan Hirsch talks about began to show itself and be unleashed in the life of Booth and his comrages.
Apostolic Genius? At the heart of it all, Jesus is Lord. But also: disciple making, missional-incarnational impulse, organic structures (or at least in the Army’s case, a functional structure which gave the structure needed for that particular time), apostolic environment and a communitas (not community) of people focus and gathered round the one over-arching missional task.
In my little foray recently through the archives of armyrenewal I came across a startling quote by General John Gowans. General Gowans drops this bomb, in reference to some particilar corps in the Army:
“They started taking care of the corps instead of taking care of the lost and the Lord took their candlestick from its place. The glory has departed.”
Wowee!! Strong. It is a reminder, though, that we are certainly not in this business to build churches. That is congregations of people who gather like sheep to be fed. Rather, we make disciples who are then equipped to incarnate the gospel in the work place, the school, the street, the neighbourhood watch meeting, the parent council, the local government, the local prison, the schools, the statutory youth work, the community associations.
I came across a quote from a guy called Hugh Halter, someone I’d never heard of until a few days ago when I came across his book ‘The Tangible Kingdom.’ He says this: “The goal of our missional life is not to grow churches. The goal of church is to grow missionaries. The goal of the gospel is not to get people to church. The result of the gospel is that people will find each other and gather because of the deep meaning of a common experience.”
This needs to sink in folks. We can patch up our ‘churches’ or our ‘churchy corps’ until the cows come home with all sorts of schemes, deals and promotions but until we mobilise the Army as a force propelled by apostolic genius, we’re barking up the wrong tree. Halter’s quote could easily have come from the mouth of a Booth or a Railton. And actually, I think it rings true with the very words of the Commander-in-Chief himself, the Lord Jesus.