Thursday, February 2, 2012

Missional Music: Radical, Ordinary or Something Else

Life is a song that we sing. Sometimes I think about the life song sung by heroes of the faith like Mother Theresa as she worked with the poor in India or Jackie Pullinger as she helps drug addicts find Jesus in Hong Kong or some who moved to Haiti to work with victims of the earthquake. I think about the radical song they have sung and the impact they have had on the world. Their distant stories touch me and cause me to thank God for people who sing such songs and make the world a better place.

Then I think about my life and my song. I'm no hero. I don't live in the slums of India nor with drug addicts in Honk Kong. I've never been to Haiti nor participated in disaster relief. When I look at my life the song I sing could be judged as ordinary, maybe even "unradical." In fact, my life is shaped by relatively ordinary stuff of being a husband, father, church leader, and employee. No one would call me a zealot, a radical or someone who is taking missional "leaps of faith."

As I've reflected on what it means to sing the song of mission in the Western world, I'm not sure that "radical" or zealotry is the best approach for most. I'm not saying that it does not work for some, but i question whether it's the best approach for most. When someone goes oversees or quits their job to enter I to full-time ministry or when people volunteer in sugnificant ways to support a ministry that is viewed as radical. But is radical the only approach to making an impact? Let me challenge that with two points:

First, a so-called "radical" Christian can work in full-time ministry while still sing the song that the majority culture sings. He can be just as much as self-consumed workaholic as a missionary or  volunteer leader as anyone else. The song we sing often has little to do with our jobs or volunteer activities. The song we sing flows out the hidden well within. It's not a song rooted in actions and daily activities.

Second, the way a person sings in the midst of life in the ordinary everydayness of life (as a teacher, mother, day-laborer, engineer) may very well be as radical as anything done by those we typically see as being radical Christians. To sing a song of love, forgiveness and mission in he midst of a workplace filled with people consumed by strife, stress and the search for significance sings a similar song sung by Mother Teresa. To live simply and have the financial margin to bless people in need and even walk with them during tough times might be the song that leads to changed lives.

The song you sing has more to do with who you are than what you do, whether your life is radical or ordinary. The Spirit of God is shaping each of us, changing us from the inside out. As a result, our life song "is" missional as opposed to trying to do stuff that we see others doing that looks "missional." Being always includes doing. But doing missional stuff does not always include being missional. As I write this I'm reminded of Paul's words, "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."  

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