Missional Reflection #5 in a series where I quote a theologian and reflect on how it might shape a missional imagination. This quote is from Henri Nouwen.
“Our society is not a community radiant with the love of Christ, but a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul. The basic question is whether we ministers of Jesus Christ have not already been so deeply molded by the seductive powers of our dark world that we have become blind to our own and other people’s fatal state and have lost the power and motivation to swim for our lives.
Just look for a moment at our daily routine. In general we are very busy people. We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead. Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time to rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing.” (Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, 11-12).
In the Bible, we read about how God called a people be his redemptive society for the sake of a world in rebellion. They are to be set apart to be a paradigm of what life should be like. Jesus came calling this paradigm the Kingdom of God. Peter called the people of the kingdom, a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” that has the purpose of “declaring them praises of him who called us our of darkness and into his wonderful life.” God way of bringing life and redemption to the world is through his people.
We are called to make a difference in the world around us, but too often the world around us has shaped the church and its leader more than we like to admit. I’m not talking here about morality and how the church stacks up to the rest of society in categories like divorce rates or breaking the law. Those are the kinds of things that are measured with statistics. Rather, I’d like to point out with Nouwen the thing about our culture that are much less measurable but probably much more pervasive in the church. We live in a world that eats us up with its ways, while promising to give us life. Instead what we get is inoculation from life. We get what feels good enough to survive while we miss out on flourishing.
Life in missional community is not immune to this. We can assume the same mentality to how we do our life together. We try to manage our community with a calendar of events rather than doing the hard work of learning to relate to one another in a way that is not shaped by the patterns of this world. We try to be realistic because people are busy instead of confronting the busyness and challenging each other to make changes that would open doors for life-giving hospitality or soul shaping discipleship.
The ministry of missional life cannot be fit into the ways of this world. We have to do the hard work of figuring out what missional community looks like and make some hard choices.