When our eldest son, Joel, was about to start elementary school, Hannah and I lived in a city in England where we could choose between different schools. We wanted him to go to the nearest one — within walking distance of our home — but many people at our church discouraged us: “There are almost no Christians at that school.”
Nevertheless, feeling prompted by God to investigate, we met the new Principal and really connected with her. The school seemed to be well run, mildly eccentric and had good results, so we went for it! As we got involved, we found great favor with the Principal, and thus with the staff and many parents.
Because the school had no buses, we met and became friends with many families as we walked Joel to and from school, and we intentionally made time to linger in the school playground with other parents. Gradually, more and more God conversations began to happen, and we ended up starting a kids’ club for all the families who were interested in fun ways for their children to learn about Jesus. The Principal allowed us to advertise and even run sign-up tables as parents gathered after school. In addition, I was drawn into the leadership of the school, and ended up chairing the school’s governing board. This enabled me to work closely with the Principal, including being involved in all new staff appointments.
Today, eight years after we left, the school has a very strong Christian influence and new generations of families are being drawn to Christ as a result.
For our family, that school became our primary place of mission as we grew to know and love the community there. But the real opening came about because of the favor the Principal showed us — she was our Person of Peace.
If you are a Christian, you have a responsibility to prayerfully identify the Person of Peace in your life, asking Jesus how to invest wisely into that relationship.[Tweet “Are you able to spot and reach your own Person of Peace?”]
As you consider that question, though, I want to give you a broader framework of understanding, through the concept of becoming one of the people and places where you are currently called to bring the Kingdom of God.
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
I have no doubt your own story affirms that living incarnationally — in other words, becoming one of the people to whom you are called — is absolutely central to being a missionary.
The idea of one of can be summarized like this:
1. FOR: God’s posture towards humanity is one of pleasure — fundamentally He loves and smiles when He looks at us! He is for us. Yet He is also a holy God (represented by the halo). While He loves us so deeply, God also hates sin for the basic fact that it stands in direct opposition to His very identity and rule.
2. WITH: To draw us closer to Him, God comes to be with us, revealing His nature and love to us in more tangible ways. The Old Testament is full of moments when He was with His people: the call of Abraham, Moses at the burning bush, Ruth when she chose the God of Naomi, Jeremiah in the pit, Daniel in the lions’ den. But this is not enough. When God is with us, He is still holy and, to sinful humanity, too different and unattainable to follow consistently. We fail at keeping His law and thus end up discouraged (the grumpy face!) both at our own sin and God’s otherness.
3. ONE OF: The crucial shift is when God becomes one of us — the incarnation. Jesus puts on human flesh (here represented by the baseball cap), and at last our hearts can stop striving. We see what it means to belong to our heavenly Father when we look at Jesus; we see how our lives can be transformed when the Holy Spirit is allowed to lead us so closely. The frown turns into a smile!
Furthermore, by becoming one of us, Jesus is able to decisively deal with the impact of sin in our lives. This is not just Jesus being a great example; it is Jesus the victor over satan offering a fundamental change in our relationship with the Father, including the barrier against the holiness of God (our sin) being removed through the atonement. But the key to all of this is Jesus becoming one of.
4. IN: Finally God can be in us — as we welcome, receive and serve Jesus. As the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, not only do we smile but we also start to take on the character and identity of God — His holiness.[Tweet “I’m using the ‘one of’ model to help live on mission! Info here:”]
The outcome of this process is that Jesus creates a multiplying movement — by commissioning us frail mortals, who have God in us — to go and represent Him in the world.
- We begin this commission by being known as people who are for others, that we actually like other human beings, including those who are far from God!
- Then we move to being with people, finding tangible ways to serve and bless them.
- But the key shift is when we become one of a particular group of people. They stop being “those people” and together we start being “us.” We work out what church needs to look like to reach that specific context, to be incarnated into that time and place.
- The message of the gospel remains the same, but we as missionaries do the hard work of cross-cultural translation.
- As we go, we see people become disciples of Jesus, and thus the Spirit comes to live in them, and so the multiplication effect increases.
The Missional Impulse
Stop and consider the missional journey that Jesus took. Jesus went to the Jews, who in turn went to the Gentiles, who then went to the nations. This is what Alan Hirsch calls the missional impulse — the God-inspired and God-modeled pressure to cross boundaries and take the gospel everywhere. By definition, being a follower of Jesus means that we go, because we know that our God has sent us out into the world to make disciple-making disciples.
We are designed to be disciples who go and make more disciples.
This means that ALL Christians are called to become one of — to work out what the church needs to look like to reach the particular nook or cranny of culture and society where, by God’s grace, they find themselves.
This is where all the talk of being “missional” kicks in. Put simply, a missional church is one that allows the mission of God to determine how it does and is church.
Because the church’s purpose on earth is to be a disciple-making mission.
One implication of this is that the church is the net result, not the primary cause. Hirsch summarizes it this way: Our Christology (our understanding of Jesus and what His becoming one of is about) forms our missiology (our theology and practice of going in mission), which in turn defines our ecclesiology (our outworking of the purpose, practices and structures of healthy church life).
This missional impulse is planted at the core of us, both individually and especially when we gather in Jesus-centered community. This should not be a surprise, since a missional God is inevitably going to disciple us into becoming a missional people!
This is what helps make the Gospel go viral: We catch the “virus” and then pass it on to others. Put in a way that will appeal to any middle schooler, the core of our faith should be highly sneezable![Tweet “The core of our faith should be highly sneezable!”]
Consider this: Many tend only to think about incarnation — becoming one of —at Christmas, but Jesus showed us that being one of is a permanent lifestyle, not an occasional day trip. We are created and equipped to go into a place, love it, invest in it, listen to Jesus and thus show how God is at work to all who are open. To whom are you called to be one of, and who in particular is your Person of Peace there?
Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences – please make sure you bring lots of grace into what you write, this is a sensitive topic upon which we won’t all agree!
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