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Ideas and Suggestions for Forming a Missional Lifestyle

 

In our book, Right Here, Right Now, Alan Hirsch and I try to provide practical advice and suggestions for living on mission wherever you are. Below are some ideas for simply noticing the people around you. As Alan and I have both found, when we open our eyes, ears, and heart to the voice of the Holy Spirit, it is amazing how opportunities open up for us to participate on mission in the normal routines of our daily lives.

Pray

  • Before leaving your home for the day, ask the Lord to open your eyes and heart to those in your path. Ask the Holy Spirit to alert you to opportunities to engage strangers with the goodness of Jesus.
  • Pray to see the imago Dei (the image of God) in people and to see them as God does.

Practice

  • Be a smile-maker. Cultivate the habit of smiling and greeting others every time you have the opportunity. Smile at your waitress, your cashier, and so on. You may want to place some smiley-face stickers in your car and places around your house as a reminder to smile.
  • Be a peacemaker. Speak a good word in the midst of tense situations.

 Welcome new neighbors

  • Take some baked goods to new neighbors as they are moving in or shortly thereafter.
  • Invite their kids to play with your kids.
  • Host a “welcome to the neighborhood” dinner party and invite the new neighbors and a few established neighbors to attend.

 Take inventory

  • At the end of your day, consider specific moments as to how you viewed the people you came into contact with. Did you “behold” or view others as scenery?

Shaped By Whose Mission?

Just how different would the church be if it were really shaped in terms of the missio Dei, or the mission of God? In a great little book titled The Sky Is Falling, author Alan Roxburgh rightly argues the church today is more focused on its agenda rather than God’s:

Throughout Western societies, and most especially in North America, there has occurred a fundamental shift in the understanding and practice of the Christian story. It is no longer about God and what God is about in the world; it is about how God serves and meets human needs and desires. It is about how the individual self can find its own purposes and fulfillment.

More specifically, our churches have become spiritual food courts for the personal, private, inner needs of expressive individuals. The result is a debased, compromised, derivative form of Christianity that is not the gospel of the Bible at all. The biblical narrative is about God’s mission in, through and for the sake of the world and how God has called human beings to be part of God’s reaching out to that world for God’s purpose of saving it in love. The focus of attention should be what God wants to accomplish and how we can be part of God’s mission, not how God helps us accomplish our own agendas.

How different would the church look if it were truly shaped, or informed, by the missio Dei?

God’s Mission Has a Church

“It is not the church which ‘undertakes’ mission; it is the missio Dei which constitutes the church.”

–David J. Bosch in Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission

Or to say it another way, God’s mission (the missio Dei) has a church rather than God’s church having a mission. Sometimes I like to say that we wrongly assume that the primary activity of God is in the church rather than understanding that God’s primary activity is actually in the world and the church is God’s instrument sent into the world to participate in what he is already doing. So if we want to talk about the church having a mission, it is really simply to join in his!

Creative Grace

“Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” Colossians 4:5-6 (The Message)

In his book, Christianity Beyond Belief, Todd Hunter provides an excellent exegesis of this passage as he unpacks the key phrases in it, pointing out “that faith in and following Jesus spreads as the cooperative friends of Jesus live in creative goodness for the sake of others through the animating and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.”

  • Use your heads. This means that we should be present and alert to our life, to God and to the people and events of our life.
  • As you live and work among outsiders. Paul reminded (the Colossians) that the normal routines of life, the people and events that make our communities, matter. These are spiritual. We don’t need to add “spiritual” activities to our life as much as we need to make our actual, everyday life spiritual.
  • Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Here Paul encourages us to live constant lives of creative goodness. We don’t want to miss any opportunity; even small things matter.
  • Be gracious in your speech.  What is gracious speech? It is others-oriented. It asks, What will these words do to my hearer? Gracious speech seeks the good of others.
  • The goal is to bring out the best in others. We act and speak for the sake of others with the goal that they’ll know we are interested in their good.
  • In a conversation. Respect—listening to others, really hearing them, connecting with what they are saying even if we do not agree—is at the heart of this passage.
  • [Do] not put them down, [do] not cut them out. The growing hostility toward Christians is very much a reflection of what outsiders feel they receive from believers. They say their aggression simply matches the oversized opinions and egos of Christians.

As we consider what it means to behold others in the spirit and manner of Jesus, it may help to think in terms of what it means to socially place our arm around the shoulders of those we come across. This is the practice of embracing others with genuine attention and otherly focused concern that can only come about by investing the mental energy and spiritual listening necessary to get beyond the surface of appearances.

*Excerpted from Lance’s book, Right Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People, Baker, 2011.

Sent Ones

Mission (may be understood) as being derived from the very nature of God. It is thus put into the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology or soteriology. The classical doctrine on the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit is expanded to include yet another “movement”: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world. . . . Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God, God is a missionary God. . . . Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world: the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. . . . There is church because there is mission, not vice versa.

– David Jacobus BoschTransforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission

To Tebow or Not Tebow?

The Tim Tebow craze has taken on such a life that his one-kneed prayer following touchdowns is being emulated across the country, from office spaces to high school hallways. Interestingly enough, Tebow is far from the first football player to do this. It’s happened for years, but right now, Tebow is such a phenomenon that anything he does draws massive attention.

In the midst of a winning streak, Tebow’s pastor told the media that the reason for the team’s success was that God’s favor was on Tebow…but that was before Tom Brady and the New England Patriots handily beat Tebow and his Broncos. I have yet to see any statements from the pastor after this decisive loss. Did Tebow lose because he no longer has God’s favor? Or is God’s favor evident only when we are winners?

For years now MLB player Albert Pujols has pointed to heaven with both hands as he touches home plate following a home run. “Thanks, God, for blowing the ball out of the park. Even before Tebow, Pujols,and others like them,  I  wished for a professional athlete who would bend on knee or point to the heavens following a failure. The Scriptures teach us to “give thanks at all times” and in all circumstances. I would love to see Tim Tebowing it following his next interception. I would love to see Albert point to the heavens after a strikeout. No doubt the news media would fall over themselves getting to him after the game to ask what that was all about. What a fresh message he could offer: “We need to give thanks to God always; even in the tough times, he is faithful. He is there.”