Musings on the Missional Manifesto, Part 5: The Church

Excellent post by Ed Stetzer. Thought I’d pass it along. This paragraph in particular caught my attention.

The church finds its significance as a body who is sent on a kingdom mission. Missionary congregations are communities that reflect the reality of the gospel of the kingdom in their life together and their life for their world. And, they are a body empowered by the Spirit and Word of the gospel, who have been given the keys of the kingdom and a promise from the King. The posture of these missionary congregations is “sentness.”

Musings on the Missional Manifesto, Part 5: The Church

We can fight to reestablish the church as a physical place where certain things happen. We can work harder to compete with society, to out-entertain and lure people in with as much pomp and circumstance as a church can afford. Or, we can become a church on a mission.

M. Scott Boren

What is Sentness?

Sentness is the Holy Spirit directed missionary impulse that propels a person on mission with Christ.

If one of our goals is to see every believer on mission with Jesus, sent as Jesus was sent, to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, how does that happen? From where does this missionary impulse come? What’s the starting point? Where does sentness come from?

The starting point for a sent life is the gospel. Period. The kind of gospel we uphold and champion will largely shape the kind of missional sentness we get as a by-product. As we seek to transition stale and dying churches to become missional churches and as we seek to plant new churches in this post-Christian context, the gospel must be the fuel driving those missional expressions. At an individual level the prophet Isaiah’s life illustrates this perfectly.

In Isaiah 6:8 Isaiah’s life takes on the posture of being sent.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”

“Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”

How did Isaiah arrive at this posture? He arrived there through a deep, inward transformation, a radical reorientation of his priorities, values, and ambitions fueled by the grace of God – the gospel.

This inward transformation occurred because Isaiah was undone by God’s holiness and majesty:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.

Woe to me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

His acute awareness of sin was met by God’s grace through a burning coal. With his guilt atoned for, his sin taken away, the overflow of grace in Isaiah’s life prompted him to respond to God’s question through a posture of obedient sentness. Isaiah became missional because of grace. Herein lies the sentness principle. The greater the internal gratitude, the greater the missionary impulse in a person’s life.

I applaud the many correctives the emerging missional movement is bringing to our churches right now. However, one concern I have is the transitioning of our churches to this posture of sentness without the necessary core strength to keep our people and churches in that posture.

We might be successful at changing a church culture by eliminating programs, freeing up our calendars to have more time with our neighbors, living in missional communities, and following the pattern of Luke 10. But if the gospel we trumpet doesn’t include an awareness of sin, the cross, and the miracle of grace, then our best missional efforts will result in a superficial sentness—a task based sentness and not a sentness based on grace. It won’t be the sentness experienced by Isaiah or the sentness described in 2 Corinthians 5:15 where people “no longer living for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

What is ‘Sentness’? It’s the Holy Spirit directed missionary impulse that comes about through the grace of Christ and propels a person on mission with Christ. May every believer experience the grace that sends, to the glory of the King.

God’s glory, our poverty; God’s grace, our sentness.

Live sent!

The Kingdom of God and the Dangers of an Over-Realized Eschatology

There’s a lot of talk these days about the Kingdom of God. Kingdom this. Tangible kingdom that. Along with “missional” it’s one of the hot buzzwords in emerging evangelicalism. Books and videos and DVDs on Kingdom living abound.  Everybody wants a piece of the Kingdom.  Take, for instance, this search on Amazon. (By the way, I just purchased a new DVD series called The Kingdom Way of Life. I’ll try to write a review of it later).

For the most part this rediscovery or renewed Kingdom emphasis is welcomed because it’s correcting an overly internalized and spiritualized understanding of the Kingdom of God (God reigns only within) or a tendency to think of the Kingdom as a future only event with no bearing on the present.  But herein lies the danger.  In so emphasizing the now-ness, the present-ness, and the social and cultural implications of the Kingdom of God, for the sake of wanting to see people on mission with Jesus, we run the risk of an over-realized eschatology that bears a striking resemblance to the theology of C.H. Dodd or the ‘liberal’ view of von Harnack.  In other words, if people manifest the Kingdom through social action but have not experienced the Kingdom of God within, we’ve become missional, but at what expense?

So let the Kingdom come, now, on earth as it is in heaven, in all it’s glory. I’m all for that.  Let’s lead people to see and to experience God’s kingly rule through social action extending to to the institutions and culture around them.  But let’s not swing the pendulum so far in the direction of a realized eschatology that we neglect the inward aspects of God’s Kingly rule and end up looking like the liberalism of the early 20th century. Can I get an Amen?