Every now and again someone asks you a stonking question that gets you thinking. Today, someone asked me to talk to them about my theology of mission…and having thought about it, I simply came back to the pattern I’ve been trying to live in these recent years. My concept/idea of mission has been most inspired by Alan Hirsch, a great Australian missiologist whose work, I believe, is revolutionary for the church. He writes it in his books, specifically the ‘Forgotten Ways’ where he talks about the key elements that make the church a Jesus movement.
Anyway, it was a great reminder to me today of some of the principles he brings out. Here, in my own words, is how I’ve understood and tried to embody Alan’s ideas.
Missional-incarnational impulse: basically, God has a mission and that mission has a people/church to partner with him in it. We get stuck in. It has two key dimensions: going out, and going deep. We resist the temptation to always be inviting people to stuff on our terms, on our turf, when we feel like providing ‘church.’ Go out…share faith where life happens, make disciples out there. But we don’t go out to do commando raids and then retreat, we go to stay….that is we invest our lives in the communities we’re part of, whether thats geographic or networks. We get stuck in. Jesus didn’t parachute in from heaven every day…he got stuck in!
Four main principles to help us as we do this:
1. Presence – we believe that God is immediate, up close, personal, with us as we go. We need this for ourselves, but we also need to spot what he is doing in the world. He is present in the world and we need to be alert to that. We also need to be present as God is, being part of the communities we work in.
2. Proximity – this is more than just being present, this is about getting close, finding out the stories, patterns and needs, fears, worries and passions of the people around us and us seeking, in that context, to share our lives and relate our story of the Kingdom, committed to living a shared story with people: doing life with people.
3. Powerlessness – the church in Christendom came forcefully, sometimes arrogantly, and from a position of power. Its easy for the church still to act as this, even when it is being the generous benefactor – “look how wonderful we are because of all we do in the community” sort of thing. Jesus’ example to us was to lay aside majesty, power, the right to sort it all in a flash and reduce himself to servanthood, basin and towel ministry…not just practically, but in his whole approach…he never pushed himself upon anyone, he rejected power for himself from the very start when Satan tempted him with it in the desert. He reminded his disciples: ‘not so with you’ when he told them how power worked in the world ‘out there.’
4. Proclamation – the gospel still needs to be articulated, the invitation given, reason for our hope given, peace prayed, blessing bestowed, Kingdom announced. Its still important that the message is proclaimed in word instead of just action. Both are needed!
Above all this, the very heart of our message is Jesus is Lord – not a triumphal statement of control and imperialism – but a call, an invitation to live out the whole of our lives under the influence of Him and to invite people to experience the same. Making disciples who are disciple-makers…this is how the Jesus movement spreads in love and with speed. We want less stuffy church, more Jesus followers, less religion, more ‘Way of Life’ that Jesus immediate followers embodied as those who knew how best to follow a rabbi.
Glad I was asked that today, its by no means comprehensive, but good to be able to articulate for myself and for the one who asked it. Let’s get stuck in!