Before Christmas I wrote about the importance of incarnation to mission and I want to continue that thought and give some examples of how the concept of incarnational mission can shape our ministry.
Sometimes you may hear the phrase “ministry of presence”, and it usually refers to having a Christian person physically present in a certain sphere of human activity. I want to suggest that this is much too shallow and passive to be an effective model. Mission is about going out and incarnation is about going deep!
Much of the early debates in the early Church formed around the depths of the incarnation. Some advocated that Jesus’ ministry was only of a spiritual presence but thankfully the great thinkers and revered saints argued that the Incarnation was a deep; that Jesus was very God and very man. In this argument they, thankfully, prevailed. It is the very spirit of Jesus’ incarnation that we ‘do mission’. “As the Father sent me so I send you.”
I have discussed how the organized Church has isolated itself from the culture and now I want to say that a mere superficial presence is no antidote to our impotent isolationism! We need to be like the seed which has to find its way into the soil and there die. So yes we go out but we also go ‘deep’. This calls for real love without manipulation. We go out, in mission, and we love with the sole goal that people come to know that they are loved.
Several years ago a group of 12 of us decided to plant (embed ourselves) a church in Uptown Saint John. We called it Up Town and our initial goal was “To lift Jesus Up and to lift people Up”. Over the last number of years much has changed few of the original group remain but we have a dynamic and very messy church. Our vision statement now is “We are an honest accepting community of broken people, who are experiencing the Father’s love, finding wholeness in Jesus, and performing acts of kindness in the power of the Holy Spirit.” It is in the emphasis on kindness that we have found our mission. Right in our culture which is enmeshed in a variety of addictions and mental illness, we emphasize an incarnational mission. We are a modest little movement but we are a real church demonstrating the life changing power of the Gospel in our words and actions.
Sometimes, when I am with traditional church leaders I am embarrassed at the messiness of Up Town but this is fleeting because I would not trade with anyone. This missional incarnational community is making a difference in people’s lives, mine included. The emphasis on kindness and the expectation that this ministry belongs to each of us all week long, ensures that we remain embedded in the community. In weeks ahead I will, no doubt be telling you more about Up Town but Up Town is not the point incarnational mission is the point. We are responding to Jesus’ call to go out and His example of going deep