By Cailey Morgan
In my previous article, “The Missionary Nature of God and His Church,” I mentioned that there are several paradigm shifts or renewed ways of thinking that we as the Church in Canada should consider if we want to reawaken ourselves to God’s call to mission.
One such shift in paradigm is to consider how Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “go and make Disciples” may actually mean “stay and make disciples.” As much as international missionaries are sent to delve deeply into the culture and day-to-day life of the place they are called to, Jesus sends us out our front doors and invites us to delve deeply with the culture and day-to-day life of our neighbours, coworkers, and the other parents on the elementary school Advisory Council.
Proximity and Presence
Most of my musings here are inspired from a workshop on Missional Essentials by Brad Brisco. He’s done his homework on these issues, and reminds us that Scripture is full of examples and exhortations for God’s “gathered and scattered” people to be sent into really ordinary, everyday places. Our primary example, of course, is Christ Himself.
In John 20:21, Jesus says, “just as the Father sent Me, I am sending you.” If we are sent just as Jesus was sent, we should look at how and to whom Jesus was sent in order to establish how we also are sent. His sending from the Father was to be among us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Read the gospels to see how the ins-and-outs of daily life were Jesus’ platform for most of His ministry and teachings. This kind of presence, this kind of among-ness, exemplifies the humility and other-mindedness we are to have as we engage our neighbours (consider Christ’s nature of humble service as described in Philippians 2:5-8). He dwelt among, and emptied Himself for, those who needed to receive the hope He offers.
Darrell Guder puts it this way:
In the incarnation of Jesus, God revealed Himself as the one who is with and for His creation. Now, as the Risen Lord sends His Spirit to empower the church, we are called to become God’s people present in the world, with and for the world.
Our posture must change from doing ministry to, or even ministry for, to ministry with. With is a much closer, much more patient, even much more intimate way of gospelling. But to be with, we must address the barriers that are keeping us apart from our culture and our neighbours.
Advocate or Adversary?
For many reasons far beyond the socio-political understanding in my tiny mind, the Christian Church is often seen as the adversary in our culture. We say “no” a lot. We sometimes come across as judgmental. We like to put boxes around behaviour. And—as all humans naturally do—we tend to hang out with people who like us and are like us.
But what Jesus exemplified for us, what the Holy Spirit does daily for us, is not adversary but advocacy. The Holy Spirit is called the Advocate because He is for us and with us to offer His strength. And we have been called to follow in this posture of advocating for others rather than being about our own agendas.
An interesting example of this incarnational advocacy can be found in Jeremiah 29:4-7. God sends (Yes, sends. There it is again!) His people into Babylonian captivity. They hate Babylon and want to go home. It’s not comfortable, and besides, how can they worship God in such a heathen place? But what does God say? Settle down and make a garden! Embed yourself in the community. You’ll be here long enough to have kids and for your kids to have kids. Seek and pray for the prosperity of the place.
This 70-year exile was a slow but deliberate way for the Israelites to fulfill their original mandate from God to Abraham: be a blessing to all nations. And God is calling us to the same life today: to open our eyes to the people around us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. To hitch our wagon to our neighbours. To seek the prosperity and peace of the places we live.
As Brad Brisco explains, “The way the Kingdom takes root in the lives of people, and ultimately changes a city, is by exiles living normal everyday lives as citizens of the King in every neighbourhood and public place that makes up a city.”
What does it practically look like in the whirlwind of 21st-century North American life to daily seek the prosperity and peace of our communities? How do we expand our imaginations and truly understand our dual citizenship as not only Canadians but children of the King? What if I don’t know my neighbours yet? These are the questions I’ll wrestle with in my next article.
If you’d rather hear from Brisco on these topics, check out Missional Essentials, a brilliant and down-to-earth 12-week curriculum to help your small groups or leadership team explore these and several other biblical directives.
This is the third article in a series. Read the other posts here:
- Why, Oh Why?
The Missionary Nature of God and His Church
- Incarnational Presence
- Space to be Truly Present
- Missional Margin
- Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces