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Read an Excerpt from "Godspeed"
You're not of the world; you're out of this world, so much so that you're not in the world at all anymore. You're too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good for mission, because you've made personal holiness and purity your gods. Some people in the New Testament did this. They were called Pharisees.
Whether we're overly committed to holiness or overly committed to humanity, going too far in either direction is an error because our commitment is to Christ. Jesus, our model, struck the perfect balance. He totally committed His life to humanity without ever ceasing to be holy. He spent time with the broken, the addicted, and the deceitful. He didn't cocoon but stepped into their world, without ever conforming to it.
For those who needed Him most, Jesus was Immanuel, God in their midst. The dual nature of the church is patterned after the dual nature of Christ. He called us to be simultaneously set apart in behavior and sent out in relationship.
NO STRINGS ATTACHED
Because you and I were sent into the world, it follows logic that our most meaningful and fruitful Christian experiences should take place outside the church building.
Many Christians think being on mission in the world is synonymous with inviting people to a church service. It's not the same thing.
Think about this for a minute: we all know people who hate church. Why then is our default strategy to invite them to church?
I don't mean to be overly simplistic, but I think if people liked church, they'd already be at church. We can hope that they'll like it later on, but until then we need a more practical strategy. When people are sick, they don't need an invitation to a church service. They need a Christian who is willing to pray for them, care for them,
minister to them, step into their brokenness, and meet their physical needs.
To be on mission is to love people in a way that represents Jesus: God-made-flesh going to humanity.
And we are to do this kind of mission with no strings attached.
Jesus didn't make people go to the synagogue before He fed them, nor after He fed them for that matter. Jesus did mission with no strings attached, but He did it in such a profoundly loving way that His love became inescapable strings to those to whom He ministered.
The prophets Jeremiah and Hosea, along with Paul the apostle, said that God draws us with His love and kindness. These cords that draw humanity to God are the same cords attached to the acts of love we do by His Spirit.
NOT IN CHURCH
As Christians, we invite people to church because we want to introduce them to Jesus. Our underlying assumption here is that Jesus is found at church—that a person will meet Him when they enter the building. We believe Jesus shows up when His body is gathered. This is biblical, but it's not the whole story.
The church hasn't cornered the market on Jesus.
Religion, properly defined, is humanity's efforts to reach and to please God. This is what going to church means for many people.
On the other hand, the incarnation is God's continuing effort to reach and to save humanity. Incarnational Christianity ought to be alive and at work in our world through the people of God, through the church. We ought to be scattered on mission, not gathered all the time.
When we try to get people to Jesus, instead of bringing Jesus to people, we are approaching our faith fundamentally backward. We're being more religious than Christian. True Christian mission is bringing Jesus to people wherever people are, outside our church buildings.
Britt Merrick is the founding pastor of Reality, a network of churches with locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Ventura, Stockton, Santa Barbara, and London, England. He is the author of Big God and blogs at www.brittmerrick.com. Britt lives and surfs with his wife, Kate, and their two children in Carpinteria, CA.