Vol 1:25 Place Spirituality

These are continuing reflections on Roxburgh and Boren’s Introducing the Missional Church (Baker, 2009).

Much of Alan’s recent work has been a focus on moving back into the neighborhood (MBiN) – and I am particularly intrigued by the insights shared in this book. One such insight is place spirituality.

Contrasted are space spirituality and place spirituality. Of space spirituality, Alan and Scott express: “We have been shaped by a space spirituality that is founded in the rootlessness of modernity and postmodernity. In that worldview, mobility and anonymity are essential so that individuals can recreate themselves in empty space without accountability or authority. In space spirituality there is little need to recognize anything concrete or historical. In this space we can have private, individualistic experiences with God, and the church’s primary job is to promote such experiences. . . . With space spirituality there is little need to understand our context” (p. 78).

It is obvious that there is nothing incarnational about this because we are simply living out our lives in a space, but not becoming connected to the place we are in. To understand Jesus and his incarnation – because God came in Jesus Christ to dwell among us, to set up his tent among us, to live rubbing shoulders, lives with us – we need to begin to understand the significance of place spirituality.

The authors continue: “Place spirituality, on the other hand, helps us recognize that we live in a territory that is full of history, meaning, heartache, and joy. Jesus was incarnate in a concrete time and place in history; he was not an abstract, cultureless being in some kind of spiritual space. And today the Spirit is leading the church back into the neighborhood, into concrete territories to recognize what God is doing there” (p. 78).

This place spirituality reframes how we think about ourselves as church. Church is more than our gathering on Sundays in a particular space – whether we own or rent the facilities in which we worship. Rather, we are called to be a people gathered in a particular place where we live out our following Christ, living as sign, foretaste and instrument of God’s present and coming reign. As such a gathered people, it is not just about our gathering for worship, but we are gathered to encourage and support one another in living in a particular place to see what God sees, to see what God is up to, to hear what God is saying – and the only way we can do that is to engage in the life of the place where we have been sent to be an incarnational community.

We have got to get away from merely thinking about our place in the world, and begin to discover why the Spirit of God has placed us where we have been placed.

It is not about us, but rather it is about being the people of God in a particular place to reveal the purposes and presence of God, to live out the will of God in the midst of the brokenness of our communities – by being in relationship with people, families, colleagues, political, educational, and economic structures – so that by our living and interacting we make visible the presence of God’s reign. Our living in relation with others as disciples of Jesus Christ is not to point to ourselves, but to make real the hope of true peace and true life that only comes through the working of God in the world. It is because God chooses to work through a people called to participate with God’s actions in the world – that we are called to indwell places, to become integrated with places, to know the people living in these places, namely a place spirituality.

Let us challenge ourselves to be open to the power of the Spirit in us – to live within a place spirituality!

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl