empowered by the spirit for mission

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Missional Living

As Christians, God has sent us into the world with a mission to transform the world into the world that God wants. Missional living is simply responding to that commission. It’s all about being a missionary in our everyday life. It means identifying with Jesus’ mission on earth and continuing that mission in culturally relevant ways. I’m so slow. After thirty years of being a Christian I feel that I’m only just beginning to live like this. It’s not just a special calling for a few. I want to encourage all Christians to live like this.

God’s mission to transform the world

Jesus was anointed with God’s Spirit at his baptism to empower him for God’s mission to transform the world. Our baptism in water and receiving the Holy Spirit prepare us to continue that same mission of transformation. For most of us this won’t involve crowds flocking to hear us preach and hundreds being miraculously healed by our touch. But it can involve our being hospitable to someone less well off than we are – if only we are prepared to take a few risks. It can involve people gaining spiritual insight through having a conversation with us – if only we are prepared to listen to them.

Photo by Ed Yourdon

There are two important aspects of how we can transform our world. We need to hold on to what we believe and we need to present it in ways that are meaningful. The challenge is to be immersed in our culture and to maintain our distinctiveness at the same time. Then we can effectively transform that culture. Just as Paul adapted his presentation of the gospel when talking to Gentiles rather than Jews, we need to keep adapting today.

Lifestyle choices make a difference

For us as a family, embracing missional living today has involved a number of lifestyle choices. Among other things these include living more simply and buying fair trade and environmentally friendly products. It has also meant helping with charity work that serves asylum seekers and being involved with a Drop In Centre and ministry to the homeless, and more recently setting up our own project. All of which I’ve fully enjoyed and in doing them I’ve grown in confidence. In giving we receive.

Some of Jesus parables show us that God’s Kingdom grows through the influence of the minority. Just as Jesus mentored a close-knit group of friends, so those of us who are beginning to catch this idea of being missional can encourage others on this journey – not with any manipulation but with an openness and honesty about our own doubts and reservations. So let us encourage one another not to be scared to interact with our culture and to let enough of it rub off on us to be relevant.

Two way spiritual conversations

Of course we transform our culture not just through our lifestyles but also through our conversations. For most of us it isn’t as easy having spiritual discussions with those outside the church who may be less sympathetic to our ideas. But when Jesus sent out his disciples he promised he would never leave them. The mystery of the trinity means that Jesus is present by his Spirit, enabling us to relate to God as our father. The image that Jesus wanted to convey when he taught his disciples to pray ‘Our Father…’ was one of a loving father who would never leave us. We can be secure in our attachment to God and that gives us confidence to be an influence to those around us.

Jesus sends us out today in the same way that he sent out the seventy disciples to preach and to heal in Luke 10. So when my little daughter is ill I lay hands on her and pray. And she is learning to do the same not just for me, but also for her friends at school. Some of us once even set up a prayer stall at a local community event and a number of people requested prayer. I don’t know why everyone isn’t healed. Some may argue that healing may just be the result of positive thinking. I’m sure God does use people’s expectations to help bring about healing. Nevertheless I still believe that it is God’s work and it is God whom I thank.

When I first became a Christian I was eager to tell everyone about my faith. Over the years my natural shyness reasserted itself. I find it important to find time for socialising. It’s not always easy with a busy family life to find time to go to pub with friends. But I am learning to be more sociable both with Christians and non-Christians alike.

I have always been one to listen carefully and to question when learning from other Christians. Now, as I listen in the same way to non-Christians, they too want to listen to me. Looking back now I think what passed for conversations in the past was just me arrogantly blurting out some Christian slogans. But now I sometimes find myself chatting to others exploring an issue together. I probably gain as much from them as they gain from me. And I am learning to trust God that he will lead us all into his truth.

I don’t think listening undermines what we stand for. It enhances it. It makes it meaningful to others. Genuine two-way spiritual conversations enable us to learn how others think at the same time as opening their eyes to what we have learnt of God. Hence the gospel is communicated and we become more effective as we go. So for me embracing missional living is as much about what I do as what I say and how I say it. My prayer is that people will see something of God’s glory through believers as we learn about missional living.

August 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm

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