July 24, 2012
By Phil Maynard
Right Here Right Now is structured with three major sections:
- Putting our Hearts into it (missional paradigm)
- Wrapping our Heads around it (missional analysis)
- Doing something about it (missional action)
Alan Hirsch provide a briefing giving some foundations for a missional framework and a debriefing summarizing what he considers the faithful expression of church.
It is important to realize that the term missional is used not in the context of missions/service although, as one digs deeper into the text, it is sometimes difficult to separate missions from being missional. Missional congregations live the mission rather than just doing mission activities. This book is an invitation to each of us to engage our communities and the people around us in ways that express the love of God.
In the briefing section, Alan casts a vision for every believer to be activated and play a role in the mission of the church. He reminds us that church is ‘who’ we are, with every believer being a messenger of the gospel and thus a missionary. Alan suggests four movements that are part of living out this missional understanding:
- Move out (into missional engagement)
- Move in (burrowing down into the culture)
- Move alongside (engaging in genuine friendships and relational networks)
- Move from (challenging the dehumanizing and sinful aspects of our culture)
Movement by definition suggests some form of motion, some type of action: it might not be far, but the obligation is on us to go to them, not them to us.
Section One: Missional Paradigm
The reality is that all Christians are not only called to be missionaries but have already been sent to the people they are called to reach. If individual are not committed to living their lives as kingdom-minded missionaries in daily life…corporate efforts of the church as a whole will never reach their kingdom potential. Mission as an organizing principle goes beyond activities and programs for our churches.
Hirsch and Ford use the image of movie ‘extras’ as a metaphor for all the extras in our lives. People that are all around us, sometimes even serving us, that we fail to engage in any meaningful way. For the most part we live in a culture that doesn’t even try to be friendly or engaging. The church, and specifically disciples of Jesus, are called to a different standard.
The authors draw heavily on the work of Leslie Newbigin related to the development of a biblical worldview: It is possible to indwell the Bible story so you do not so much look at the Bible from without as look at the world from within the Bible, through the lenses that the Bible gives you. The challenge is than to respond to the world through that lens. Jesus did not say “Come, study me.”. He said “come, follow, me.”
Section Two: Missional Analysis
For too long the church has steamed down the channel of self-centeredness and away from community building and societal transformation. A radical reformation of leadership is needed. The authors challenge the ‘American dreams’ including: consumerism, earning gaps, single-family dwellings, and even the nuclear family writing: When at all costs we hold the nuclear family and middle-class concepts at the pinnacle of our priorities, we become dull and blind to the injustices around us.
We’ve become blinded to the resources we have that are tied up in a lifestyle our culture has carved out for us. We then begin to chase our wants at the expense of our God-given call and ability to discern his will for our lives. We must make up our minds that we will disentangle ourselves from the suffocating weight that comes with living an overly consumptive lifestyle. We must make a choice to break free in order to live redemptively.
This must then extend beyond our personal lifestyle choices to our relationships. Using the sociological idea of ‘social capital’, the authors note the breakdown of community, the limiting of significant relationships, the movement toward personal privacy, and the development of silos within our lives. Silo living (work, commerce, exercise, education, worship, etc.) breeds social disintegration. While many churches seek to overcome this with small groups and fellowship activities these are not natural groupings and are largely ineffective.
Section Three: Missional Action
While statistics show that fewer and fewer people are actually going to church there is a transition happening where more and more of the church is going to the world, living out the good news of the gospel. This is where genuine biblical fellowship occurs as people respond to the needs of others with every available means as the occasions arise. Missional communities are those that intentionally practice their faith. These groups agree on particular ways of engaging the world around them and how to ‘gospel’ the community in which they live.
At the heart of missional communities is the ideal of biblical hospitality – welcoming strangers into our homes and into our lives. One way to get a handle on how well this is working in a community of faith is to ask: how many other member’s homes have I been in? and how many other members have been in my home? Ask a few others and you have all the empirical data you need to evaluate the level of biblical hospitality present in your faith community.
The authors close with the image of salt blocks vs. salt shakers. Salt blocks (used with horses) require that they come to the block (think church!). Salt shakers spread the flavoring all around (think engaged community!). Most Christians think of Church (worship services) as the main event. Our actions say that what we do inside the building is more important than what we do outside the building. Being God’s missional people means we ‘put the wheels back on our Christianity’.
Alan Hirsch concludes the text with a focus on earning credibility as the Church by regaining our missional focus. He highlights five key identifiers or marks of a model that truly constitutes church:
- Centered on Jesus – receiving the grace of God through Jesus
- Covenanted community – a network of relationships formed around Jesus
- Worship – as a lifestyle extending to every aspect of life
- Discipleship – becoming increasingly like Jesus
- Mission – extending the redemptive purposes of God through his people in every sphere and domain of life
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