So today we continue our series entitled “How to be a missionary without ever leaving Lancaster.” We are doing this series all summer long, divided into 3 parts. 3 parts of what I would call missionary flow, strategy or how to plant a missional church.
Over this month of June we are covering the 1st part of the missional flow, that of engaging culture. In July we’ll cover the 2nd part of the missional flow, that of forming community. And finally the last piece of the missional flow, strategy for planting a missional church is to structure congregation.
As I said the month of June we have been dialoguing around the concept of engaging culture and what that looks like. The first week of June we talked about engaging culture by being a blessing in the world. That the call of Abram’s life to be a great nation, to be blessed so that they would bless the rest of the nations carries on to us today, as followers of Jesus. Last week we talked about Jeremiah 29:1-7 and God’s call to the people who were in exile in Babylon to take seriously the Creational Mandate (plant, build houses, marry, and have kids) because they were going to be in exile for a long time. And not only to watch out for themselves but also to seek the peace, the shalom, the wholeness of the city in which they were exiled. To want their best and to work for their best. And God’s call for us as a community is to seek the peace, the shalom, the wholeness of Lancaster.
Today we are talking about a core foundational part of Engaging Culture, this word that you might have heard before, being missional. We will talk about what that actually means, where it gets it’s foundation from, and what it looks like.
So let’s talk about being missional as an integral, almost indispensable part of what it means to engage culture. First of all the word missional is just another word for being sent. It’s the call on every follower of Jesus to live life sent like a missionary into the various spheres of life that you and I live in, like our neighborhoods, work, recreation, home life, etc… But why live a sent life? Why live missionally? And how do we live a sent, missional life?
All those questions I believe are addressed in a text in Scripture, John 20:21-22 which says, “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
So the first thing we see about being sent, is that Jesus was sent first from God the Father, who is a sending and sent God. You see this commission, this model for missional, sent living, is rooted in God, rooted in Jesus, who we see as being the ultimate sent one, and only through the power of the Holy Spirit. You see it isn’t like Jesus would say, hey guys I’m sending you, but I’ll just hang back here and not be about my Father’s mission. No, in fact from the very beginning of his earthly existence, Jesus was missional. Jesus was sent. You see it in the Message version of Scripture in John 1:14 which says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” He moved into our neighbor. He was sent to earth to show us, in flesh and blood, what God is like. To show us who God is. To show us God. To take on flesh and blood and live a missional sent life. You see just as God is a sending God, Jesus was a sent one. As it said, Like Father, like son.” So again when we want to know what missional actually looks like, lived out in the flesh, all we have to do is to look at the incarnation. To look at Jesus.
Think about it. How many times have we heard the concept, “Do as I say, and not as I do?” All of us sometimes say one thing and do another. But here Jesus is sending us, because he himself was sent. He wasn’t just saying that he was sent, and he was sending us. He actually was sent and he actually was sending. After all, in a very real way, Jesus was the first missionary. He took on flesh and blood, moved into the neighborhood, became one of us. Jesus engaged the culture in a very real way. Like Philippians 2:5-8 says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” He again, is our model for what it means to engage the culture by living a sent life.
Now before you say, “Well that was Jesus, and I am no Jesus”, you need to look at the next part of verse 21 which says, “I am sending you.” You see Jesus was sent into the world to set things to right, by his life, death, and resurrection. And now Jesus gives his disciples (including us) a mission to continue his work on this earth. The tagline of the denomination that Veritas is a part of reflects this very idea, of moving forward with the mission of Jesus. The tagline of the Church of the Brethren is, “Continuing the work of Jesus. Simply, Peaceful, Together.” And so now we are called to continue and move forward the mission of Jesus, setting things to right in this world. Doesn’t it say something to you that Jesus’ plan to continue his work falls on us, weak, fragile, struggling, doubting, believing, faithful, faithless, hopeful, hopeless, disciples of Jesus (much like the 1st 12 he spoke these words to). There is not plan B…in fact we are plan B. He said it himself, in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Now you might be saying, how in the world am I supposed to carry on the mission of Jesus, let alone do even greater things? And that is where verse 22 is totally crucial to this missional, sent, engaging culture conversation that we are having. In fact all too often, if we are honest, sometimes this is the part that is sorely needed within the missional conversation. So often we just want people to get out there. Get out and bless people. Get out and engage the culture. Get out there and seek the peace of the city. And we totally forget that unless verse 22 is included, missional either becomes an idol, legalism, or something that none of us want to do in our flesh.
Verse 22 says, “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus knew that his commissioning, his sending the disciples, and by nature, us as well, would not be possible without the Holy Spirit. In this text, the Holy Spirit would show up less than 50 days later at Pentecost, and would drive them out into the world to continue the work, the mission of Jesus. We desperately need the Holy Spirit when it comes to living sent and missional lives. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us, speak to us, help us desire Kingdom life, and to discern things. One of the questions that we need to wrestle with together and wrestle with the Holy Spirit is this question, “To whom am I sent?” As well as the question that goes beyond just the individual, “To whom are we sent?” When we ask those questions, we need to slow down and wait for his answer. We need to slow down, to pray, to read Scripture, to worship, to meditate, to seek God’s face both individually and corporately, or else we will either just run ahead of Jesus into our own ideas, or we will burn out following after the God of mission, or we will run the other way away from mission because our flesh totally fights against this way of life. This missional sent life.
But what does this missional sent life look like? To Whom are you and I sent? How do we engage with the Holy Spirit in order to lead us into the missional Kingdom life that he calls us to? Those are the questions that get at what it looks like when the rubber hits the road so to speak in our missional sent life. And those are the questions that we will unpack together.
1. What are your thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back, etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture and/or the message? 2. How do you and I engage the Holy Spirit in order to lead us into the missional Kingdom life that he calls us to? 3. To whom are you sent? To whom are we sent? 4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it? 5. Homework: Instead of doing something (like the last two) I want you to spend time this week praying, seeking God, asking the Holy Spirit who whom am I sent? Maybe prayer walk around your neighborhood. Maybe spend time journaling. And then act on whatever the Holy Spirit reveals to you.