Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Search for Missional Character

This is the second installment of my weekly Missional Reflections where I quote a theologian and then reflect on how that might challenge our common understanding of being missional. This quote from Stanley Hauwerwas.

"To emphasize the idea of character is to recognize that our actions are also acts of self-determination; in them we not only reaffirm what we have been but also determine what we will be in the future. By our actions we not only shape a particular situation, we also form ourselves to meet future situations in a particular way. Thus the concept of character implies that moral goodness is primarily a prediction of persons and not acts, and that this goodness of persons is not automatic but must be acquired and cultivated."(Hauerwas, Vision and Virtue, 49.)

There is such a thing as missional character. This idea challenges us to go beyond questions of what can we do to be better at doing missional acts. It calls us to think about missional community as something that we are becoming. A person's or a group's character is a statement of being, which of course has implications upon what acts a person or a group does. A community is not missional simply because it does missional actions. It is missional because the community has developed a character that embodies God's character of self-sacrificing love for others.

Missional community is not "automatic but must be acquired and cultivated." The choices we make now as a community will have a direct bearing on our ability to living missionally in the future. These choices shape who we are and they develop us into a missional people. This is why we cannot simply think in terms of missional actions. We can do something missional and conclude that we have done our duty. Instead, we must think in terms of making missional choices and learning to do so in a repetitious way. Our choices will include missional acts, but it will also include things like missional praying, missional discipleship and missional life together.

Missional choices lead to missional practices.
Missional practices lead to missional character.
Missional character leads to making a difference in the world.

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