What makes us missional?
I contend that it is not having a missional attitude or perspective, nor reading missional books, nor holding to a missional theology, nor having a missional agenda, nor being a speaker on the missional circuit. Being missional is an act of the Spirit that comes through our being reoriented in all of our life through participating with Jesus Christ in his resurrection from the dead.
Being missional is not our activity, but the activity of the Spirit in us, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Romans 8:11). When we seek to participate with God in what God is doing in the world, we are apt to participate in ways in which we set the agenda for how we are engaged – i.e., we seek to be missional in the ways we want to be missional. However, being missional has very little to do with our desires, and all to do with God’s redemptive purpose for humanity and the world. Just as we cannot crucify ourselves – crucifixion is an act that requires another, so too we cannot become missional by ourselves – it requires the action of the Spirit of God in our lives.
Being missional, becoming missional is what God does in us – as we participate in Christ’s life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. We become participators in what God is doing in the world, participating with God in God’s mission as a community being sign, foretaste, and instrument of God’s present and coming reign, not by our own efforts, but through the action of the Spirit.
Being missional is a gift given to us by God as we are resurrected with Jesus Christ – so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives through us (cf. Galatians 2:20). It is the indwelling Spirit within our lives that leads, guides, directs us in living missionally, our lives and our actions being shaped by the purposes of God’s mission in the world, in noticing those whom God notices, in loving those Jesus came to set free (cf. Luke 4:18f). Being missional is something we receive in our lives as we yield to the work of the Spirit of God in our lives – and as we learn to walk in the ways of the Spirit – we will walk in ways that participate with God in God’s mission. This is the way Jesus lived – in the power of the Spirit, he did not carry out his own ministry agenda, but as the Gospel of John repeatedly expresses, Jesus did what he saw his Father doing, and speaking what he heard his Father speaking (cf. John 5:16-30; 7:16; 8:28; 10:17-18; 12:44-45, 49-50; 14:10, 24, 31; 15:10). Similarly, as we participate in the life of Christ Jesus in the presence and power of the Spirit, we participate in the ministry of Jesus (in Christopraxis – as Ray Anderson puts it), just as he participated in the mission of God.
Therefore, let us open our lives wide to the working of the Spirit in our lives – and in so doing, our living, our being, our doing will overflow in being the missional people of God.