By living incarnationally we not only model the pattern of humanity set up in the Incarnation but we also create space for mission to take place in organic ways.In this way mission becomes something that ‘fits’ seamlessly into the ordinary rhythms of life, friendships, and community and is thus thoroughly contextualized. Thus these ‘practices’ form a working basis for genuine incarnational mission. But they also provide us with an entry point into an authentic experience of Jesus and His mission.
This quote is from a blog entry by Alan Hirsch from earlier this month. At first glance, the title might imply that Hirsch is simply trying to create a new word (I'm tired of new words that are simply playing on other buzz words), but the article is really about living out incarnational ministry. Incarnational ministry, according to Hirsch, "essentially means taking the church to the people rather than bringing people to the church." Last spring while I was on internship I had a conversation with a neighbor who was not connected to any church. We were talking about the church in general and how the church I was serving was struggling to grow and he said that he doesn't understand why the church is so set on trying to get people to come to them. He said, "There are a whole lot more people not in church than in. Why doesn't the church just spend their time going where those people are instead of expecting everyone to show up on Sunday morning?" He, of course, did not recognize the importance of the gathering to equip and send God's people, but his point is well taken. We have long considered the Sunday morning worship gathering as the primary evangelistic entry point. We have made it in many settings "seeker friendly" and we have challenged our people to invite their "unchurched" friends to these gatherings. I'm not saying this bad or wrong necessarily, but I think we need to consider how we spend the rest of our time. In the post, Hirsch describes the missional efforts of a few communities. He says,
In the Seattle/Tacoma region, two churches (Soma and Zoë) have chosen to collaborate in reaching students and musicians by actively moving into the social rhythms of these groups and ‘de-churchifying’ their previous expressions of ministry. In order to do this they have rented and purchased buildings and developed them as night clubs, coffee shops, and have established recording studios with direct links to the various musicians in the area. Zoë in particular has taken drastic measures to limit the attractional appeal of the ministry in order to wean members off the consumptive attendance at a ‘service’ and to get them all involved in local expressions of mission. Whilst passive attendance at services is down, the community is now highly engaged in various expressions of local community and the missional reach has been significantly increased through incarnational practices. They all feel that they are now much closer to what it means to be disciples in community.
For so long the measuring stick has been "worship attendance", which if we are being honest can have as much to do with the offering generated as anything else. Are we willing to develop different ways of keeping score? How do we better measure ministry "success" without attaching it to the bottom line?