My friends Helms and Greg Jarrell are founders of a neo-monastic community in Charlotte, North Carolina, called Hyaets (or in Hebrew `eits-chayim, tree of life), and they recently wrote a nice short piece for the Associated Baptist Press on “Changing perspectives about mission.”
The old way of doing mission (particularly short-term mission projects), they explain, is to approach a situation as if you are the one “being the presence of Christ.” They contrast this approach by instructing short term workers: “Your job is not to be the presence of Christ today, but instead to meet the presence of Christ and to recognize it in those you encounter. These neighbors will be your teachers about the kingdom of Heaven if you will listen.”
As they explain from their own experience,
“Life in Enderly Park has been a training ground for me in unlearning that perspective on mission. I am learning to see that my neighbors, who are mostly poor and mostly black, are some of the best teachers I can have in learning the way of Jesus. They certainly do not have all of the answers, but learning to see my neighbors as brother and sister rather than as recipients of my charitable cause represents a shift in doing mission. This is a shift that has been going on for a while — Hyaets Community certainly did not make this up — but that still needs wider adoption throughout the church in America.”
This is the missional shift I’m talking about! Missional is not just a new word for the same-old traditional mission/s paradigm. No, it is a very different way of thinking and doing and being in the world. Thanks to Greg and Helms (and Jason and Joanie Williams and others) for modeling it through their lives and the community they’ve helped to foster at Hyaets.
Is this idea of shifting from “being” to “meeting” helpful to you in rethinking mission?
BONUS POINTS: Here’s a few more articles that touch on this similar message:
- Christian Piatt’s “10 Antidotes to Christian Cliches” (see esp. #s 1-3 and #8)
- Kathy Escobar’s “why the word ‘missional’ bugs me“
- Nell Green’s “Being missional or doing missional?” (also from ABP)