3. Missional-Incarnational Impulse.
We saw that a crucial element of discipleship and disciplemaking was a thrusting of ourselves into the world. For Jesus followers, it was the same. The concept of ‘sending’ is central to the mission of the New Testament. Jesus was sent by the Father, the Spirit was sent by Jesus into the context of our lives so that we could then be empowered for witness ‘to the ends of the earth.’ But like Jesus, that ‘sent-ness’ involved becoming one with that which he was sent to. It involved a deep and intimate engagement with the world.
Hirsch describes the missional-incarnational impulse of Jesus like and good preacher and offers us some ‘Ps’:
Presence – Jesus became flesh and blood, ‘moved into the neighbourhood’ and developed a close relationship to us. He didn’t ship out to Heaven every night.
Proximity – He dealt with every strata of society, from Chief Priests, Pharisees, Roman Legionnaires all the way down to tax collectors, prostitutes and ‘sinners.’ He had table fellowship with people in ways that got him a reputation.
Powerlessness – Jesus was the ultimate servant of God. He led from a position of rejecting all the conventional methods of leadership of his day. He didn’t come as a king, priest or prophet, but he was, in the absolute truest sense, King, Priest and Prophet! Jesus influence and authority was spiritual rather than institutional.
Proclamation – Jesus announced the Kingdom as well as demonstrating it. He was at odds with the St Francis of Assisi who thought words we optional. You can’t take away proclamation of the gospel away and remain true to the gospel.
It is clear to see that the early Salvation Army understood missonal-incarnational impulse. The Army invaded and became and integral part of every slum and palace it could get into. In terms of presence, whilst Booth’s Darkest England scheme was happy to ‘get people out’, here was a commitment first of all for the Salvationist to ‘go in.’ The stories of Booth-Tucker in India are legends. With regards to proximity, William Booth’s funeral was attended by queens and prostitutes.
Even with our autocratic rank system and slightly tyrannous William Booth, we find words like this from the likes of Railton: “We are an army of soldiers of Christ, organised as perfectly as we have been able to accomplish, seeking no church status, avoiding as we would the plague every denominational rut, in order perpetually to reach more and more of those who live outside every church boundary. (George Scott Railton, HEATHEN ENGLAND) We resisted the temptation to approach mission from the lofty position of the churches, but instead was happy to be the object of ridicule from the churches who though we ‘dumbed-down’ the glorious body.
In the field of Proclamation, we took need say very little. We were born in the streets and the gospel was broadcast in every genre possible, as we all know.
For today, the questions are clear. Are we sufficiently engaged with the lost? Are we fully participating in the life of our world? What company do we keep? Is our leadership and ‘position’ as Christians expressed in service? Do we assume our position in society? Are we willing to stand up to the requirement of the gospel to proclaim the Kingdom in season and out of season? Are we still creative in getting the message out? Are we a movement accessible by ‘the people’ we are sent to serve and win?