Thursday, February 10, 2011

Self-Centered or Missional Living?

There is (rightly) a lot of hoopla and conversation in Evangelical circles about being “missional”. At its essence and core, this word describes a Christian who adopts a missionary lifestyle - in posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices in order to engage others with the gospel message. Being missional is a pro-active endeavor with regards to evangelism and outreach. Not completely opposite, but far removed from missional, is the “attractional” designation. This way of living exposes the gospel to others through living your life in the way of Christ, doing good, and always being ready to share or invite others to church, but not pro-actively, intentionally engaging others with the Message…

Surely, there is a lot that could be written, and has been written, about missional/attractional paradigms. However, many Evangelicals, especially younger ones, aren’t arguing or debating those paradigms on a large scale anymore. They instead are ushering in an era where missional is the norm and attractional is periphery. And for this I am very excited. However, even within the Evangelical missional movement is still the inherent dilemma of self-centeredness. Of course, many would chalk that up to trite thoughts such as, “well, we are all sinners you know…” or “I need to be more grounded in the gospel before I can reach out..” etc. etc. While these sentiments are of course accurate and truthful, when taken to the extreme without perspective, they end up paralyzing us into action.

Self-centeredness (either consciously or sub-consciously) often wins the day in my life, and in many lives of Evangelicals…even with the commitment of being missional. I do a simple, quick inventory of how I go about my daily life and I am overwhelmed by the clutter of self-centeredness that defines me. Even my “spiritual” actives reek of blatant and habitual self-centeredness. The American consumer culture only perpetuates this as well. We are often busy with church activities for US, praying for things relating to US, Bible studies for US, reading for US, spiritual disciplines for US, etc. etc. While I don’t think these things are bad, if we are real, our lives are extremely unbalanced towards self-centered interest and activity instead of others focused, which is what we are called to. We look to grow so much personally, that we fail to address others in things of faith (studies show that a small fraction of Evangelicals actually invite non-Christians to church, and likewise the average church reports an average of one conversion a year). Again, it is good to grow personally, but not to the disproportional detriment of loving others. I am convicted by the fact that Jesus chose the “uneducated, untrained” men and women of the day to proclaim His message, and that what we are witnesses to are simply the death and resurrection of Christ through a simple, yet active, lifestyle of “loving God and loving neighbor”. I don’t need to read 20 social justice books, or 30 Bible commentaries, or even go to Bible college to figure out how to do that.

I look at my life and about 95% of my discretional, or even non-discretional, time on this Earth is spent consumed in self-centeredness. I am asking the Lord to break this addictive and plaguing lifestyle into one that truly desires to focus on loving others. Please pray for me.

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