This Friday is for Friends post is from our long-time blog friend, “T,” the one who once won a contest on this blog in which we gave away a pair of crocs. T, you still wearing them? By the way, we are always looking for more submissions for our Friday is for Friends slot. I get lots of notes from folks who appreciate this open forum for our readers.
with John Wimber and/or the Vineyard will know what
“Doin’ the stuff” refers to. And if you want a
good intro to ‘missional’ thinking, go here or here.
But what does “missional” have to do with “doin’ the stuff”
that Jesus was known for? Towards that question I want to throw a few
ideas for folks in both camps to think about, because I think that the
missional movement and doin’ the stuff could be a match made in heaven–and
earth. It’s also why I have Wimber’s Prayer Model as a tab on this blog,
because I think routinely praying for people who are sick, both with the
compassion of Jesus and the power and insight of the Spirit, is a pretty
missional habit to pick up.
T asks this question of us: Is being “missional” much easier to say than to do? And what do we really mean when we say we are being “missional” like Jesus?
Some specific thoughts:
- Much is made in missional circles
about incarnating Christ, about being Christ, imitating him, right
where we are. Amen to that! It is difficult to talk honestly,
though, absent some thick protective theological/western glasses
on, about incarnating the Jesus of the NT, about being sent by Jesus as
Jesus was sent by the Father, without talking–a lot–about healing the
sick, casting out demons and having prophetic insights as we announce his
reign–wherever we are. As Wimber’s doin-the-stuff story makes
painfully clear, only someone with theological training and/or church
experience would read the NT and think Jesus’ disciples don’t do
that kind of stuff as they embody and announce him to others.
- Do we
in the missional movement really want to try to embody Christ to
the broken people of the world, say we’re his apprentices, and
announce that he is Lord above all powers without the kind of actions that pretty much defined Jesus’
own ministry and signaled the power and character of his reign?
- As much as the Vineyard become
famous/infamous for some amazing ‘stuff’ that God would do through
seemingly anyone in their meetings, the meetings weren’t Wimber’s focus.
He was disappointed that the Vineyard Movement, in his words, ’never
became the evangelistic movement that [he] hoped’ for. Ironically,
those in the missional movement now are motivated by the same desire
Wimber had to bring Jesus to ‘the streets’, to everyday life and
relationships, not just ‘the meetings.’
- Many folks have rightly pointed out
the similarities the missional movement has with Anabaptists. Well, if it makes anyone feel any
were doin’ this stuff in spades at their inception, but eventually
stopped, which is a surprisingly common tale for western denominations as
the Enlightenment and natural human tendencies took hold.
- Another valuable and obvious strand
within the ‘missional’ movement is the conviction that the Church in
the West needs to take the stance or mentality of missionaries
within a post-Christian/pagan/secular culture. Again, amen to
that. If we analyze, though, not only Jesus’ own actions as he
pursued God’s mission, but also the initial missionaries that he sent out,
we are again confronted with the role that healing, demonic expulsion and
the prophetic gifts have in that work. Indeed, even in today’s
world, such activity is more common in missionary work than in established
- Another mark of the missional
movement is the shift in thinking about the gospel toward the proclamation
of Jesus’ reign or lordship, over all other powers, about the dawning of
the new age amidst the old through the cross and resurrection. Dave Fitch has
argued with many others that in response to this gospel that
missional orders must take on practices of resistance (to the judged but
operating powers) and practices of engagement that reveal and
embody the purposes of the reign of God. Again, can we faithfully
talk about either–as Jesus’ disciples–without talking about
healing and demonic expulsion?
- One of the ‘powers’ that the
missional movement has rightfully identified for resistance is the
Gnosticism that continues to try to drive a wedge between the Church’s
work and ministry and the good of the physical world. Another amen!
(and I really mean it!) Nowhere is the western Church more Gnostic,
though, than its discomfort with the practice of divine healing of
the body. In common western theology, the human body gets thrown in
the same disdainful category as the rest of creation–good for
nothing but the fire that’s a ‘comin. Is that what we believe God’s
posture is to the physical body and the rest of the physical creation? No. God wants to heal both.
- Many folks in the missional camp are
extremely offended by the ‘big-show/big-star-religion’ that seems to
plague the only (modern) ’healing ministries’ they’ve ever
seen. Ditto. But as Todd Hunter has said, the answer to
wrong-use isn’t no-use, it’s right-use. Missional churches have
recognized, as have many in the Christian tradition, that power of any
kind can be corruptive to one’s soul. Unfortunately, being used as a vehicle of God’s power
to heal or expel demons, for instance, is no different.
Missional churches, while just as human as any, because of their awareness
of and intentional practices against being corrupted by various
kinds of power that we must use in our lives and mission, are in a
position to minimize corruption as they still actively seek God’s
power to help others, rather than take a practical ‘vow’ against it in
Now, I’m not
saying that healing and expelling demons is all there is or should be to a
missional church, regardless of how much it marked Jesus’ life. On the
contrary, I wholeheartedly believe that we still must pursue love as our
highest goal, and that other practices towards those ends must be
primary. We must become different as a matter of character, for the sake
of God and others, first and foremost. But just as we in the missional
movement are seeking to reclaim those aspects of Jesus’ teachings that have
been too often avoided in the West, especially regarding money, community and
discipleship, we must also ask if we are doing the same regarding his example
and teachings to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons, that
was so central to Jesus’ own missionary work and that of his
initial missionaries as they declared that his reign was at hand.
some practical, non-hypey resources about actually doing this
kind of stuff soon, within a larger missional priority structure and
posture. As always, your feedback is welcome, including
the ”you’re crazy and a heretic!” variety. If you want
another blog from me on this issue, but from a different angle, go here.