‘Missional lifestyle’: A basic framework

On a church camp recently (not our own church, but another one), I had the chance to take part in a discussion with a group of women about what a ‘missional lifestyle’ might look like for us in our various life situations. (My husband Dave was involved in a parallel discussion with the men.)

Stimulated by that discussion and a few of the loose ends left over at the end of it, I thought I might turn my thoughts into a short series of blog posts on the subject. I’ll do my best to write in a way that isn’t fixated on the things that are particular to my own situation. Instead, as far as possible, I’ll try and think the issues through in a way that opens up the conversation to other people in different life circumstances. But if the examples along the way tend to be a bit ‘mums-y’ at times, I hope you’ll understand and forgive!!

The basic framework for the conversation at the camp went like this:

  • In speaking of a ‘missional’ lifestyle, we had in mind a lifestyle in which we relate to the world as people sent out into it—as servants of Jesus.
  • In speaking of a missional ‘lifestyle’, we had in focus not the proclamation of Christ that is at the very centre of mission, but the pattern of life that is wrapped around it—the lifestyle that is fitting for someone who is in the world as a missionary servant of Jesus, eager to speak the gospel and make disciples.
  • Our working definition (starting in 1 Corinthians 10) went something like this: a ‘missional lifestyle’ is one in which we involve ourselves in the lives of our neighbours, seeking their good—especially their salvation (1 Cor 10:23-11:1; cf. Jer 29:4-9; 1 Pet 3:9-13; Matt 22:39), but refusing to involve ourselves in the idolatries of the world we live in and instead, giving our allegiance to Christ alone (1 Cor 10:14-22; cf. Isa 52:11; 1 Pet 3:14-15; Matt 22:37).
  • The pattern and example in all this is Christ, who sought the good of others and their salvation at the cost of his own life (1 Cor 11:1; cf. Rom 15:2-3). The motivation is the glory of God and the prospect of the coming judgement (1 Cor 10:31, 22).

From there, we launched into a discussion of various facets of life (home, education, work, sport, etc.), talking about the opportunities that each presented for being involved in the lives of others for their good and their salvation, and the idolatries that have the potential to destroy us and our witness by luring our hearts away from Christ.

But before taking that next step here, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the basic framework. Are those two questions (the question about opportunities and the question about idolatries) the right ones to be asking? Are there better ways of framing them? Have I left something important out?

For the sake of this little series of blog posts, I’m going to assume that these are issues not only for individuals (and families), but also for churches, and that we have enormous opportunities and responsibilities to help and cooperate with each other in how we live out this vision. But (somewhat artificially!) I’m going to bracket out the church dimension of the question and assume that others can deal with it elsewhere!

6 thoughts on “‘Missional lifestyle’: A basic framework

  1. Sounds like a good idea to explore!

    At the risk of stating the obvious (and of exposing my own failings…), this is a discussion which will fit well with our evangelical disposition to activism – by which I mean, it’s very easy for us to forget prayer. Perhaps there’s one of your post topics for you!

  2. Thanks for the post. I think those two questions are pretty good.

    I do think we have to tread quite carefully around the idolatory issue though. It would be easy to run away from the world because of the many idols it presents, but Paul seems to be saying in 1 Cor 10 that it’s not quite that simple – but perhaps you’ll cover that when you get to that question!

  3. cant wait to see the length and depth of this discussion.. challenging, frightening,and encouraging to see what we can do as ordinary christians dedicated to an extraordinary ( the only true) God.. who actually wants us for his co workers..to explore what we can do, and be able to combat those things whch drag us away… Good on you nicole, and other contributors..

  4. Thanks so much for your thoughts. It is always heart warming to be stirred up in my thinking about it means to be ‘sent by Jesus’.
    It is always tricky in knowing how to capture or express this aspect of the Christian life without it sounding like an extra or seperate part of the Christian life instead of being ‘the Christian life’ to be in ordinary everyday relationships with those in our lives. The definition could read:- a ‘discipleship/Christian lifestyle’ is one in which we are in the lives of our neighbours, seeking their good—especially their salvation’.
    This is not meant to be a criticism but adding a thought to the discussion.

  5. Thanks LT! 

    Dave and I had a conversation about the same thing, actually – why not drop the ‘missional’ adjective (fashionable/cliched as it is!) and just go with ‘a Christian lifestyle’?

    In the end, we decided to keep the ‘missional’ word and stop short of proposing our little one-sentence formula as a total summation for the whole Christian life.  What we had in mind was just (!) the question of how the sort of big-picture vision the Bible gives us in verses like 1 Cor 10:31 and Matt 22:37-39 relates to the specific issue of how we are to relate to our neighbours and our world. 

    Now obviously everything is inter-connected one way or another, so maybe that constraint is a bit artificial! But I still wanted to try and keep the ‘mission’ question in focus as much as possible in the coming posts, and not drift into a larger discussion of ‘everything that could possibly be said about every aspect of how a Christian ought to live’.

  6. And thanks Anthony and Sam and Sharan!

    I agree about prayer, Anthony – thanks for the reminder.  I’ll have to work out where it fits in the framework now…

    Sam, I think you’re right about the complexity of the idolatry issue.  I put 1 Cor 10:27ff in the ‘involved…’ half of the definition, but it could just as easily have been in the ‘idolatry’ half, as a kind of qualification or explanation, I suspect.

    And thanks Sharan for the encouragement.  IT is an amazing privilege, isn’t it.  But for the grace of God it would seem blasphemous or presumptuous to even think of talking about our role in those kinds of terms!!

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