Sunday, February 3, 2013

Missional and Discipleship Hug it Out

Soon after our Christian worldview was unhinged, the word "missional" started getting loads of airplay. It quickly became one of those "cool" church words and I've gotta say, I throw it around myself. The problem with any idea or focus is that it really needs to be defined. But never fear! The English language always has a solution.

Now it's years later, my doctor reminds me that I'm pushing forty, my husband's beard is entirely gray, and we're living in the city. Times have changed. "Missional" is still mostly hip, but us Christians are as fickle as anyone, and we're ready for a new thing, or at least a new word. People are starting to throw stones at poor ol' "missional".

Consider this my fight for an almost-underdog.

I recently read an interesting post on the interplay between the missional movement and discipleship. The author, Mike Breen, asserts that the missional movement will fail because of a mass abandonment of discipleship among missional churches/leaders/people.

The comments are worth reading, at least the top third (they get a bit redundant before long), but honestly, there was so much churchy smart talk that it became difficult to wade through. That right there is so much of our problem. We talk too much, too smart. We say things only we understand and we secretly love that feeling. We talk and talk and talk - to each other. We stay home and we talk. We go to church and impress each other with our yikkity-yakness.

I'm over it.

I can't say that we ever sat down to really formulate a philosophy of "missional" living, or the precise ratio of missional:discipleship we would employ.

I hesitate to even say that I'm living missionally, and I wouldn't dare brag about making disciples.

All I know is, we knew we had to go, so we went. We knew that for us, it was increasingly improbable that we would ever wrap our arms around anyone remotely unlike us. We were fenced in by a bunch of us'es, so we had to go. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Now we're home and our family has grown. We help with small things and with big things that look small to us.

My discipleship strategy has involved very few words. I tell our new people frequently that I'm praying for them. I talk to them about my life in the exact way I would talk to you - my faith is a natural part of it. Out the gates, I don't invite them to church. I don't point out their sin. I don't tell them their life would be better with Jesus.

I do tell them, when I know I'm supposed to, that God loves them and created them with a purpose. I tell them that I love them. I tell them I'm proud of them. I make my flaws and my humanity evident to them and I tell them that God rescued me, that He saved me from the brink of ruin.

That's all I do.

Mike Breen might say it's all wrong. You might nod your head with him.

And you know what? I'm open to the idea myself.

But all I really know is love.

Is that a bad thing?

All I know is that God is love.  I know he's fierce and powerful and that He holds every one of us in his hand. I can't do any of that other stuff, but I can do the love. Not as well as Him, not as perfectly or completely, but it's within my jurisdiction to like and love them.

In drop-jawed amazement, I watch Him compel them, in part through my humble, broken, infant love. He does the big work.

When I was a little girl, someone asked me how many people I had saved. He said he had saved six, but his dad was up somewhere in the twenties. I knew it was bogus and I was still wearing velcro tennis shoes and plastic bird barrettes.

I am positive that Mike Breen defined "discipleship" as more than "saving" someone. I'm not trying to overstate his point or misconstrue what he said. But from where I sit, we're talking about two sides of the same coin. I feel sort of, "Duh."

Without God drawing me into His heart for the poor and the marginalized, I wouldn't see it as mandatory to go to them. Without going to the hardish places with Him, I'd be content to continue snacking on the status quo of my old life and my tired faith.

My discipleship has become my first concern. Nothing else happens without it.

Then, I wait expectantly for the girl to ask me at out of left-field at midnight if we can start a "one-on-one Bible study". I answer the text on December 12th about whether we'll all live to see tomorrow and I bawl my eyes out while she's swept straight into the heart of the Father who finds her utterly irresistible and lovely.

I don't want to hear much more about what's being done wrong in this "movement". (Unless it's unbiblical, then that's obviously a different story.) I'm tired of the straw men line-up, where people too tired or too scared to act start pointing fingers and outlining reasons to keep staying home and studying. (Again, I'm not talking about Mike Breen here...his post is just what got my wheels turning.)

We can call it whatever we want. Whatever name we give it, it will keep being messy and complicated. It will continue to draw skeptics and critics. We'll make mistakes, and we'll make them again, but at the end of the day we'll face-plant on the pillow begging for the truth of God's love to penetrate our hearts. We'll do our best in all of our jacked up humanity to reflect some of that game-changing love onto the ones around us who need it most. And when God starts to correct their vision, we'll cry and celebrate and limp along snail-slow with them while they're introduced to something brand spanking new.

That, to me, is discipleship. It's alive and well in this "movement". It's more necessary than ever.


While we're on the topic, I always love what this guy has to say about the missional movement. He tells the truth with much grace and an absence of churchy hullabaloo.