I’m slowly working my way through the Lord’s Prayer as a roadmap to missional living. Do you want to catch up? Here you go:
The next bit in the prayer is, “Our father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” You may be thinking, “What does that have to do with mission?”
First, mission is to be rooted in the identity of God. It is to be shaped by who he is. The driving values for mission are to reflect the nature of “our father.” As we step into mission we must ask, “Who is God? What are his values? What does it mean to serve his kingdom? If he were sitting here with us what would he be encouraging us to pursue?”
For entirely too long mission has been reflective of ourselves.
I will never forget reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. It was the first book that began to make me think about the reality that mission ought to be shaped by who God is and not by our cultural preferences. Taylor was one of the first Western missionaries to practice incarnation mission. He entered into the culture that he was seeking to serve. He dressed like the Chinese people he lived with. He wore the same hairstyle and facial hair. Taylor was not seeking to bring people to English-ism he was seeking to bring the gospel to the people. His mission was rooted in his understanding of the identity and nature of God.
Second, mission is to be embodied. This is rooted in the first. One of the things that I love about God is that he doesn’t wait for people to become “godly” to engage them. He enters into their lives and meets them where they are. This is becoming, for me, the single most important aspect of seeking to be on mission. The incarnation, God becoming man in Jesus, points us to the merciful, gracious, and loving identity of God. He didn’t stand far off, he entered in.
My favorite story about Jesus is quickly becoming his interaction with Thomas. Jesus could have written him off. Instead, he invited Thomas to touch and feel him. This is what embodying looks like. “Thomas, you doubt? That’s OK, touch my hands and my side.” Ah, I get choked up thinking about it.
Finally, I like the way that Eugene Peterson in the Message writes this verse,
“Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.”
I think this points us to one more bit about how this line ought to shape mission. Our mission really needs to be about revealing God to the world. I have seen much mission being about revealing ourselves. We make much about ourselves and what we can offer to the world.
Consider the phrase from the church planting world, “Launch Large!” This is a branding, marketing, and business approach that really works well. The new church creates a marketing campaign that is supposed to make a “buzz.” The buzz will bring people in to fill the auditorium. It’s all about making much of the new church and congregation. Usually these campaigns try to communicate how the new church is better than the other churches in town and how the particular can better meet needs than the other churches in town too.
I think that this approach is antithetical to what we ought to be about. We ought to be about revealing God as he is. Not seeking to make ourselves great and the center of the story.
What is churches sought to engage the world these ways? What if they first and foremost rooted their mission in the nature and identity of God? Then, they sought to embody that mission? Finally, their emphasis was on revealing the God in whom they rooted everything in in the first place? **I think what would happen is that we would see more gospel, greater love for the other, and healthier faith communities.
What do you think?
Originally published at write.as on February 5, 2019.