It seems that in the church, there’s always been a wall between spiritual formation and missional engagement, like they were divorced a long time ago and everyone accepts this as "just the way things are". On this corner, we have those who are serious about spiritual transformation: they read their Bibles and pray and learn to stop yelling and interact with people in healthy ways. In the other corner, we have those who are serious about mission: they’re all about serving the poor and reaching out to those in need and stopping injustice. Mission-minded people don’t get bogged down with all that navel-gazing goofiness, right? And formation-minded people are so busy improving themselves they can’t be bothered improving the world, right? We divide ourselves up into camps and smugly assume the other side isn’t nearly as spiritual as we are.
But I think it’s time to renew the romance. It’s time to get the band back together. We need spiritual formation and missional living to kiss and make up and say some nice things about each other.
Because it’s not just that they belong together, it’s that each suffers without the other. Missional engagement is hindered by a lack of transformation ("So life with Christ has done what exactly for you?"), and spiritual transformation is stunted if we never engage and partner with God in mission. I believe if we attempted to engage in both kinds of activities simultaneously (which would be the definition of a missional spirituality), it would catalyze a reaction where both formation and mission would be taken further faster than if they were functioning alone. Spiritual transformation would be accelerated by missional engagement, and missional living would be accelerated by adding spiritual transformation to the mix.
A few questions I’m wrestling with, then:
- How do we re-imagine and re-shape the classic spiritual disciplines (solitude, study, meditation, prayer, etc) for a missional spirituality?
- What new kinds of disciplines might we engage in to propel us into everyday missional living?
- How do we re-imagine mission so it’s more organic and authentic, so that it flows naturally out of transformed people instead of awkwardly out of artificial programs?
Zachary Kaufman says
I think “sharing” could be a missional discipline. Whether that’s sharing theological ideas or sharing cookies. Sharing seems to be one of those early disciplines from preschool that we never really like to keep up. Sometimes we find something fantastic (or tasty) and it goes down in the book of “secret recipes” and isn’t shared. We have to ask ourselves “What have I shared lately?” Or maybe better, “What is it I’d rather not share?”
blind beggar says
I believe I would add the practice of hospitality to the classic spiritual disciplines. We should practice hospitality by welcoming the stranger/neighbor/marginalized/lonely into the midst of our lives. There is not much that is more satisfying than being used by the Father to touch someone and show his love to them through you. And it is pretty easy to do, but like all disciplines, we have to be intentional.
Jesus teaches us to pray, give, and fast in private…to Him alone. How do we do these and other disciplines privately (and missionaly)? Do we in the church challenge each other on disciplines? I think that we can tend to make them too private. Brother Lawrence preaches the act of ‘Practicing the Presence of God” in our daily, mundate life activities. Service is key. I think that missional Christianity is based on service. Our practice of disciplines invites God’s presence in a more intentional way as we strive to be more intentional with the world around us.
To tag onto Zach’s thoughts…one simple missional discipline might be fasting a meal, or a couple of cups of premium coffee, or a tank of gas (ouch!) and use the money to purchase a plastic gift card for a meal, premium coffee or gas. Then give the card to a food bank, halfway house, medical clinic, or college student.
A way to rethink solitude might be giving it away to someone else. How about babysitting for someone so they can have some quiet time for themselves? Maybe giving someone an instrumental CD, a scented candle and bath salts so they can have a relaxing bath. A welshman once remarked that taking a bath was one simplistic way to create a restful space to connect with God.
Benjamin Sternke says
I love the idea! I am always surprised at how willing my kids are to share their stuff with their friends, as in give it to them without ever thinking they’ll get it back. The “adult” in me wants to warn them about being wise, but I figure in the end I don’t want to throw water on the “sharing fire”.
I love your thoughts on hospitality, because it is one of the communal disciplines people can engage in together. When we have people over to our house, we try to engage our whole family in the discipline of hospitality, making our home a welcoming place. I am convinced that hospitality needs to return to the church as one of the primary things she is known for, actually.
Next week my Life Rhythm class will go through something called SacredSpace with our youth group. One of the elements of the worship/learning experience will be a room where we meditate on and practice inviting God into the mundane aspects of our lives. I think you’re right that a basic attitude of service is a huge key for missional living. The basic posture is “What can I do for you?” instead of “What can you do for me?”
Those Welshmen and their baths! I love the idea of giving away solitude, because my act of service helps you enter into solitude. I engage in serving, so I find spiritual benefit, and you engage in solitude, so you do as well. Everyone wins! That might be the heart of missional living, when it comes down to it. Nobody loses, because to give your life away in missional living is to find it.