Thursday, September 13, 2007

Missional Guinea Pig

In the midst of all the high-level discussion of being missional, the writing of books, and the advancing of ideas among church leaders and seminarians, I sift through a lot of information to find those who are breaking it down to the level where I live.

Personally, I sometimes feel like a case study in converting from traditional church attender to becoming a missional follower of Christ, a missional guinea pig, if you will.

In my case, we have a fairly mature believer, sincere relationship with the Lord, commitment to obedience, somewhat intelligent, and thoroughly trained in churchianity.

Then there was the damascus road experience, where the blinders came off, and I was introduced to the ideas of missional and incarnational living. Some of you might be able to relate to what an awkward transition this is.

As I sat in church Sunday, listening to the recount of the past year's ministry - 200 decisions, multiple baptisms, lives and families changed - I wondered about my fumbling attempts to live missionally.

I looked at my personal ineffectiveness and toyed with the temptation to let someone else do it, to attach myself to something delivering quantifiable results, to become involved to the point that I could take credit for some of the fruit. I mean really, why reinvent the wheel?

"Honey did you buy some cookies at the missionary bake sale?" Check.

"...and drop off those clothes at goodwill?" Check.

"Are we signed up for small group, women's bible study, men's accountability group, kid's in youth group, volunteering at Sunday school and the church clean-up day?"

Check, check, check.

Sometimes I consider this, but then I wonder if it would be backsliding.


Pastor Astor said...

I think the REAL question is: Could you? Ever?

Remember in John 6 where Jesus is talking about that the only way to life is drinking his blood and eating his flesh? In verse
66 it says that "many left him that day" (no wonder: he is talking to people who consider eating pork a sin, not mentioning ANYTHING containg blood about cannibalism- crowd pleaser!) Jesus turns to the disciples and asks if they will leave him too. Peter answers: Lord, to whom should we go; you have the word of eternal life. I don't think Peter said this to comfort Jesus (Buddy, we will stay even if you are a lousy preacher, I think he means it: Jesus, you disgusted me today! How can you say things like that? I don't agree and I don't understand, but if I left; where could I go? You have captured me. You have made me into this: A person who longs and yearns and can't stop trying and testing and being constantly in transition. I don't know anything any more and I would probably be a lot better off if I did, but how could I leave? Where could I go? Everything I know right now is that you have the word of eternal life, and I want it! You have branded my heart, there is no turning back.

Bob said...

How does one measure "personal ineffectiveness"? And who told you you rated high on that scale?

Erin said...

*Sigh*. Thanks Grace. I feel like a guinea pig these days too. I have no real idea what this is supposed to look's so confusing. I can't help feeling like "Why ME??? Why can't someone else do it?"

You can't know what this post means to me today.

carrie said...

it would be backsliding...does that help? You won't see your reward here on Earth my friend...our crowns wait in Heaven because God the Father sees what is done in secret and not shouted in the marketplace and He alone rewards us. Keep up the Good Fight....

Rick Meigs said...

Feeling like a guinea pig sure describe much of my journey over the years. That is why it is so refreshing to hear others describe the same thing. Doesn't feel so lonely.

Jeff Greathouse said...

Could it becasue God has call you, me and us ( those reading ) to such bigger and higher things.

We "check" those things off and they look good to the world and the church leaders ... but do they really make things better.

I think so many times that we constantly try to make the church better instead of transforming our communities.

I wish I knew how to communicate the turmoil going on inside me and what I feel be "missional" is and how we as individuals can live the life Christ wants us to.

So discouraged.

Rick Gibson said...

Get off the religious treadmill quick! :-)

Actually, I wonder how many of that decisions were due to being a friend or family member of someone, and how many were actually a product of that 'church's' evangelistic programs. Just something to think about.


Heather said...

Once you've been down that road, I'm not sure there is any going back. Nice thoughts of the easy life maybe, but to really go back? I don't know that it's possible. You've swallowed the red pill, girl. That means you're in Wonderland with the rest of us. Would you really want it any other way?

paul said...

Maybe God wants you to be a gerbil instead??? ;)

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Each thing you listed that you might become involved with are good in their own right, but together lay a foundation of a lifestyle that leaves little time for anyone outside of the small circle of people in the church. I think it is good to connect on some of these things (if only to be a missional influence to other Christians from within their own context) but take a care not to get sucked into the vortex.

As always, Grace, you seem to speak for us all more clearly than we might for ourselves. Thanks!


abmo said...

Hi Grace,

Please go and read this.

Also, if you read books. Abba's Child by Brennan Manning.

Personal ineffectiveness??? A missional guinea pig??? Nope. Those are doing-stuff. Church has more to do with "being" than "doing." You are a child of God. You are loved. Even when you do nothing - forever. God's character does not change.

I am going to leave you with a question. What is the difference between God's love and ours?

grace said...

pastor astor,
Thank you for your encouragement. It certainly isn't an easy or popular path, but it seems there is no turning back.

I confess to wallowing in my performance tendencies. ;)

The walk of obedience and dependence is twisty and rockier than the walk of performance which seems to always be smoothly paved before us.

I love a black and white answer. Thanks for the reminder concerning our true reward.

It does make it seem less lonely to know that others have felt this way too, especially when it seems that they have managed to figure things out and progress in the journey.

I was thinking about you and praying for you yesterday. I think that it is especially hard for people like yourself who have a vision bigger than church, yet find yourself in the difficult position of fulfilling that vision through traditional institutions.

While you read blogs of those who find themselves outside the system, it is important to remember that God is at work within the church still and that he will use people like yourself to bring transformation from within. But it will likely be difficult and discouraging.

Be sure to balance your blogreading to include ministers who share your missional heart and are establishing missional ministry within traditional congregations and denominations - Bob Hyatt, Dan Kimball, John Frye, Fr'nklin, Bob Roberts, and Rick McKinley to name a few.

You are right, I am still drawn to that religious treadmill at times.

Oh yeah, I forgot about that #*&^ red pill. Sometimes I wish I were "normal".

A gerbil? or perhaps a missional mouse. Maybe I'm thinking too big.

You're right. Those are all good things, but the sucking potential of the vortex is powerful.

A quiz? What if I get the answer wrong? :o I'm guessing that it has something to do with not being based on our worthiness.

I will read the article you've linked. I should also re-read Wayne's book He Loves Me. Wayne's writing is helpful for avoiding and eliminating the performance traps of religious thinking.

reneegrace said...

its odd, my husband and I have this same conversation. we are part of a church "doing it differently" - not for the sake of, but following what we believe is a God given vision... but how effective are we. And wasn't that the point? to be effective? but then, maybe the point is to just obey, follow Jesus, and stop measuring effectiveness based on our number system.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

grace said...

Thanks for sharing. I believe that when we begin "doing it differently", measuring our effectiveness will still be a subtle trap. As you said, the goal is obedience, period.