[INCARNATIONAL SERIES: final: part 17]
The more the community can be shaped by a rhythm of reciprocal community, the more the witness of that community will be able to reveal the love of God. In the groundbreaking book, the Missional Church, edited by Darrell Guder, Lois Barrett contended, “The visible, taste-able nature of their community is [our] missional purpose.” By encountering our community, she suggested, “others ‘may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matt 5:16). Who the community is and how it lives points to God and is an invitation to join the community in praising God.”1 As the community increasingly fleshes out its incarnational witness encouraged through a mutual fellowship of charity towards one another and towards those to whom the community is sent, the church then truly becomes a movement (see diagram).
No longer is the weekly gathering the priority of a believer’s identity, but rather his or her particular role in the wider missional movement of God. The temptations to dichotomize the inner attitudes and the outer expressions of the heart are progressively replaced by a holistic and natural manifestation of faith in the context of one’s everyday life. It is then that our interactions with those outside of ourselves begins to authentically take the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world by dwelling among others incarnationally. “It simply means,” Hirsch encourages, “we are going to have to be directly present to the people… Our very lives are our messages, and we cannot take ourselves our of the equation of mission.”2 Hirsch summarizes:
“In this way mission becomes something that ‘fits’ seamlessly into the ordinary rhythms of life, friendships, and community and is thus thoroughly contextualized. Thus these ‘practices’ form a working basis for genuine incarnational mission, but they also provide us with an entry point into an authentic experience of Jesus and his mission.”3
Final thought: We have much intentional work to do if the Hub is to become a place where people cannot continue to practice a segregated life. We must not allow those who are attracted to attend our “service” to comfortably turn inward upon their soul and privatize their faith. Patterning ourselves after Jesus, we must catalyze an incarnational movement of witness within our communities expressed every day of the week and everywhere we find ourselves to be. We must continue to seek live in such a way together and among others that God will be revealed. Oh Lord, may it be so.
1 Barrett, Lois. “The Church as Apostle to the World,” from Guder, Darrell. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998, 128.
2 Hirsch, 133-134.
3 Ibid., 135.