Monday, August 8, 2011

A Brief Theology of Missional Spirituality

“The difference is that these churches must now ‘package’ their spiritual ‘values’ in accordance with the dictates of the market, which means that they must effectively vacate the specifically Christian content of their life and language.
            Under the terms of this agreement, whatever it means to be a Christian can no longer be tied to the practices that constitute the church as a social body visibly, publicly manifesting the intrusion of God’s apocalyptic regime into the world, but must be limited to mattes of the soul, leaving the body to the authority of the powers and economic principalities of the age. Christian identity and church authority are thus disembodied, relegated to a separate sphere of private life, transvalued into ‘religion,’ that is, habits and practices that are useful for both depicting the mysterious and invisible whole taht is the body politic of the modern state and global market, and also for conserving social energies in a numinous ether called ‘values,’ which at the appropriate time can be put to a ‘real’ social use in the state’s behalf.” (Barry Harvey, Can These Bones Live, 123)

If we wait until we need to call upon a spirituality that we might call "missional" then it's too late. In other words, if we see a need in our neighborhood and we want to do something to make a difference then how can we make a difference unless we already practice a spirituality that could truly make a difference.

I believe that most Christians want to have an impact upon the world around them. I believe that we want to lead people to embrace Christ followership. That most want to do more than give money to good causes. That they know they have a calling to make a specific difference in the world.

It's like a baseball player who comes up to bat in the ninth inning with an opportunity to win the game. No doubt that anyone in that situation "wants" to come through in the clutch. But want to is not enough. Players that are prepared depend upon their preparation not their desire.

In this quote, the author refers to an agreement that the church has made that has relegated church to the realm of the private, internal spiritual matters that have nothing to do with the public practices of daily life. Public life is driven by the market, which basically means that the supply and demand for goods, services, jobs, and resources controls how we live on a day-to-day basis. Therefore our lives are shaped by market-driven practices, these are the practices where we invest our lives wisely in order to guarantee as much as possible an equitable return on our investment. And these practices we assume are beyond the realm of any spirituality. As a result, our lives outside of church looks pretty much like that of anyone who does not call themselves a Jesus-follower.

Then when we do want to make a missional difference--when we want to hit that game-winning home run--we don't have the wherewithal to actually come through. We must practice the non-private disciplines of missional spirituality so that we challenge the practices of the market economy. These include things like: hospitality, generosity, self-sacrifice, fasting, praying the hours, returning non-violence for wrongs down, blessing those who cannot bless back, etc. These are practices that rebel against the life shaped by the market.

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