Recently, in the Twitterverse, I came across a post on a blog site titled: “Missional: Is it Religious Gentrification?” by Tyler Tully. Having just moved to Sacramento, and am in the thrust of joining with my boyfriend (there’s got to be a less “cheesy,” more fitting title – just saying), Chris, to start a church in Midtown, and having heard the word “missional living” tossed around, much like the word “discipleship,” of course I was interested in hearing someone’s take on this “movement.” Our mission at Midtown Community Church is “leading people to live Christ-centered lives every day.” We want to live as missionaries to the people of Midtown and to be the church to them – to love on and serve them – to do life with them. The question I’m always asking myself is what does that looks like in my life.
Having grown up in the church in the American culture, I don’t think I was ever encouraged or taught what the true posture of a Christian is – and I was blind to it to a certain extent. Being a Christian who follows the Great Commission and the Great Commandment requires a deliberate, intentional and disciplined way of living and thinking. Living missionally is most definitely not natural or easy. It’s not an extracurricular thing we do every so often – it encompasses and touches everything and who we are – because this lifestyle is how we’re called to live as Christ followers.
Back to the blog post I came across. There was a portion of it that really leaped out at me, and got a culmination of thoughts whirling around in my head that I decided to work out by writing down. Here’s one of Tully’s comments/perceptions on the missional movement:
The last 10 years have shown more buzz around the term missional, although many of us are still scratching our heads about what that really means…While we’re trying to understand, worship, and participate in building the Kingdom of a marginalized 1st century Galilean, we are still operating from a place of access, privilege, and homogeneity – and we need to admit that the missional movement conversation has been dominated by the Dominators, if we are to see any meaningful Kingdom building. In other words, the missional movement needs to repent.
My brain is like a ping pong match between his words and my own wrestling with what it looks like for me to live missionally – to be the church, making disciples, getting outside your “comfort zone” and pouring into the people around you. All of that is so heady and sounds amazing. There’s this stirring in your soul, much like the reaction Lucy, Peter and Susan had in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the statement: “Aslan is on the move.” It wells up when you read about men of God, like Daniel, or books like Crazy Love, You Lost Me or Tangible Kingdom. You say to yourself, “YES. I want to be a part of that. I want to live that way.” And then the inevitable “Ok, so now what do I do? What’s my role?” If I’ve discovered anything about human nature, and myself, I find there’s this subtle, easy tendency to live vicariously through other’s testimonies of how they’re living missionally – it sounds so grand. It’s that innate desire for a tangible kingdom – for something more than what this world has to offer. But, like bystanders at a sports game, you really have no stake in it – it’s not your victory or loss. You didn’t train, sweat, struggle, get pounded, or make the winning play. Fans may take it personally, but it’s definitely not physically affecting them.
I’ve come to realize that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s complicated. That’s my problem – I tend to overthink because I’m a recovering perfectionist. I want to immediately know what I need to do, how to do it, and have “missional living” down overnight. Boom. Reality check. In asking “How do I do this?” “How do I get results?” I came to realize that I was stopping with “I” – that I was dependent on myself to find “solutions” and to make this missional thing happen. It’s rather exhausting, because, let’s be honest, we’re the worst saviors ever. After I arrived at this realization, I was struck with a “light-bulb moment” from a conversation on Psalm 1 this past Tuesday. This was it: It all boils down to the SOURCE of your approach to “go forth and make disciples.” Because here’s the truth we all know: Anyone and everyone can and does plug into their community (this fever among the millennials to belong, yet not commit), whether it be an intermural league or social club of some sort.
It’s a good to pour into others on their turf, but here’s the question: What source am I pulling from to pour out? If it starts stops with just me and my own willpower – well I already know that only takes me so far. It’s like a kid putting on a firefighter uniform. They can look it, wish it, but they sure aren’t it when it comes to putting out fires and saving lives. They don’t have the training and experience. Ah, now I’m getting somewhere (maybe). This is where we look back at my earlier reference to Psalm 1. Verses 1-3:
“How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he does.”
It doesn’t say the blessed or godly man is defined by all the things he does, but by who he is, why he is blessed – and, in turn, how that shapes his everyday living. What’s his source? He takes pleasure in doing God’s commands – he fills up his mind and heart with knowing God’s Word. It correlates with the tree (“down by the river!!”) in verse 3. This tree can withstand any season and whatever that season throws at it because its roots are pulling directly from an unending supply of water. It doesn’t stop there though…with just the intake of water. The water causes something to happen to the tree. You see this outpouring and harvest of it bearing fruit…so others can taste and see God’s goodness. But the tree couldn’t have, in and of itself, produced the fruit or survived without the river/water/stream. Relationships.
I am praying for myself, each of you, and Midtown Community Church, that the Lord will give us more of a love and delight in pursuing Him, reading/memorizing His Word, obeying Him. Not that I don’t find delight in Him now, but I want more…and to do it better, more consistently and faithfully.
There are many things in this post that I could break down further, but it would become a book.
Bottom line: If I don’t fill myself up with Him, I have nothing to give to begin with.
Let’s guard against our tendency to make everything technical, legalistic or a 10-step process.