The God we serve is a sending God. God sent Jesus and then He sends us (John 20:21). We are a sent people. Mission is who we are not just what we do. It is part of our core identity ... even if we aren't sent very far. The incarnation of Jesus Christ (God taking on human form) informs us as to how we are sent on mission. AS the father sent the Son into the world SO Jesus sends us. Mission is about going out while incarnation is about going deep. Jesus is the best missionary that ever was ... so let's learn from him. Here are six principles of incarnational mission from the life of Jesus:
God was fully present in Jesus. Jesus was full God and fully man. He became one of us. This is identification. Jesus understands us incredibly well. He lived in an ordinary neighbourhood for 30 years. He really understood them. No wonder he could connect with them so well.
We need to do the same. Learn about their language, culture, stories, interests, music, and heroes. Don't be too quick to speak. Don't presume to know them. Sit and listen ... a lot. Look and learn. Build relationships and trust. Overseas missionaries get this but we often miss it.
Jesus didn't wait for people who come to him. He went to them. He was always on the road, at the marketplaces or synagogue. He got out of the religious zones to be where the people were.
Where you stand determines what you see. The need is there ... it's just that we are not out there to see. Follow Jesus out into the neighbourhood. Take a step beyond where you are standing now. When we are removed, we are not living out our identity as the people of God. Fear and laziness tend to dominate us. We prefer to be comfortable. However, when we begin to see the need ... our heart breaks and we want to respond. Don't wait for people to come to you. Go to them and connect.
Our God is humble (Phil.2:1-11). God became a baby - totally dependent and powerless. Jesus didn't start as a man. God emptied himself - the great humiliation. He came a humble servant not as a powerful king or with arrogance. We are to have the same attitude. There is no room for arrogance in those who follow a humble God.
Jesus truly believed that the father was already working in the hearts and lives of the people he was reaching out to. We are to do the same.
We don't 'bring' God with us when we go. He is already there. God doesn't limit his presence to baptized Christians. God is at work in every human being's life on the planet, drawing them toward Jesus ... whether we are there or not. When we connect with them, God has already been at work. He has been there way longer than us. People are 'seekers.' They are having 'God moments,' they just don't know it's God ... yet. Watch to see where God is at work. Approach people with this belief - and then help them make sense of what is happening to them. Join with God and see what he is doing in the lives of people -all people (even the most unexpected ones).
Jesus has suffered and continues to suffer for a lost humanity every single day. We are to participate in the sufferings of Christ (Col.1:24). Struggle is part of the human condition and is central to the entire Christian message.
Passion comes out of identifying with people's pain. Everyone suffers but most have no belief system to make sense of it. It is a mystery for us too but we believe that there is a reason for it and at the heart of the Christian faith is a suffering God who understands and cares. Understand the pain of those you are called to reach. Their pain determines the psychology of who they are. Be real and raw. Feel and understand. Our understanding of pain can be our gift to the world.
Jesus went about speaking the good news of the kingdom of God (Mk.1:14). He used word but he also embodied the message ... he was the gospel.
We too are to speak to people about the good news. We often start here but it is important that we live the message as well as proclaim it. Learn to be the good news. People want to see how we live our lives. Live the words you speak. St. Francis once said, "Preach the gospel morning, noon and night ... and if necessary, use words!" People are looking for authenticity not just more words, which are such abundant in supply in our culture.
Let's follow Jesus' example in mission. What a different place our world would be if each Christ-followed simply did what Jesus did.
[These notes were gleaned from a message by Deb Hirsch which is based on chapter 9 of the book Untamed
by Alan and Debra Hirsch]
Sample Discussion Questions
1. Tell your story of how you came to Christ? Who was part of your journey and what contribution did they make?
2. What traces can you see of God at work before your conversion?
3. How does the fact that God became a man change your perception of Christianity?
4. What are the implications of the humility of God as seen in the incarnation (Phil.2)?
5. How is “sharing in the sufferings of Christ” part of discipleship?
6. How can we overcome fear and laziness to engage more in mission?
7. What steps can we take to more fully believe that God is already at work in people’s lives?