What does it mean to be a missional church? We are family
If you had asked me a week ago what I thought it meant to be a missional church, I would have said three things. First, missional churches love and teach the God’s Word. Second, missional churches are relevant to their cultural context. Third, missional churches are focused on reaching out like missionaries in their own communities.
This is all true.
But with this definition, we tend to think that it is activity that makes us missional: solid preaching, culturally relevant music and technology, outreach into the community.
It is much easier to define ourselves by what we do than by who we are.
On the first day of the Together for Adoption conference, Tim Chester walked us through the Bible story three times. He argued that being missional does not come out of an analysis of culture or looking for a new and better way to do church.
We are family.
Being missional is about being the people of God. It is about understanding the Bible as the narrative of God’s people, mission and kingdom. It is not the things we do that make us missional. If we are God’s people, missional is who we are: identity, not activity.
I am sitting quietly in this empty hotel room: still, peaceful. My first cup of coffee is empty and I am contemplating a second. But I do not want to walk away from this thought. I want to soak in the deep truth of just being, of not doing anything.
As Tim Chester walked us through the Bible the first time, the focus was the story of God’s people. I will do my best to share his words and what I learned, though I am still struggling to understand.
“From the beginning to the end the Bible is the story of God creating a people who will be his people.” -Tim Chester
Creation. God is eternal: Father, Son and Spirit living in this perfect community of love. When God describes himself, he uses words of relationship. People are created in God’s image for community. We are designed to live in relationship with God and
Fall. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their relationships with God and one another were broken. Adam and Eve hid from God. Their relationships became oppressive. In the same way, our relationship with God is broken and all human community is oppressive.
Covenant. When God makes a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 – the promise of a great nation that will be a blessing to all the families of the earth – God is revealing the end of the story. God promises that in the end, he will redeem a people who are His people, a people who know God, a people who bless and worship. This redemption
will not be through human achievement. It will be through grace: righteousness will come through belief.
By the book of Exodus, the people of Israel have become a nation, however they are slaves. God remembers his promise to his people and delivers them from Egypt to worship him: saving his people from something to something.
But before long, God’s people fall into idolatry. Remember people were created to live in community with God. But how can a holy God live among a sinful people? God through Moses gives his people the law, which provides atonement for sin and rules for moral holiness. But this law is not sufficient.
Exile. The people created by God to worship and be in community with God worship idols and refuse to be God’s people. Once again, God’s people are sent into exile. Through the prophets, however, God makes a new promise. God promises that he will create a people who will be his people: “They will call upon my name and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’: and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:9).
Jesus. Jesus represents both sides of the covenant promise. He is God with us. He is also the true and faithful people of God. Jesus is the priest who mediates between
man and God. He is the sacrifice who atones for sin. Through Jesus, we are adopted into God’s family. We are reconciled into relationship and community with God the Father, Son and Spirit.
In Christ, we have a new identity. We are family.
This means community is not an option. Everyone likes the idea of community, but the truth is we do not like people. We cannot have community without one another. This means we are called to love real people. If we are the people of God, we need to live like the family we are. We need to gather together, eat together, worship together.
Church is not a building or a meeting. It is who we are. Christian community is not an event once or twice a week. It is life shared together.
This is who we are, not what we do. God’s people are to be a blessing to all nations. We are to live all of life together – ordinary, everyday life – with gospel intentionality. Our community need not be focused only on caring for one another; we are called to proclaim the gospel, the good news of a new family with God as our father through the reconciling work of the cross.
What we do flows out of who we are.
This is hard.
It would be so much easier to define the Christian life as a list of things to do. Wake up early in the morning and spend time in the Bible and prayer. Check. Go to community
group. Check. Go to church. Check. Go on a mission trip. Check. Give. Check. Serve. Check. Adopt. Check.
But there is no list. On the cross, Jesus said it was finished. If you believe in Jesus, you are reconciled to God. You are adopted into God’s family.
This was more or less the first hour of the conference.
By this point, my head was spinning. It still is. Nothing Tim Chester said was new to me – but at the same time everything was new. I had heard the gospel before, but it was new again. I had learned about the trinity, but I found myself in awe of God once more. I thought I wanted practical advice about what to do in order to be more missional, and instead I spent the morning listening to the story of the Bible.
And realizing in a new way that I am God’s daughter. That we are a part of God’s family. That there is nothing we have to do, but much we are invited to do.
Stepping out of my normal life for a few days has given me a new perspective: a deep conviction that we have set up our lives in an upside down sort of way. About five years ago, my husband and I went through a process of writing down a huge list of what we wanted our life to look like. And more or less, we have met those goals. We’ve been faithful to our commitments.
But we’ve been missing something more important.
I feel like this is a turning point, the beginning of a radial reshaping of our lives. This time it is not about a list, as much as I want to write a list. It is about a relationship with a God who gives me an identity that is deeper, more true, than anything I do or fail to do. It is also about living as God’s family. We have often looked at community as an event, a task on the list. And accordingly, we’ve set up our lives in a way that we are too busy to truly live life with others.
This post is part of a series of reflections from the Together for Adoption 2011 Conference. Follow these links to read more: When Everything Changes, We are Family, We are Missionaries, and We are Disciples.