This vid is short and unpolished, but so far, is my favorite, because it’s spot on.
The idea is that Christians are called beyond the “gate” of their church subculture, and into the lives of outsiders on a regular basis. We are called to interact with them. A simple way to start this is by getting out of the house! (or church).
God’s instructions can’t always be systematized. But sometimes it helps to break things down in our minds so that we aren’t overwhelmed with the grandioseness of the mission. Here’s a way to start…
This “place” should be where the Christian is best able to cultivate their own identity as imagers of God.
First things first:
Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
There are two things we should be aware of before we ever go on mission…
Since we have been renewed into the likeness of Christ (Col. 3:10), we have now been given an uncanny ability to be immersed in a dark environment, while maintaining our identity as Christ-followers, i.e., lights shining in the darkness. So, for the Christian to be themselves is a tremendous call to be both an imager of God and an imitator of God in the world directly in front of us.
What’s difficult about this is that our sphere of influence may be our lame 9-to-5 job, our daily commute, our favorite coffee shop (where we love our privacy), our family, our irritating next door neighbor, our favorite hobby….
As a hardcore introvert, this is for me an olympic feat.
I’ve noticed five elements that are prevalent in these young adults who are cultivating a lifestyle of a Millennial on Mission…
Rather, these elements seem to happen all at once!
But wait, you say, “where is the ‘missional’ element in this series on Missional Millennials?”
For this reason, I sometimes refer to them as Missional Millennials.
Evangelism is the proclamation of good news! Why so dreary all the time?? Is it just me, or does the thought of “evangelism” sometimes provoke in us the imagery of a door-to-door salesmen, trying to sell a product he doesn’t want, to a stranger he doesn’t know? Perhaps if that’s the way you feel about the caricature of street-corner evangelism, you should try a different method of spreading our “good news.” May I suggest relational evangelism. It’s simple. You get to know people, you live life with them, you suffer with them, you party with them, and along the way, you teach them about Jesus. Of course, this takes quite a bit more investment than door-to-door sales, but it has a better return too. And Jesus rarely preached to people from a distance; he hung out with them, ate in their living rooms, and shared meals with them. Guess what…he often got to know them at parties. (gasp!)
In recent months, I’ve seen people who have been redeemed from many variations of oppression by the power of Jesus Christ. But I’ve also seen some of those same people fall away within less than a year, because they were not connected to the body of Christ in meaningful community.
Many of these people start their new life in Christ (identity) by leaving the old groups that are damaging them spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.
And a Christ-centered community must be more engaging to newer believers than their former one. Otherwise, when young men and women who are still maturing in their faith encounter a life situation they can’t handle, they will often fall back into their old social patterns, in order to fill the void of support and community that WE should have provided. I never use all caps, but this is begging for it…
EVANGELISM SHOULD NOT BE DONE IN ISOLATION OR IN A RUSH.
We get into trouble when we focus “discipleship” only on Christians, and only “evangelism” for the non-believer. The two become a sweet mixture, however. When you have an opportunity to bring an outsider into Christ-centered fellowship and celebration, you are beholding something beautiful: God’s expansion of God’s kingdom through God’s Church.
Britt Merrick once said, “God chooses to work alongside people, not independently of people.”
So what do you do??
You interrupt her sobbing, grab the emergency fire hose to your left, and begin spraying her feet. Because that’s what Jesus did.
No, that would be silly. Yet, the Bible says to wash feet as an act of service, and you want to serve this woman. After all, doesn’t every word of the Bible speak truth into our life? Yes. Paul said that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
The problem is not in the universal truth of Scripture, but in the practical application of it…you did not contextualize it!
True contextualization happens when there is a community which lives faithfully by the gospel and in that same costly identification with people in their real situations as we see in the earthly ministry of Jesus. – Lesslie Newbigin (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. 153-154)
To contextualize the gospel means that you communicate it in contemporary language, and live it out in such a way that is suitable to the society you are in. For example, we are told to make disciples of all the nations. But disciples in a first century Middle Eastern country will look a lot different than disciples in twenty first century Europe (though both may be grounded in the same timeless truth of the gospel). Churches looked different during the medieval period than they did in Rome during the fourth century. Worship may involve liturgy and solemn reflection in a traditional church on the East Coast of America, but it may involve dancing and chanting in a Tanzanian congregation, even though both worship Jesus Christ. Why? Because the same gospel is being expressed through different cultures. Now just as we should be careful to keep the beauty of foreign culture intact while we’re evangelizing, instead of assimilating them into ours, so we must also consider practice with our local neighborhoods and cities. Think about it…does your neighbor need to dress just like you to go to your church? No! Jesus never called people to change before coming to him, he simply called, and often went to them in the process.
Everything needs balance
Meeting people where they are at can sometimes be taken too far—as when the occasional college student ends up losing their integrity in order to be considered missional by the outside world—a common pitfall otherwise known as “over-contextualization.” Darrin Patrick writes,
Over-contextualization is when you view missional opportunities primarily through a cultural lens instead of a gospel lens. In this instance, I was more concerned with providing a cool, “unchurchy” environment than I was with making sure the environment didn’t reflect poorly on the gospel. (HT: Resurgence)
Let’s be clear. Parts of culture are good, and other parts are bad. It can be sticky business to stick ourselves into it. It’s even possible to stain ourselves in the process (Jam. 1:27). This tension begs another question…
Because we cannot escape culture, nor does God call us to do so. By definition, people create culture wherever there exists a social group. We must remember that as Christians, we are citizens of another world (Phi.3:20), but ambassadors in this one, and must live redemptively in culture without conforming to or separating from it. We are counter-cultural, living on mission in the midst of its brokenness, sent by God to interact with its beauty for the redemption of them both. This means we’ve got to speak the gospel in a way that those you are trying to reach will comprehend.
Human beings only exist as members of communities which share a common language, customs, ways of ordering economic and social life, ways of understanding and coping with their world. If the gospel is to be understood, if it is to be received as something which communicates truth about the real human situation, if it is, as we say, to “make sense,” it has to be communicated in the language of those to whom it is addressed and has to be clothed in symbols which are meaningful to them. – Newbigin (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. 141)
In other words, Christians live in culture, therefore “every interpretation of the gospel is embodied in some cultural form” (Ibid, 144). You have no choice. Even if you hide behind a rock in stubborn defiance, preaching against the ills of culture or anything that does not look exactly like you, you do so naively. Think about it… you go back to a culture of people that look like you, dress like you, act like you, and sound like you in a Christian subculture that no one can understand but you. And as long as you stay tucked away in it, you may fail to communicate the gospel to many people who are thirsty.
Going back to our story of the gal at Costco… Jesus washed people’s feet as a cultural practice which spoke volumes to all the people he wished to reach. Only slaves washed feet! So when Jesus (a rabbi) washed the feet of his followers, he was communicating servanthood to them. But if you wash people’s feet today, it can be pretty weird! Servanthood, not the ritual of washing, is the timeless principle that must be carried over cultural boundaries, languages, and practices. If you contextualized servanthood in the aisle five situation, you would probably just give the poor girl a ride to the hospital, or jump start her car.
When you contextualize the gospel, you do not change the timeless content of the gospel, you mold its communication and application so that the truth will reach their hearts unobstructed.
So if you begin shooting pool at the local billards once or twice a week with the same people, you will inevitably form a community around pool (I explain this process a bit more in depth here).
The Bible suggests that there is tremendous power in community (Acts 2:42-47). So why be satisfied with individual camaraderie when you can invite individuals into a community of kingdom-minded friends?
A few weeks ago, some people got saved and baptized at our annual lake trip because this was being lived out by normal young men and women. Why? Because common purpose is the mission field that brings people together. And these college students decided to step on the field and expand the Kingdom of God.
A hobby may become an excuse to socialize for most people, but millennials on mission choose not to underestimate the power of a shared purpose, and often make sure these hobbies lead to the raison d’être of all communities: knowing God together.
My mom used to say “You are what you eat,” as a euphemism for healthy nutrition. In other words, you become like what you digest. It’s not much different for making disciples and being discipled. You are who you hang around, and most communities gather around a common purpose. Something which both parties share a mutual interest in.
You will hang around people you have something deeply in common with—your social circles will revolve around the things that you adore. In a nutshell, you will be discipled in accordance to what you most value. Further, you will also influence others in the same sphere of shared desires. Take bowling, for example. If your identity is shaped by your desire to become the best bowler in the world, the practice of bowling will feed your obsession; you will go bowling all the time. You will also surround yourself around a natural community that gravitates towards the same passion, and in so doing will unavoidably become like them, as they become like you. Mutual discipleship. You are what you eat, and you eat bowling.
This can get really interesting for the Christian. We immediately have an open door of evangelism with many people based on shared interests.
We like to spend time with other Christians, and remove ourselves from the big bad world. In doing so, we disciple other Christians, and only influence them. Yet if you scan the New Testament, you will see that all people are disciples of something or someone, because we all have an inherent sense of identity, that leads us to seek out communities of worship centered around a common purpose. But dozens of people in your social stream are being naturally discipled by everyone else but you. If it’s true that God shares common grace on the wicked and the righteous alike, then shouldn’t we learn how to enjoy the finer things in life with the non-believer, if for no other reason, than for friendship?
It seems these days, the only time we will ever spend with a non-believer is for the split second it takes to convert them to Christianity. And even supposing that strategy works, they will convert to Christianity without any hope of godly discipleship. Oh but they will be discipled. The question is who?
The conversion lie.
This is our story.
We’ve discovered that our beliefs about ourself have a profound influence on how and what we worship. The power of the gospel can widen our capacity to worship God with relative ease, since the gospel—with its outlandish teachings of an alien validation wrought in Jesus—manhandles what we end up thinking about ourselves.
We exchange our identities for Christ’s. This is why I spent the first year of Adorn focusing on one section of our vision: Jesus must be our highest joy. It occurred to me that there was no real output (mission) in our first year of gathering, and I often fought with the pressure to create programs, outreach, and missional opportunities for this rambunctious group of millennials. But the God and time would prove my stress unfounded. After a year, a culture had developed where people’s identities were being transformed into the image of Jesus, and the outflow that resulted from inward change would yield far more motivation and opportunity than any program I could contrive or manufacture. Without warning, we had a gathering of young people who were ready to change the world, yet firmly grounded in the unchanging identity of Jesus. It wasn’t “callings” that I was supposed to dish out, but rather, a clear, direct route to the person and work of the mighty Son of God.
If we do not shape our identity around Jesus, we will quickly default, wrapping our individuality around what we can carry out because we are a generation that is driven to make a difference in the world.
Consider these two scenarios…
In the first scene, your passion determines your identity; in the following scene, your identity determines your passion. Since our identity forms our worship, we must be exceedingly careful not to develop our identity (who we are) around our calling (what we do). These things must stay separate! An identity formed in Christ will create the motivation to succeed, without the fear of failure. But an identity formed by calling will relegate worship from God’s performance to ours, and will set us up for heartache when we fail miserably to match his impossible standards in every way. This generation must understand that our primary goal in this season of life is not in figuring out what we are supposed to do, but who we are supposed to be.