I have heard this question asked by leaders of denominations, pastors, and small groups: “What do I need to do to get my people living more missionally?”
As is almost always the case, change starts with the leaders first. It starts with repentance. Repentance means a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior. Here is what the Apostle Paul wrote about repentance—not to unbelievers, but to the church:
After doing a study on the life of Jesus, which I’ve written about in a previous blog entry, I have arrived at 7 principles of incarnational living.
Living incarnationally means:
- Staying connected with the Father
- Living with purpose
- Dwelling among the people
- Engaging authentically with others
- Serving the least of these
- Calling people to follow Jesus
- Cultivating others to live incarnationally
I’ll be examining each of these principles in turn in future blog entries—with an emphasis on where we see them at work in the life of Jesus.
What comes to mind when we hear the phrase “the good news”? Generally we think the gospel, yes. But what gospel? A set of beliefs including the virgin birth, incarnation, death, atonement, resurrection, repentance and salvation? Yes. What else?
As I looked to the gospels—in the study of the incarnation of Jesus that I’ve been describing throughout my blog this week—I paid particular attention to the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry. How did Jesus frame his own “good news”?
John the Baptist first announced the coming of the Kingdom of God quoting Isaiah the prophet:
As I looked through the gospels to learn more about what incarnational living out to look like, I noticed some glaring omissions. This is not the way we would write the gospels in today’s church.
Jesus didn’t say much or even model much behavior about church/temple attendance or religious duties. There was surprisingly little on drinking, swearing, or sexual morality, and he said nothing at all about abortion or homosexuality. Jesus did talk about giving and serving, but those activities were mainly focused on the poor and those in need rather than giving to and serving the church/temple.
Another surprise for me as I looked through the gospels is the amount of healing taking place. As Jesus lived on earth, he did a whole lot of healing. Not everyone, of course, but there is a lot more healing than my non-Charismatic background is usually open to seeing. And who did Jesus heal? The least of these. I was hard pressed to find a case of Jesus healing someone who was not in some way a member of “the least of these.” The lepers, the blind, the disabled, the poor, widows, prostitutes, women, Samaritans, Roman soldiers. It almost makes one wonder if Jesus didn’t care about respectable, healthy, middle-class people… or if they just didn’t know they needed healing. I rather think the latter.
As I mentioned yesterday, I recently went through the gospel accounts writing down specific things Jesus did during this time on earth. Several things surprised me as I then looked back over the list I had compiled. One was how pronounced Jesus’ emphasis was on the least of these—including the poor, the disabled, the uneducated, cultural or ethnic minorities, women, social outcasts. He was constantly hanging out with these people. He talked about them and to them. He highlighted them, bringing them to the center of public attention.