Vol 1:22 Rediscovering Our Missional Calling

In Roxburgh and Boren’s Introducing the Missional Church (Baker, 2009) the metaphor of the missional life is expressed through being a “missional river.” The currents of this river are described as involving mystery, memory, and mission (p. 39).

Over the past two weeks my reflections were on mystery, and memory; today I focus upon mission.

Mission focuses upon making clear what our role is within the world as the church of Jesus Christ. Just as Abraham and Israel were called for the sake of the world – which means that God reveals and demonstrates God’s purpose for reconciling humanity and restoring the world through those whom God calls, likewise God has called the church “to be the demonstration of what all creation is to be” (p. 45).

This is a reframing of how we understand church, how we understand ourselves in relation to church. As North Americans much of our religious experience, much of our church life has been around self actualization. Spirituality is defined and experienced as what heals us as we do the inner work of becoming whole. “The church in North America to a large extent has lost this [missional] memory to the point that mission is but a single element in multifaceted, programmatic congregations serving the needs of its members. The gospel is now a religious message that meets the needs of self-actualizing individuals” (p. 45).

Though healing work is important work, it is not our primary calling or work. Roxburgh and Boren state that, “there is no participation in Christ without participation in God’s mission in the world” (p. 45). I agree with this statement – we are called first and foremost to participate with God in accomplishing the redemptive purpose of God in the world (and somehow in the midst of this giving of ourselves to God the Spirit brings healing to us as a gift, which we receive as a gift). The church’s calling is to be “God’s missionary people” (p. 45).

In coming to understand this, we come face to face with the Gospel which confronts our tendency to make God about us, rather than our being involved in life and ministry for God.

On numerous occasions Jesus declared that to follow him involves denying self, taking up the cross (dying) and following after him (cf. Matthew 16: 24ff, Mark 8: 34ff, Luke 9: 23ff). Being baptized – by either water or the Spirit, is not about becoming privileged, or aligned with the powers of the world, but dying with Christ, being raised with Christ, in order to live to God (cf. Romans 6: 5ff).

Unless we get this, unless we understand this, being Christian, living out the Gospel is always going to be about us, our self-actualization. God is merely an aspect of our life, but not the center or all of our life. But if I respond to God’s call – it is a giving of all who I am to God; all of who I am is placed at God’s disposal for God to do in me, through me, whatever God desires to do with my life. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (cf. Galatians 2:20).

If this cost is too great (cf. Luke 9: 57ff), then perhaps we need to reevaluate to what extent we can call ourselves followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. If God has a convenient place in our lives, rather than all of life being centered in God, then we may be religious folk, but we are not God’s people participating with God in making all things new.

I know we mess up more than we want to in life, and we do not always live exemplifying the purposes of God as God’s people, but is it our confession to be God’s people, a people who participate with God in living out God’s mission, to seek to be centered in God, to seek to love our neighbors as Christ loves us, to recognize we do not do this well alone but we need the Spirit of God to take hold of our lives? I pray that we who call ourselves Christian indeed do identify and center ourselves with and in Jesus Christ – in being rooted in Christ, only in this way are we empowered to be the people of God, accomplishing with God, God’s purpose for the redemption of the world.

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl