Alan Hirsch says, “The word missional has tended, over the years, to become very fluid, and it was quickly co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they were doing, be they missional or not.”
Is this co-opting a problem? Absolutely, because it causes confusion, misunderstanding and uncertainty around the understanding of missional which will, if left unchecked, lead inevitably to the loss of the very meaning and concept behind the word.
So, why not just come up with another word or term. Because Hirsch rightly states, “the word sums up precisely the emphasis of the radical Jesus movements that we need to rediscover today. But more than that, in my opinion it goes to the heart of the very nature and purpose of the church itself.”
This post, Missional and Dualism, is just one of 50 in a global synchroblog that will attempt to reclaim and give some definition to the term.
And just what is missional?
Let us be very clear about what it is not first. It is NOT a method, model, style, agenda, program, or even an exhaustive theology. Missional is a stance, a way of thinking, a lifestyle.
I’ve often said that missional is a way of life where “the way of Jesus*” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. It speaks of the very nature of the Jesus follower.
Others have already done a fabulous job of fleshing this concept out, so I highly recommend that you read (more than once) two books: 1) Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, “The Shaping of Things to Come,” (Hendrickson Publishers, 2003) and, 2) Alan Hirsch, “The Forgotten Ways,” (Brazos Press, 2006). Don’t even bother with any other book on the subject until you have read and understand these two.
And don’t forget to read all the other bloggers who have posted today on the topic. See the blog list below.
Instead, I want to focus on a core reason why many struggle to understand what missional is. It’s called Dualism.
Ask yourself, are we merely devotees, who, as a mark of our faith, attend church weekly, participate in a bible study and often invite a friend or neighbor to join us? Or are we disciples of Jesus whose life is consumed 24/7/365 with, as Hirsch stated it, “the practical outworking of the mission of God (the missio dei) and of the incarnation”? Most operate in the former when God calls us to the latter. Missional is about the latter. So why does the average Jesus followers labor to understand Gods call and to live it out?
One core reason for this struggle stems from our western culture adopting the Greco-Roman supposition that all the world is divided into two realms: the sacred and the secular. The average Jesus follower segregates their life (all they are and do) into one of these two boxes.
Work, clubs, hobbies, school, recreation, vacation, money and other such things go into the secular box. Sunday “church,” bible studies, home groups, short-term missions trips, feeding the poor, quiet times, bible reading, prayer, teaching Sunday School, serving on a church committee, tithe and the like go into the sacred box. This thinking leads to considering the secular as pretty much devoid of anything sacred or spiritual. And anything spiritual must happen in the sacred box.
When you attempt to explain the concept behind missional, the average Jesus follower simply can’t comprehend how they could possibly live their entire life in the sacred box (where all things spiritual happens, right?) unless they became full-time clergy (the clergy/laity divide is a result of Greco-Roman dualism also). In their mind, to live 24/7/365 as a missionary would require them leaving behind the secular.
But which activities do most of our contact, dealings and interaction with our neighbors and community spring from? Can you see an overseas missionary thinking of their vocation as anything other than a powerful tool to be use to accomplish the practical outworking of the mission of God in their context?
I realize that most people have more gray between the two boxes than I’ve portrayed here, but my point is that we have to deconstruct the belief in dualism if you want to be able to communicate what missional is. Believers need to see their life holistically and completely sacred before they can begin to grasp what it means to be missional. God rules and reigns over all aspects of our lives.
Part of the point of the missional movement is to recapture the biblical understanding of who we are and the life we are called to walk. A life where we are consumed 24/7/365 with the practical outworking of the mission of God and of the incarnation. A life where “the way of Jesus*” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. But it will not happen in a church that operates within the concept of dualism.
* Seeking to consistently embody the life, spirituality, and mission of Jesus.
Other Synchroblog Contributors
Cobus Van Wyngaard