Practices of Missional Spirituality

The first missional theologian in the church — after the resurrection — may have been James who had to poke the messianists of his community in the eyes and thump a bit on their chests with words that said believing is not enough; you must be doers. Faith without works, he said, is deader than Marley’s door-knocker. And the church has a history of missional revivals, and by this I mean the expression of God’s love by loving others in concrete deeds.

Where do you see “missional spirituality” best? What person or church or group does missional spirituality well?

The issue, as Len Hjamarlson and Roger Helland sketch in their Missional Spirituality book, is becoming and being missional — the issue is not knowing missional and believing in missional but doing missional. So they propose, over the span of several chapters, practices of missional spirituality. Here they are:

1. Practicing union with Christ: abiding in Christ is what discipleship is all about. Focus on John 15:1-17.

2. Practicing obedience: “the spiritual life is the surrendered life.”

3. Practicing humility.

4. Practicing missio reading and prayer. Not just prayer that fosters intimacy but prayer that fosters love for others, the Jesus Creed.

5. Practicing worship. The problem is defective views of God; we need an expansive sense of God’s grandeur and majesty and glory.

6. Practicing enchantment. Attentiveness to God’s handiwork.

7. Practicing Christ-mindedness.

8. Practicing faith-thinking. This is about theological reflection to learn to think our way into the goodness and glory of God and what God is doing in this world. Theological imagination can be developed.

9. Practicing gratitude.

10. Then a series on “From all your strength”: practicing treasure-talents-time, loving God from our treasure, loving God from our talents, and loving God from our time.

11. Practicing loving your neighbor: by practicing presence, by practicing refuge, and by practicing hospitality.

Missional spirituality, which becomes the “gospel of you,” is sacramental: it graces others.

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  • TriciaM

    I’m not sure if this explains anything or not but, when I saw this post on Thursday, I beamed with joy at the pithy summary of what, to me, the Christian life just is. I thought about the question and framed and answer in my head. I looked forward to sitting down on the weekend to see what others had to say. Then I found, for the first time ever, not one comment.
    Here’s my answer anyway. The people I know who do ‘missional spirituality’ (aka what I always thought this following Jesus thing was about anyway), are those who generally don’t keep churches running. They do what they do because they see need and they find it in themselves, by God’s grace, to meet what needs they can – and they don’t need to be encouraged to do so by a committee. It’s a way of life and therefore encompasses prayer, worship and thinking about self and God. It’s unlikely that they have ever thought of themselves as “missional”. In fact, I can think of one gifted saint who often doubts her salvation because her church values right teaching and right thinking over right doing.

  • @1 Tricia – well said. Len’s summary is truly one of the best I’ve seen of an embodied-lived spiritual life. Those people who I consider most Christ-like in this world rarely have a strong sense of religious-tribal identity (us/them) and rarely limit themselves with labels (missional, Christian, etc.). Rather than theorizing, they seem to be always engaged with “being the hands and feet” – loving people in tangible ways, loving God via a life that exudes a prayerful attitude and meditative focus, being generous in all things, embodying a sustained outpouring of forgiveness by who they are, not just what they say. In context of Len’s summary, these are the Jesus practitioners.

    Scot, I think we need to move beyond the duality of faith v. works. Moreover, in a capitalistic culture, we often see “”faith” and “works” as forms of religious currency, rather than markers of maturity. Neither faith nor works are a destination in themselves. Ultimately, Len seems to be suggesting that all gifts should be encouraged to grow together as one, undivided, mature human reality – faith, works, hope => love.