By Don Everts

Safe. Successful. Happy. Right?

Missional Christians

There is something incessantly, wonderfully bothersome about Jesus. This is perhaps what I love most about him. He's not content being my Savior, but also insists on being my Lord.

He's not content with the ways I have been marked by God's work in this world (forgiven, healed, clothed, embraced); he seems equally interested in me getting caught up and involved in God's work in this world (as a witness, a neighbor, an agent of his kingdom).

He wants me to be, in a word, missional.

If a Missional Christian is defined as a believer who is personally marked by and caught up in God's mission in this world, then indeed such a description ought to apply to every single member of God's church. But we have to be honest—this is not always the case.

We Christians often miss the mark by focusing too much on being safe, successful, or happy.

The Safe Christian

The Safe Christian is marked by God's mission in this world but is caught up in protecting himself from that world. Though I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, that's exactly what I was like. More than anything I wanted safety, space and healthy margins between this world and me.

Within my new faith I found a fair amount of justification for this posture: the world was full of temptations and sin and, well, worldly things. And as a Christian, I was to isolate myself from these negative influences.

In this way I took the wonderful gospel call to holiness as a license to retain my fearful posture toward this world and thereby walked through many days as a Safe Christian.

The Successful Christian

The Successful Christian is marked by God's mission in this world but is caught up in succeeding in this world. When Successful Christians look around them, they see competition, people to compare themselves to and opportunities for advancement. Though they might not admit it, many Successful Christians are preoccupied with climbing ladders.

Mind you, the pursuit of success can all be done in a very polite, Christian manner. We "give testimony" and share in public settings stories that allow us to brag about our own achievements or piety. We mask our love of money and stinginess under language about wanting to be "good stewards'' of what God has given us. In this way we may try to baptize our worldly, ego-driven lust for success, but there's no hiding the fact that some Christians' posture toward the world is singly focused on succeeding.

The Happy Christian

The Happy Christian is marked by God's mission in this world but is caught up in enjoying the pleasures of this world. When the Happy Christian looks around at this world, she sees a veritable amusement park. This world (especially for those with the means) is chock-full of rides and adventures and pleasures.

In a consumer culture, it is almost assumed that our primary (though perhaps unspoken) posture toward the world around us is as consumers. This is the default posture many people have toward the world when they become Christians. And this posture can, sadly, go unchanged. For the Christian who is so inclined, there are plenty of Christian stores, Christian novels and Christian movies for them to enjoy.

And at times our churches don't challenge this posture, but rather pander to it, treating us primarily as the entitled consumers we act like. At times it's enough to make a Christian think that a Happy Christian is the most normal kind of Christian in the world to be.

Don't Send Me to Africa

Every Christian is marked by God's mission in this world. But not every Christian is caught up in that same mission. Jesus continues to invite his followers to wake up from the slumber of their safety, success and hedonism, and breathe in the brisk air of his gospel call.

Of course getting caught up in God's mission in this world is not something that happens all at once, but it is something that can and should happen to every Christian. Every Christian is called to partner with God in his work. No Christian is meant to be a bystander. And here's the really good news. Every Christian can become more missional over time. In fact, this is something Jesus is wonderfully insistent about.

I know from personal experience.

Becoming more missional has been a wonderful process, but I must admit I have spent a fair amount of time fighting against it. I spent most of my life rather allergic to the idea of being a missionary.

Don't get me wrong; I have always admired missionaries from a distance, but they have always seemed to be such a very different species of Christian: rugged, strong, khaki-wearing adventurers who endure great physical deprivation (and a fair amount of social ridicule) for the sake of God's mission in this world.

Missionaries, I've always figured, are like God's Special Forces. And little old me? I've just never felt like Special Forces material. I feel very different from the exotic vocational Christian referred to with that sacred noun: missionary.

That noun just puts the bar too high for me. And so I've been tempted to see mission as a thing for others. Mission is about them. Mission is over there.

Mission is about them, there, then. Not me, here and now.

So I assumed. And yet, over time, an inexorable change has been taking place inside me. Month by month, Scripture passage by Scripture passage, risk by risk, one small decision at a time, I find myself getting more caught up in God's mission in this world.

And it turns out, God’s mission in this world is wider and deeper and, at once, more breathtaking and more humbling than I had ever imagined.

 

Taken from Go and Do by Don Everts. Copyright (c) 2012 by Don Everts. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

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