Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vol 2:35 The Soul of God: God Includes Us in God’s Missional Purpose

Over the next few weeks I will be exploring insights I have gained from reading Ray Anderson’s theological memoir, entitled, The Soul of God.  Ray Anderson, though I was never able to share it with him personally, had a tremendous influence in my life – he has shaped much of my understanding and engagement of pastoral ministry.  If you have not discovered his writing, I invite you to do so – particularly challenging is his, The Shape of Practical Theology – which is my estimation is a must read for every person desiring to serve in a pastoral role. 

In the first chapter of The Soul of God, Ray Anderson gives voice to his responding to God’s invitation to enter into pastoral ministry.  He draws on an example of how his father talked with him about involving him in ministry efforts while growing up – “Tomorrow, we will go to those who are like sheep without a shepherd and bring them to a safe place” (p. 17) – to describe how he sensed God’s call upon his life.

This “we” language of his dad’s, Anderson describes as “his language of love” (p. 14).  His dad was intensely relational and he would often speak in terms of “we” “when speaking of his life and tasks including [Ray] as a participant.  ‘We will plant corn in this field next year’” (p. 14).  Anderson expresses that this “we” enabled him to realize that in his father’s eyes he “was not just a boy who carried his [father’s] lunch, but a partner in the family enterprise” (p. 14). 

When Ray Anderson responded to God’s call upon his life, he came to realize that he was being included in the “we of God.”  The “‘we of God’ reached out and included me” (p. 17).  My notes in the margin express that this is what makes our callings intensely missional.

The “we of God” describes the perichoretic or relational understanding of Trinity.  God is in three persons, but not in a static hierarchical relationship – rather God is involved in a divine dance – which is what Eugene Peterson describes as what is being expressed by perichoresis (cf. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, pp. 44, 344 n15) in which “the divine modes of existence condition and permeate one another mutually with such perfection, that one is as invariably in the other two as the other two are in the one” (Peterson, p. 44, citing Karl Barth in Church Dogmatics 1/1, 425).

God is a “we” as much as God is “I AM.”  And when God calls us to participate with God in the mission and ministry of God, we are invited into the “we” of God, invited into the “dance” of God.  God reaches out and includes us in what God is doing in the world – we are integrally involved with God in God’s redemptive mission of reconciling humanity to God through Jesus Christ and restoring creation. 

Ministry or mission is not a solitary venture, but inherently a deep participation with God and the purposes of God in the world.  As Jesus promised his disciples, and us as well in Matthew 28, “I am with you always to the very end of the age.”  We are included in the “we of God” as we respond to God’s invitation to participate with God in God’s mission!  I cannot think of any better way of being human making a difference in our broken and alienated world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Missional Matters Now Integrated with www.iMissional.org

Thanks to a friend of mine, all of my missional related online materials are now integrated into one web presence. My blog Missional Matters is now integrated with online resource material found on my web site - www.imissional.org - where one can also find numerous missional-focused articles under A Missional Reader.  

So to keep following this weekly blog, you can directly connect to the Missional Matters page by linking to:  http://imissional.org/blog/missional-matters/ 

Thanks for reading - feel free to comment as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vol 2:33 Mission and Evangelism: Living Life through “Gospel Filters”

Ben Campbell Johnson in Speaking of God: Evangelism as Initial Spiritual Guidance expresses the process of discernment as listening through “gospel filters” (cf. p. 121). 

I would like to take that a step further by asking the question as to how we live our lives through “gospel filters.”  This is not a way of seeing through “rosy tinted glasses” which causes us to see what we want to see, but seeing and living life through “gospel filters” is about living and doing life, all of life, in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Reign of God.

This is a way of engaging life, engaging whomever we meet, through the eyes of Jesus.  How does Jesus look at, respond to what is going on in our lives, the relationships we have, the encounters we make, if he were living our lives.  In fact, as we confess that our life is hidden in Christ, that we have been baptized not only into his death, but also his resurrection, we can confess that Jesus is living our lives – or we are living Jesus’ life.  I am the first to admit that my life looks more like my own, my agendas, my passions, etc., but as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I commit myself each day to live my life rooted and grounded in Jesus – so that he might live in me and through me.

And in light of that confession, I realize that it is my desire to live my life through the eyes of Christ – through “gospel filters.” 

Campbell-Johnson gives voice to this by alluding to the “I am” sayings of Jesus and seeing the life we live through the gospel filter of these “I am” declarations (cf. pp. 123-127).  These statements by Jesus are: I am the bread of life (John 6:35); I am the light of the world (John 8:12); I am the door of the sheep (John 10: 7); I am the Good Shepherd (John 10: 11); I am the vine (John 15: 5); I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6); and one he misses, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

So, for example, Campbell-Johnson states in relation to Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” that this “points to the nature of God as the one who nurtures and sustains us” (p. 123).  Or, in relation to Jesus’ “I am the light of the world” that this points to Christ as the one who “enables persons to understand the meaning of their lives and illumines the direction for them to take” (p. 124).

To live out lives with “gospel filters” means to immerse ourselves in Jesus Christ – to live into the way he sees the world, the way he regards people, the way he engages situations.  In essence, it is to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world, in the same way Jesus lived and ministered in light of God’s redemptive mission in the world.

This is not a mere adding of religion to our lives, it is rooting our whole being in the life of Jesus Christ – for us to more than become like him, for us to be shaped by him so that all our living grows (because we are developing into Christ-likeness) in being an expression of the gospel of God’s reign being lived out in the ordinary daily routines of our lives.

To live our lives with “gospel filters” means that we need to immerse ourselves in the Gospels, in God’s Story so that our minds and lives are transformed by the Spirit – so that we grow in seeing all of life through the Gospel – and more, living our lives through the Gospel.

May we encourage each other to live our lives through “Gospel filters.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vol 2: 32 Mission and Evangelism: Open to Seeing What God is Doing in Us

Ongoing reflections relating to Ben Campbell Johnson’s Speaking of God: Evangelism as Initial Spiritual Guidance, which focuses on reframing evangelism within a missional perspective.
We have been exploring what it means to reframe evangelism as a conversation involving giving initial spiritual guidance or direction to people with whom the Spirit connects us.  Yet, I realize that I often am more quickly ready to provide spiritual guidance to others than receiving spiritual guidance in my own life.  To be missional in evangelism, we need to be ones who are also open to have others name the way God is active within our lives. 

A missional approach to evangelism involves learning to hear what God is doing in our lives.

Spiritual conversation is a two-way street – it is not only about our talking with others, or actively listening to what is going on in others (see last week’s post); it also involves being open to listen to what God is doing in us.

How do we expect to be aware and sensitive to how God is at work in others if we are not aware and sensitive to how God is active in us?  In sharing or naming where God is active in others, the conversation will inevitably turn to others asking how God is active in us.  Will we be able to respond?

Engaging in evangelism through a missional perspective is not only about “doing evangelism” as if it is a task in which we “do something” in the presence of others, no, it is about being open to the good news of God in our lives as well – or perhaps first and foremost: transforming us, shaping us, challenging us, empowering and equipping us, sending us to participate with God in God’s mission. 

Our lives are a laboratory for exploring how God is active in the world – we discover God active as God is active in us.  In naming or giving words to God’s activity in us, we begin to share our story that is being shaped by God’s Story.  God’s Story gives us a vocabulary, a framework for shaping our story.  We find the Exodus event describing desert wanderings in our own lives in which we discover God, disobey God, and rediscover God.  The parable of the Prodigal, gives words and meaning to the times we run from God in our lives.  Reading the psalms gives prayers and praises to times of despair and rejoicing in our lives.

As we learn to listen, see, hear what God is doing in us – as we learn to share this story of God’s Story in our lives, we become persons who become more adept to seeing, hearing, noticing how God is at work in the lives of others with whom we live among day to day.

Listening, being aware of God being active in us, is not an act of selfishness, but rather an act of awareness that equips and enables us to be aware and help others be aware of how God is active in them.

Missional evangelism then is a communal activity – requiring our being open to God’s activity in us, as we seek to be aware and lead others to be open to God’s activity in them.  This is how we walk together opening up our lives to the re-creating and re-storying activity of God in our lives and in the world.

May we develop our awareness of God working in us – to give us eyes to see and ears to hear God at work in the all of humanity.