Monday, August 29, 2011

Mission is Lived in "Veiled Form"

"The mission of the Church is to be understood, can only be rightly understood, in terms of the trinitarian model. It is the Father who holds all things in his hand, whose province upholds all things, whose tender mercies are aver all his works, where he is acknowledged and where he is denied, and who has never left himself without witness to the heart and conscience and reason of any human being. In the incarnation of the Son, he has made known his nature and purpose fully and completely, for in Jesus "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col 1:19). But his presence was veiled presence in order that there might be the possibility of repentance and freely given faith. In the Church the mission of Jesus is continued in the same veiled form. It is continued through the presence and active working of the Holy Spirit, who is the presence of the reign of God in foretaste. The mission of the Church to all the nations, to all human communities in all their diversity and in all their particularity, is itself the might work of God, the sign of the inbreaking of the kingdom. The Church is not so much the agent of the mission as the locus of the mission. It is God who acts in the power of his Spirit, doing might works, creating signs of a new age, working secretly in the hearts of men and women to draw them to Christ. When they are so drawn, they become part of a community which claims no masterful control of history, but continues to bear witness to the real meaning an goal of history by a life which--in Paul's words--by always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus becomes the place where the risen life of Jesus is made available for others (2 Cor. 4:10). (Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society).

This kind of talk about the church and the God of the church causes us to see that goal of God's mission is not the success of a local church or the flourishing of a missional community. We tend to have such a small success oriented perspective. We don't understand the "veiled form" of God's life in our midst. God's veiled work is not about have a goal of being as good of a church as possible. This is not a missional community that is trying to make an impact in the world. This is the mission of the Father, Son and Spirit who has a much larger agenda than creating effective churches or good missional communities.

We tend to turn mission in on itself as if the point of redemption is to make good churches. That's like saying the point of an army is to participate in parades and do war simulations.

But God's mission is much messier than that. God gets involved in the dirt and filth of our life to redeem the worst of death. That's the nature of the suffering of the cross. The means of Jesus's death is the worst of the worst of suffering. He took on the darkest form of suffering to restore and raise up the lowest of the low.

Missional community is far from an experience of success and victory—as most of us wish it were. It's a community that bears the suffering of those in our little worlds. It's a community who enters into the pain of neighbors, friends and relatives.

Of course we don't do this on our own. Nor do we seek to purposely avoid success of try to do church in self-defeatist ways. Being missional does not mean “unsuccessful.” It just means that “success” is not our end goal. Our goal is to step with the power of the Spirit because it's God's presence that lives in the midst of the pain who empowers us to make a difference. This kind of success might look very different than we expect.

No comments: