29 July 2011
Incarnation vs Status
We all have in us a desire to measure our spiritual health. The apostle Paul says we all desire law; some sort of litmus test for ourselves. It feeds us what we feel we need; “See I’m doing, see I’m arriving, see I measure up, see I’m climbing, and see me compared to them.” Its popular to talk about being the church instead of going to church. But what does that truly mean and how is that fleshed out ? I’ll tell you one thing it certainly will collide with, our yearning to measure our spiritual achievements. There is a drive in all modern Christians to “Attain Status"
"I go to church on Sunday’s while they sleep in and watch TV."
"I’m a Sunday school teacher."
"I’m on the worship team."
"I lead a program in the church."
The current institutional church has elevated these types of roles and many others like them as achievements in spiritual growth. In a weird way they have become sign posts for us that indeed “We're really doing church now”.
Status is a position that we climb towards that once attained feeds us a sense of internal pride, strength and security. In church planting models these opportunities for status (disguised as service) are waived around for people to latch onto in order to grow the church. “who will be responsible for chairs, kids program, worship, promotion?” But this paradigm has fundamentally handicapped the people of God from actually being the church. These ladders to climb do not teach people to be missionaries.
In a truly missional church teaching people that "Everyday Incarnation” is what Jesus envisioned as church is an uphill battle. Weaning people off of “Attaining Status” and onto “Everyday Incarnation” is a cultural and personal clash for most of us. The mode of Jesus entering into the brokenness of our world using the tools of; conversation, hospitality, peace-making, invitation, active listening, feasting, interactive teaching and eye-contact to share the message of the Kingdom of God has significant implications on us as church-goers. We need to reorder our priorities, lists and commitments because of Jesus incarnation. There are direct implications on our sense of private space and time. We need to echo the movements of Jesus.
For example I sometimes hear in our missional church “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything or I’m not doing anything for the church”.
So my response often is:
"Have you had someone in your neighborhood over for dinner lately?"
"Have you served someone in the church community that has a physical or emotional need?"
"Have you offered to take a shut-in grocery shopping or given a bottled water to the homeless man on the corner or offered to babysit a single mom’s kids?"
"Have you had a cup of coffee with someone to converse about the study from this week?"
Everyday incarnation takes intentionality. When we break down the tower of going to church and attaining status we can then see what's really pressing in the Kingdom of God. Interacting with people that are in our circles of influence with Gospel intentionality is more like church than we can imagine. When this is done as an extension of a committed community of Jesus-followers, the church is awake and alive. This is how to be the church; the living body of Christ in the world, in the neighborhood and amongst other believers.