MissionSHIFT – Part 1 ~ What WAS I thinkin’???

A month or so ago, I (along with a few dozen others) agreed to participate in an online book discussion of MissionSHIFT: Global Mission Issues in the Third Millennium, a collection of essays edited by David J. Hesslegrave and Ed Stetzer.  After reading the introduction, written by Ed Stetzer, you will find 3 essays:

ESSAY 1: “Mission” Defined and Described”   Charles Van Engen

An essay where Van Engen writes on “Mission in the Past” followed by 4 responses by Keith E. Eitel, Enoch Wan, Darrell L Guder, and Andreas J Kostenberger.

ESSAY 2: The Gospel in Human Contexts:  Changing Perceptions of Contextualization”   Paul G. Heibert

An essay where Heibert writes on “Mission in the Present” followed by 4 responses by Micheal Pocock, Darrell L. Whiteman, Norman L. Geisler, and Avery T. Willis Jr

ESSAY 3: The Future of Evangelicals in Mission”  Ralph D. Winter

An essay where Winter writes on “Mission in the Future” followed by 4 responses by Christopher R. Little, Mike Barnett, and J. Mark Terry

Each essay and its responses is also followed by a response by Ed Stetzer; and the book concludes with Chapter 20 – “CONCLUSION:  A Scientific Postscript – Grist for the Missiological Mills of the Future” written by David J. Hesselgrave.

After receiving the book in the mail and reading the first part of it, I immediately asked myself….WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS I THINKING?!?!?!?  I MUST TRULY HAVE LOST MY MIND! I have absolutely nothing to say…and in no way can I “hang” with these intellectual thinkers and writers!  This type of reading and reflection is certainly for the “heady” types, like my husband, Louis (with his 2 masters and 1 doctoral degrees).  Admittedly, I was tempted to ask Louis to craft a response, but I refrained!  I am not too embarrassed to say that I am not a “deep thinker”, but am quite frankly pretty simple.  Therefore, my response will be somewhat simple as well.  No big multi-syllable word.  Just me being me, feeling somewhat insecure and intimidated about it, but fulfilling my commitment to join the discussion, none-the-less.

So, with that disclaimer behind me, I will now provide my thoughts after spending some time in prayer about what I read.

I will lead with a question.  Why is there soooo much talk and discussion about “mission” and being “missional” yet we aren’t talking about the doing? I could easily end there, but feel compelled to expand the thought a bit more.  I am what most would say “new” to the “missional movement” discussion after attending 2 conferences (Verge and Exponential) and reading countless books, articles and blogs on the topic of church/gospel planting and missional communities.  I don’t believe that on this side of heaven we will ever agree on the “right definition” of Mission or the “right way” of doing it because we are human.  Those who walked with Jesus and talked with him directly and got the Word from the horse’s mouth (no disrespect intended!!!) didn’t get it right.  What makes us think we will get it right?

When my husband and I first met 3+ years ago, he talked about “organic” church, “simple” church, “emergent” church, etc.  I’m like “What are you talking about???”  It truly sounded like a foreign language to me.  In some cases, I still think that.  We can get so caught up in language and verbiage that we miss the point entirely.  I can boil it down to 3 words.  Do.The.Bible.  (As taught to me by one of my mentors, Don Coleman.) Do what the Bible calls us to do.  Do what the Spirit leads me to do in the way the Spirit leads me to do it…which may be different than what He leads another to do.  Do it prayerfully.  Do it in accountability with others.  Do it as a way of life individually and as THE church, not A church.

You see…I guess I was already being “missional” before “missional” became cool.  I just didn’t call it that, neither did anyone I know.  It’s the way that I live.  It’s the way I roll.  It’s what I do…every day.  And, I don’t understand why we have to come up with a name for it or dissect it.  I am being Jesus to those I interact with.  For me, that meant moving into a high crime, low income area just a half-mile from the largest project between Philly and Atlanta.  This was not an intentional decision on my part…to move in, be incarnational, and serve the “least of these”.  But, it was through the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Frankly, if I had known what God was calling me to do, I just might have fought against the move a bit harder.  For me, it was being in relationship with drug dealers, prostitutes, homeless, fatherless kids, single moms, and jobless while I was at home.  For me, it was being in relationship with the multi-millionaires with jobs, homes, spouses, kids, soccer games, etc. while at work.  Keeping my eyes and ears open for the “person of peace” I could share the love of Jesus…both at work and at home.  Don’t ruin it with titles, definitions, and explanations. On a side note…I’m trying to figure out what is next…due to job elimination, I faced the unemployment line starting 1.1.11.  So, I continue to follow the Spirit’s leading with people who I come in contact with.  Some…intentionally, after prayer.  Others…more by happenstance.  I call it obedience.  What would you call it?

So, I digress a little…back to the book and the discussion…

When Van Engen is asked about his definition of mission, on page 27 he writes…

I’ve been working on that for about 40 years now.  Thus far in my own search for a definition, I have arrived at the following tentative attempt: “God’s mission works primarily through Jesus Christ’s sending the people of God to intentionally cross barriers from church to nonchurch, faith to nonfaith, to proclaim by word and deed the coming of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ through the Church’s participation in God’s mission of reconciling people to God, to themselves, to one another and to the world and gathering them into the church, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit, with a view to the transformation of the world, as a sign of the coming of the kingdom in Jesus Christ.”

Now it’s your turn…

How would YOU define mission? Let me know your thoughts by commenting to this post.

For more thoughts on the topic, you can read some great stuff on Ed Stetzer’s Blog, specifically his 1.17.2011 post  Monday is for Missiology: Mission, Described and Defined: A Discussion around MissionSHIFT.  Be sure to read the comment section for others’ thoughts as well!