In the last several years, there has been a term that has become very popular, in describing certain types of churches. When describing the church as a church that is not limited by culture, or limited by denominational categories, a church that believes and lives as if the gospel is central and is proclaimed and activated with the message it speaks, the service it gives to those who are lost, and the accountable community it forms, is usually called a missional church.
I am proud that Emmaus is a missional church; however the term we often times get lost in, is ‘church.’ We, usually think as church solely on the level as our corporate gathering, what we do in the building, but the church is much more than that. True, it is the gathered family of God, but it is also the scattered living of that family. So, in order for a community of faith to be missional, the people must be missional people – period. So for the next several weeks I am going to post blogs on the characteristics of a missional person, or better stated, a person on mission.
To get started, a missional person is a person whose life is centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, they understand the centrality of the Gospel in philosophy, message, and life.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Everyone was or is lost, because God has placed a void in them that nothing can fill except God himself. God has created us with a longing that cannot be met, cannot be filled, except through and by him.
Unfortunately we live in a culture that is fixated on filling this void. We see it more and more on the news, in the malls, on the runway, in reality shows, pregnancy rates, divorce rates, steroid scandals, etc, etc. We have been created with a desire to fill this void, however this specific void is to only be filled by God.
The truth is, athletic ability cannot fill it, because it doesn’t last for eternity, it is never enough, once we hit a wall, we begin to take enhancement drugs to make our selves better, because we realize no matter how good we are, it is not enough, we are not satisfied.
In a society that has made beauty its new idol, we enhance every part of our body, fill other parts with saline, botox, fat, and spend relentless hours at the spa and gym only to find out, we get old, our bodies decay and the reality that beauty cannot fill the void.
All you have to do is promise someone that if they do something they will get rich, it is the driving force of humanity. We see it all the time as people get on T.V. to act ridiculous and sacrifice their dignity to win some cash; we see people on movies throw all morality to the wind to earn a lot of money; in fact we, in the church, have found that this is so attractive that we sell it as well, all in the name of getting them in the door, but when Jesus is just the means to the end, we are still left wanting.
How about our fascination with intellectual pursuit, in fact we have a mental caste system, in which your value in life is based on your educational level. We do this in the church as well. Many of us are not even considered ‘real’ ministers if we don’t have a seminary degree, I’m not sure where one can back that up with scripture, but apparently in their studies, they have figured it out, I guess the bible is right, knowledge really can fill someone with pride.
What about sex, this, out of all the elements I’ve mentioned is supposed to be the pinnacle of fulfillment, well, until we have only had sex with one spouse for about 5 years, then the fulfillment fades, so we need to go get it else where, and the truth is if it is the pinnacle of fulfillment why the heck can Cosmo write an article on the 150 ways to fulfill your man, and people thought Christianity was confusing.
Now here what I am saying, not what I’m not saying. I believe in education, I read more than most people I know, I am currently in school, and push people to educate themselves. I love athletics, in fact I belong to a gym and go regularly, and am getting ready to go to jiu jitsu tonight. I believe in financial security, and actually believe that it is the very nature of God that we learn to manage our money well and not be in debt, along with creating a nest egg that may help your family in the future. Sex, forget-about-it…I don’t’ even need to go there. But here is the deal, not one of the elements that I have in my personal life, can truly satisfy, they always leave me wanting more, and if this is what the Bible says, and it is found true in your life, and in the lives of those around you, and we see it everyday on the news, then why do these remain the height of our pursuit. Why do we long for these more than the Holy spirit? Why do we long to know these more than we know the gospel? Why do these shape our lives more than the gospel? Why do these dictate where we live, how we live, what we buy, how we spend, who we like instead of the gospel?
When we know that nothing around us is truly fulfilling, why are we so selfish that we don’t live out, speak out, and act out the gospel to those around us? Why so often do people know about our educational background, our sex lives, our fitness routine, long before they know about the gospel that set us free?
We must realize when we look into the eyes of our friends, co-workers, children, and those we run into on a daily basis that nobody will get rid of this aching, though they can numb it, they can’t get rid of it. The Gospel is that Christ absorbed the wrath of God so that we can get beyond an unfulfilled life to a place of contentment, peace, joy, hope realized, and fulfillment, to be with him always and the ONLY pathway to this reality is the Gospel
The Gospel must be the shaping thing of all we do. If we don’t have that first, if we don’t eat it, drink it, live it, and if we don’t get that and if we don’t preoccupy our lives, minds, and thoughts with it, then we will leave it behind when we engage the world. And people will know a lot of things about us, but they will never know the only thing that really maters, and that is the very Gospel that changed our lives, is the very gospel that can change their.
One more point. There is this rise in 12 step programs, self-help programs, self-improvement programs, success for tomorrow programs, creating a better-tomorrow programs, recovery programs, and what saddens me the most is that these programs attract those who are lost much more than the Gospel. In fact, why are Christians being invited to all these programs by non-Christ followers, is it because the ‘gospel’ that has supposedly been activated in our lives is nothing more than religion and a name-tag? Forgive me for being naive, but if the Gospel really is the power of God to heal, to make whole, to freedom, to hope realized, to truth activated, then why in the world isn’t the world asking to have what we have, versus inviting us to what they have? How can they look at their lives and then look at ours, and see us as having less hope, less joy, less life, less satisfaction than they do? Maybe it is because we don’t have the gospel either! Maybe we have bought into the form of lifeless religion? Maybe it is time that we as individuals become centered on the gospel so much that we breathe it, eat, teach it, live it, and know it! So that it becomes life in and through us, so that those around us, will crave it!