Call it consumeristic, call it good stewardship, call it being efficient and productive, whichever we choose, there is a sense of needing to accomplish things from which to derive our worth. Numbers aren’t everything, but they tell a story of doing something right, right? The amount of people we “win” for Christ tells a story of proclaiming the gospel, correct? Why, then, do I not see this as my goal as one who has been called to pastor and preach? How does this not seem to be the nature of the church that is “called out?”
If you go to a conservative church, then the numbers game by default is like a standardized test. It is the measuring stick, the litmus test. If you go to a “not so conservative” church, then simply “being” the church is what it’s about. Devoid of gross generalizations, it is the call of the church to be incarnational. Incarnational ministry is measured by being present, by being intentional in the way we live, steward, consume, produce, relate, live and breath. In a way, it’s unquantifiable, and that is a blessing or a curse depending on your personality or tradition/heritage.
I found myself wanting to participate in mission. As I pastored a group of students, I wanted to be a group that didn’t exist for ourselves, but served the community. The catch was, I didn’t want to just “do” mission, I didn’t want to perpetuate the “short term mission” debates going on, I didn’t want to be a group of commuter missionaries, I wanted to nurture and be a creative missional body of believers, right where we were at. This, honestly, felt like doing nothing.
We didn’t do short term mission trips, we didn’t do the once a year soup kitchen, we had to grow and be, and being became our most challenging task. It was an ontological formation of who we were, why we exist as the church past our own salvation, and how we were proclaiming the good news to an ever skeptical world.
Slow missional development felt like doing nothing, until it didn’t. Until the one conversation that many of us could testify about that God had been working all along. God was working when we weren’t, God was molding and preparing people before we even had the notion to look. Doing nothing, or so it seemed, was shaping us to know that this is God’s mission. It was never about us and what mission work we were doing.
In our attempts to be trendy and missional, it became painfully clear to us that sometimes, if you just wait, the mission becomes much less something you do and much more a story you are simply participating in.