In John 4, Jesus states that he was sustained by his encounter with the woman at the well in Sychar. The narrative concludes with Jesus exhorting his disciples to reap a harvest. The implication is that missional encounters will be their sustenance.
Like the Jewish culture Jesus confronted, churches can tend to become isolated communities cut off from redemptive involvement in the wider culture.
Jesus indicates, however, that it is only when the church encounters outsiders in open-ended relationships that we are sustained.
We do not encounter others with postures of condescension, arrogance, or even in order to set anyone right. We’re not here to tell others what to do. Just as Jesus asked the woman for a drink, taking on a posture of mutuality and even need, we ought to cultivate friendships and relationships of mutuality with others.
Books like unChristian and films like “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers” sufficiently document the destructive effects of Christian relational strategies of manipulation and coercion. Not only do such behaviors not “work,” they’re simply sub-Christian ways of relating to others.
We should not imagine that we can embody our identity as the people of God by failing to behave like Jesus.
There are countless ways that churches can relate to outsiders that follow the pattern of Jesus, but so many of these are unexplored. We tend to imagine only manipulative relationships that will “get results.”
Churches can offer to clean up local neighborhoods, care for town parks, staff after-school services for kids from low-income homes, provide help for immigrants trying to navigate life in a new place, and enthusiastically support Big Brother and Big Sister programs to mentor kids from single-parent families.
And we can do all of this without insisting that it helps our “bottom line,” increases our attendance, lifts our profile, or benefits us in any other way. We should be satisfied that we have faithfully embodied our identity as followers of Jesus.
And we’ll find that when we live this way, we are sustained by the Spirit of Jesus.
For tomorrow, a common obstacle to evangelical churches being missional.
One thought on “Missional Encounters Sustain the Church”
Tim wrote: “We should not imagine that we can embody our identity as the people of God by failing to behave like Jesus.”
Exactly Right! It begs the question though – how did Jesus act? Don’t dismiss the question. Many have noted Jesus was not a Christian, meaning there is a delta between how Jesus acted and how the stereotypical Christian acts.
Of course, this is a problem with the ‘Christian stereotype’, but there is a problem with what Christian’s perceive about how Jesus acted. So was should we been seeing in Jesus example?
There’s the obvious: faithfulness to God; Holiness; righteousness; moral consistency; gentleness, meekness; supreme unwavering commitment to the Glory of God – whatever the cost.
There’s also the less obvious: married to God in a covenant relationship as the perfect Israelite; possessing a complete and unwavering commitment to the old covenant as the thing that needed to be understood in a living spiritual sense (spirit of the law), not dead religiosity sense (letter of the law) [Matt 8:4][Mark 1:44][Luke 5:14][Luke 2:22]; rightful heir and king to inhabit the thrown of David, ruling over the Kingdom David ruled as the chief of David’s House.
When we look at the obvious and the less obvious examples, which example is more frequent? If we look at the obvious we will always see the less obvious. Both are equally exhibited. Would anyone dare claim that any example Jesus set, obvious or not, is unimportant?