Missional and Incarnational

All of our work for Christ should be both missional– declaring the gospel– and incarnational– living and working among the lowest. We do this as people who are of the ministry OF Jesus, as well as working FOR Jesus.

Are we really following Jesus if we do not proclaim His kingdom, as he commanded us? Are we really following Jesus unless we are serving the lowest among us, as he commanded us? Are we really following Jesus unless we are living out the example he gave for us to live among the lowest, to serve them and to share the gospel?

Check out the Micah Declaration for Integral Mission:

http://www.micahchallenge.org/english/think/aim1/declaration/

Steve K

Comments (14)

  1. somasoul

    I agree that work should be missional. Last night I watched a reality TV program featuring a female quaker pastor who was more interested in feminism than Christ. Odd.

    Liiving and working among the lowest? I don’t know if I agree. Who would preach the gospel to Hollywood’s elite? Or on Wall Street? As one who lives in an urban area, and feels called to an urban, I don’t feel that all of us need be here. With that said too many of us Christians retreat (and I use it in it’s military sense) to the suburbs where we can not be bothered with the addicts, prostitutes, and hopeless.

    Sad.

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  2. Corinna

    It took me quite a number of years to expand my understanding of ministry in Christ’s name to include ministry to the richest. I get pretty excited about facilitating learning and transformation for those with priveledge, wealth and power so that they can influence the world with their understanding of poverty and injustice and with their newly found worldviews of service and peace. Christ has transformation in mind for the rich who’s handicap is their slavery to comfort.

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  3. Sean F

    Somasoul,

    It’s interesting that in the Gospels, Jesus consistently reaches out to the poor and marginalized, not the rich and powerful. When he is approached by them, he says things like “Go and sell all you have and give it to the poor,” and “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom.”

    That doesn’t mean rich people are screwed, but the point of Missional/Incarnational Gospeling seems to me that you can’t separate the message from its social implications. If part of what you mean by “preaching the gospel” to Hollywood and/or Wall Street is calling them to give up their way of life and join Jesus in serving a hurting world, then I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    What I like so much about the Micah declaration is that it links being and doing so well. “Are you a Christian/follower of Jesus?” seems to me to miss the point; “Are you following Jesus?” is a much better question. If we’re not following Jesus, it doesn’t seem to make sense to say that we’re Christians at all.

    On your Quaker feminist: if she believes that she is serving Christ by challenging a patriarchal society, I think she’s doing a wonderful job of focusing on Christ. Remember, Christ equates serving people in need with serving him (Matt 25).

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  4. somasoul

    Jesus is a teacher who tells us to sell all and follow him. But he also didn’t question Nicodemus’ authority or the centurian’s situation. Jesus didn’t knock those men of power.

    The rich and powerful should use their resources in a Christ like way. The message of Christ demands the rich to, if not sell all their material wealth, to at least use it for God’s glory.

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  5. Sean F

    Arguing from Jesus’ silence to Nicodemus or the centurion isn’t convincing to me, especially when the burden of proof seems to lie with you. In several places, Jesus talks about voluntary poverty and service to the poor, but nowhere does he endorse Roman military power or the oppressive rule of the religious leaders. Matt. 20:25-28 seems to explicitly point to a surrendering of power as inherent in obedience to Jesus, and there are several passages relating to giving up possessions.

    A more interesting point you could have brought up is John the Baptist’s conversation with some soldiers in Luke 3, in which he tells them, “do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” Of course, this is pre-Messiah, and John seems to have misunderstood the exact nature of Jesus’ advent (Matt 11), so I would say those statements are probably not binding, but an argument might be made here.

    It’s also worth remembering that since Herod’s sons were ruling Judea with Pilate supervising, the “rulers of the people,” which included the Pharisees, didn’t even have political power. Their authority was related to religious matters exclusively. The Pharisees in particular, as the precursors to the rabbis of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, were much more focused on interpretation of the law than they were on wielding power.

    A good reason that Jesus may not have addressed the centurion’s vocation is that the centurion wasn’t a Jew. As a Gentile, the centurion was outside of the realm of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matt 15:24, etc). Telling a Roman soldier to give up his livelihood probably would have sped up Jesus’ execution as well.

    I hope I’m not coming across as argumentative or preachy. I enjoy these conversations, even more so when I disagree with someone. Makes things more interesting.

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  6. SteveK (Post author)

    Some quotes from Viv Grigg, a New Zealander who lived among the poorest of the poor in Manilla for more than a decade:

    “The church has given bread to the poor and has kept the bread of life for the middle class” — Viv Grigg, Cry of the Urban Poor (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 1992, 12).

    “As mission leaders, we have failed to foresee both the immensity of urban growth and the fact that most of the urban growth would be in squatter areas. The opportunity to save the cites from many traumas associated with this development, as well as the opportunity to establish a church in every squatter area that has formed, have been lost almost entirely” — (Viv Grigg, Cry of the Urban Poor (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 1992, 14).

    “Some missions have made a deliberate attempt to reach the rich, believing in a sort of religious ‘trickle-down’ theory. ‘Trickle-down’ works no more in he kingdom than it does in the economic realm. This strategic mistatkes lacks support both in biblical exegesis and in sociological analysis. . . . The gospel ‘trickles up’.” — (Viv Grigg, Cry of the Urban Poor (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 1992, 14).

    “A church trapped by cultural perspectives on affluence rather than adopting the biblical stance of opposition to the ‘god of mammon’ has exported this into missions. We must return to the pattern of Jesus, who chose non-destitute poverty as a way of life, took the time to learn language and culture, and refused to be a welfare agency king. . . . Non-destitute poverty and simplicity must again become focal in mission strategy.” — (Viv Grigg, Cry of the Urban Poor (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 1992, 15).

    “The propensity for the Western church to accept the agenda of aid organizations as focal to the Great Commission has seriously skewed mission. Mission to the middle class is seen as proclamation. To the poor it has become giving handouts or assisting in development as defined by Christianized humanitarian perspectives. It is far easier for churches to give thousands of dollars than to find one of their members who will walk into the slums for a decade.” — (Viv Grigg, Cry of the Urban Poor (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 1992, 16).

    For more quotes about mission and incarnation, check out this site:

    http://missiology.org/missionsquotes.htm

    Steve K

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  7. SteveK (Post author)

    Presenting the gospel is living with, not speaking to. Not giving from a distance. We already have lived with the middle class and upper class. There are many who incarnate Christ among them, as poorly as they do it. Who will choose, then, to incarnate Christ to the poor? Who will give up their comfortable existance to live where no one would choose to live, as Jesus did?

    Obviously, I don’t mind being a little preachy.

    Steve K

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  8. somasoul

    If everyone in the world sold all their goods and followed Christ the world would starve to death.
    –me

    We need those with money to support our ministries to the poor. That too is Christ-like giving.

    I live in a poor urban area. We can’t all be poor. We need the rich. To invest in medicines, build homes, and inovate technologies. The poor lack such resources, that’s why they are……..uh……..poor.

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  9. Sean F

    Soma,

    I think maybe we do agree, but we’ve been talking past each other. I could be wrong, of course, so feel free to disagree again, but let me clarify what I mean.

    I’m not necessarily advocating everyone quitting their jobs and giving themselves to full time service to the poor (although we certainly need more people to do that). I think business, medicine, art, etc. are legitimate pursuits, so long as they are pursued lovingly and with a loving purpose. If the products that we buy and sell are causing suffering in other places in the world, then I think we should stop buying and selling them. If the cars we drive and the food we eat are destroying the environment, I think we should stop driving and eating those things. The way we live needs to be just and sustainable. It’s your lifestyle and your attitude, not the size of your paycheck, that counts. Based on other posts you’ve made, I think you agree with all of this.

    I think the model we should probably be striving towards is the early church. There were rich and powerful Christians in the early church, but what we find is that they were sharing all of their extra money (sometimes even more than they could give when there was a need) with anyone who had a need.

    I don’t think living simply is enough, though. Elsewhere, you’ve talked about Christians who “hide in their suburban villages” instead of engaging with the people that they’re afraid of. This insulation of Christians from those they’re called to serve is exactly what I’m talking about. If we don’t know any poor people, how are we ever going to be able or willing to love them? This is what I mean by serving “among” the poor. It doesn’t mean everyone does full time “ministry” as a career, but it does mean that we devote our lives to serving those in need, whether we do that working as a doctor or a pastor or driving a garbage truck. For a lot of Christians, I do think that means moving out of the suburbs, though.

    One final note: rich people do suffer, as Corinna pointed out. Their “handicap is their slavery to comfort.” It seems to me like the best cure for that is calling them to sacrificial service to others. While that doesn’t necessarily mean a change of career, it always means a change of lifestyle. That may be the most loving thing you can do to a rich person: tell them to get rid of their stuff and learn to love other people.

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  10. somasoul

    Then we agree. I think in these forums it’s easy to make it appear that your stance is that of a hardliner, one way or the other.

    Not to toot my own horn but I own a car that costs me $430 a month but have given it to a single mother in my neighborhood who has two kids and doesn’t work. Should we all become poor beggars wandering the land like Christ this sort of charity couldn’t happen anywhere.

    The wealthy Christian gains wealth to serve, not to be served.

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  11. Sean F

    Glad to hear we agree. I think the reason I come across as a hardliner in this particular area is that people use that reasoning (wealthy Christians gain wealth to serve) to justify making lots of money and then end up buying a really nice house with a couple of cars and a pool. Hey, they earned it, right? Then they write a check to a homeless shelter every month and think they’ve fulfilled their obligation to love their neighbor. Or maybe they don’t end up giving anything, since the more money they make, the more expensive their lifestyle gets, and suddenly even supporting their local church becomes a burden. I think in the context of the American church where this happens so often, Jesus’ call to “non-destitute poverty” needs to be heard more often. Getting past charity to actually sacrificially involving ourselves with the people we’re serving is at the heart of living out the Gospel.

    Okay, I’m done. Just a note: your website link is broken, because it’s missing an “a”.

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  12. SteveK (Post author)

    I agree as well. The wealthy Christian doesn’t need to surrender the SOURCE of their wealth, only the outcome of it. In other words, one can be wealthy, have a large income, but, according to Jesus, they are not to live the lifestyle of the wealthy. The kind of wealthy person Jesus says has a hard time getting into the kingdom of heaven is specifically the one who has many possessions. Having money to give away isn’t the problem. Having a bunch of stuff as your security IS the problem, whether rich or poor.

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  13. SteveK (Post author)

    I want to put Jesus’ words on here, so we’ve got it to look at:

    According to Jesus, his disciples are to be poor,
    ”Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 6:20)
    And his disciples are not to be rich,
    “Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” (Luke 6:24)
    But are to surrender all their possessions,
    “Whoever does not surrender up all of their possessions cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33)
    But his disciples are to give the gospel to all people,
    “Preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:14)
    And to teach the rich to give to the poor,
    “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33)
    “Teach those who are wealthy in this world’s goods to… be generous” (I Timothy 6)

    Thus, according to the New Testament, we are to incarnate to the poor, but speak the gospel to the rich. And part of that gospel is for the rich to surrender their possessions to the poor.

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  14. somasoul

    I think that’s fair. I don’t think we should preach to the poor at the expense of the rich or middle or middle class. But this is probably a long ways off from happening. Most white churches in Baltimore are outside the Beltway, thus safely located in the suburbs. Anything white churches do inside the city is often called a “ministry” and is seen as lesser than those churches located in nicer, more affluent neighborhoods.

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