Saturday, January 1, 2011

Becoming Missional and Progressive and Church For The New Year

Being missional in its essence means finding and growing and expressing your identity as church in service with and to others, primarily the underserved. It means both loving the world and others in it, and simultaneously being at odds with those powers and principalities, those forces and groups in the world, including the church itself, that work against the poor (including being against all those things that keep the well off from knowing they are well off and being able to share their blessings with those who aren't; so being missional may mean also living counter-culturally among the well-off, and being against those habits and attitudes of scarcity engrained in many of the poor themselves).

We are to become ourselves in the world, but not be made of the world, not letting its standards be ours. Instead we need to keep these two standards before us as we discern how we are living up to our missional calling: 1. how much and how often are we in the world as a people, working together two or more, to be blessings in the world? And 2. how are we resisting the dominant culture values all around us?

What about us and the ways we are a people keep us apart from the world and keep us slaves to its ways at the same time? These questions should be our resolutions for the new year.

The church is only the church as it is a reflection and creation out of God's mission. That mission was Jesus' heal the sick, set free the captive, bring sight to the blind, and proclaim the Jubilee year of renewal and economic justice.

If the heart of the church is missional, so I believe the heart of the church is progressive, meaning radically open to others with no creedal tests, learning from others. Being progressive and missional are redundancies; it is only as the church is not living up to its true calling to be radically missional that it is not progressive, and only that it isn't living up to its true calling to be radically progressive that it is not missional. Fear keeps the leaders of missional church from embracing the church's progressive identity (fear of heresy, fear of truly losing one's former self, fear of slippery slope thinking and believing the force of spiritual progressiveness leads to being of the world). Fear keeps the leaders of progressive churches from embracing the church's missional identity (fear of not being perfect and making mistakes when being in relationship with others, fear of others who don't share one's politics and class especially if you are in an area where you are already the minority culture, and especially if you yourself have grown and emerged from such cultures in your own journey and fear unresolved family of origin issues).

The beauty of the way toward integration of missional and progressive is that it is best done in small ways, in small groups, in small acts. May 2011 be the year you grow smaller in order to reach out to so many more. You don't have to change your whole church, or your whole family. But find a few others to adventure with intentionally this year, serving together, studying together, socializing together, and celebrating God together.