I get mixed responses when I mention the idea of “missional living” in various circles. They usually fall into one of three categories. Sometimes I can read the response immediately in someone’s expression of curiosity that seems to say “What on earth is missional living?” Understandable since “missional” has been defined in so many ways. Or a smile that communicates resonance with the idea of living ‘on mission’ – and I’m guessing they might have read some blogs or books or listened to a podcast. And other times I sense an immediate response of fear, as if to say “Are you really going to ask me to add more events and to-do’s to my already crazy schedule??” (And these responses are just from Ascent staff!) Seriously though - I have to admit, I’ve had some of the same thoughts myself.
We are so busy. Heidi and I have four boys between the ages of 10 and 16 – and between soccer & football games, cross country meets, drama rehearsals and piano lessons, there doesn’t seem to be margin to add anything “missional” to the calendar. And some of you are even far busier than we are – including running personal businesses, in graduate school, working multiple jobs, etc. Bottom line is – we are ALL very busy people. When we hear someone calling us to live “on mission,” it can easily feel like a burden, leading to unnecessary feelings of guilt – something I don’t think Jesus ever intended.
Intentional vs. Additional
Something that has really freed me up has been – rather than viewing “missional” as adding additional mission-oriented tasks to my calendar – simply being more intentional in the everyday rhythms of life. Pastor Jeff Vandersteldt and a number of others have shared six rhythms that help put into perspective how, with a bit of gospel intentionality, we might be able to live missionally without adding much, if anything, additional to our calendars. Read more about these rhythms here. I’ll touch on just a couple below.
Everyone has a story. Someone once said “Our lives are wrapped up in stories – they are the language of our world.” Each one of us has a story that fits within - and is shaped by - God’s Greater Story of creation, fall, redemption, re-creation. Read this post about the power of your story. One way that we can live in the “story-formed” rhythm is to listen for themes of God’s greater story in another’s – helping point them to ways that redemption is or can be a part of their story. This involves something we might call “Gospel listening.” Are you living in a way that is “story-formed?”
Everyone eats. Everyone. And most of us average about 21 meals a week. What if each of us chose just one of those 21 meals in a week to share with an unbeliever or a neighbor? A while back, Heidi and I started inviting some in our neighborhood over for a meal on Friday nights – we’ve called it our “neighborhood family meal.” Everyone brings a dish to pass, and we talk about ways that we all might bless our neighborhood. I can’t even begin to tell you how this simple idea has brought our neighborhood together relationally – and has given us opportunities to hear one anothers’ stories and get more involved in each others’ lives. Sure we need to pick up the house a bit before everyone shows up, but we all need to eat anyway, so this has been a great way to live a little more intentionally within one of our family’s normal rhythms.
I just mentioned this rhythm in relation to our neighborhood – but this idea of blessing flows right out of our servant identity that I unpacked in this previous post. When God called Abram in Genesis 12 – He told him that he was “blessed to be a blessing” and that through his descendents, “all the families on the earth would be blessed.” This blessing continues through God’s people today! That’s you and me. God has given us so much in order that we would bless others – and in so doing, display His glory – passing on our rich heritage in Christ to a lost and hurting world.
Conduit or Barrel?
I remember reading about living out the difference between a conduit (or pipe) and a barrel. A conduit is something that routes water or electricity or some other resource to another place that needs it. A barrel is something that collects and stores up resources – saving them for a later use.
God is looking for conduits through which to bless His creation. Those that would live by the rhythm of blessing and be the conduit He uses in displaying His rich generosity to the rest of the world. We live more like a barrel when we seek to store up the resources He’s lavished on us – time, talent, treasure, truth – and use them only for our own benefit. We live more like a conduit when we keep our eyes and ears open for ways to bless those around us with what we’ve been given. The truth is… It’s ALL God’s stuff, anyway. Every resource we’re blessed with is an opportunity to bless another.
My prayer is that blessing would simply be a natural rhythm in our everyday lives where we live like conduits, passing on the blessing to others. We are – in the words of Genesis 12 – truly “blessed to be a blessing!” Lord, may it be so in my life.
What are some ways that God might be calling you to think and live more intentionally in terms of the everyday rhythms of life? Living “missionally” doesn’t need to mean adding much of anything additional to our busy lives. Just a little bit more of Gospel-intentionality…