This week I am taking an intensive class on spiritual formation. Specifically, the course is designed to train seminary students on engaging their future or current congregations in spiritual disciplines. This class meets from 9-5 for five days straight. I get to battle I-95N and I-395N everyday at the heart of rush hour.
On Wednesday morning our class engaged itself in a discussion on the missional church. Many in the room were not really sure on what a missional church does differently from what a “normal church” (if there is such a thing) does. Our class is a mix of 7 women and 5 men, and 3 of us are currently engaged in missional communities.
During this conversation/discussion/verbal battle, I may have struck a nerve with a fellow classmate, and when she pushed back a nerve might have been struck within me. This exchange took place while we were discussing whether or not you can share the Gospel with someone without necessarily “preaching” the Gospel. For me, embodying Christ’s life and actions is just as important for someone to do as “preaching” the Gospel.
Missional churches are focused on incarnation and not institution.
What my classmate was unable to see past is the fact that the act of kindness or service that missional churches focus on is the manner in which we can share the Gospel within communities without ever standing in a pulpit or going door-to-door. Some of my classmates were unable to see that missional churches are about incarnational living.
Rather than going door-to-door looking for disciples, or handing out leaflets in a neighborhood (which I loathe), missional churches want to embody the example Christ gave to us for living with one another and replicate that in the community’s daily life.
The theological essence of missions church is the act of incarnation. As Eddie Gibbs puts it, “By its very nature, the church is both the product and the vehicle of Gods’s mission in the world.” It’s not enough for us to do random acts of kindness or to just be nice people. As professing Chrisitans and as organized churches we are called to live out the Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ in addition to “preaching”. As cliché as it is to say, actions DO speak louder than words.
Our behavior towards one another is a vital public witness, and to do this the missional church wants to embody Christ’s mission in the world, and specifically within their community.