Now Featured at the Patheos Book Club
Godspeed:Making Christ's Mission Your Own
By Britt Merrick, with Allison Trowbridge
Book Excerpt: Chapter 4
The Sacred and the Soccer Games
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.
—G. K. Chesterton
If Scripture were a mountain range, the incarnation of Christ—His birth, life, work, the cross, and His resurrection—would be the tallest, most glorious peak.
In the supreme revelation of love, God came to humanity. He became like us—taking on flesh and blood. God incarnate. The incarnate Christ felt our infirmities, was tempted in all the ways we are tempted, and yet was found without sin that He might die a substitutionary death on our behalf at Calvary.
To incarnate essentially means to embody. When Christ became flesh, He embodied the very presence, nature, power, character, and glory of God. "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us," says John 1. "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." Jesus Christ explains the love and the person of God to humanity in the context of history.
As we've read in John 20:21, the Father sent the Son, and the Son sends us in the same way.
Being on mission then, we incarnate Christ.
In the previous chapter we looked at what it means for us to be sent into the world: what the church is sent to do... and what the church is not sent to do.
So what does it mean that we are sent in the same way Jesus was sent? How are we to understand this? How are we to live it?
The chapters to come will be our playbook for mission, based on the historical life of Jesus that is revealed to the church through the Gospels. We'll begin with the bedrock of our calling—the very model of our mission itself—the incarnation of Jesus.
To live at Godspeed is to do mission based on the person and work of Jesus Christ, God become flesh. To live at Godspeed is to practice incarnational Christianity.
COCOON, COMBAT, CONFORM
Thee church has been commissioned in the world to love the very people God loves. We are the apostolic, sent people of God, sent to be on mission and in motion in our immediate contexts for His glory.
Unfortunately, this doesn't usually describe the church. More often than not, our proclivity as Christians is to withdraw from the world, take up arms with the world, or become like the world. In a book called The Culturally Savvy Christian, Dick Staub identified these three tendencies as cocooning, combating, and conforming. It's a great alliteration and a great revelation for the church. Let's look at all three.
The first errant tendency Christians have is to cocoon. When we discover how harsh and unfriendly the world can be, our immediate response is to retreat among like minded company. We set up exclusive Christian clubs and enclaves. Meanwhile, when we see how wonderful Jesus is, we want more than anything to be with Him in heaven. Many Christians talk about this longing all the time, and although the desire is good, Jesus prayed specifically against our feelings of escape. "I do not ask You to take them out of the world," He said to the Father. God's will until we die is that we would be on mission in the world, among the people of the world for His glory.
We also withdraw and cocoon because the world is tempting. We sense the warfare for our personal holiness and purity, and our reaction is to hunker down. We fail to lay hold of the victory and new nature we've been given through Christ Jesus. For many Christians, personal holiness and purity become the primary goal. But they are not the goal—they are a goal. Participating in and enjoying the life of Christ is the primary goal of the Christian life.
The second way Christians err is by combating. We are in a battle this side of heaven, there's no doubt about it. But in the midst of that battle the church has to realize that people are not the enemy; people are the prize.
"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood," Paul said, "but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness."
In UnChristian, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons researched Christianity in America today:
"The primary reason outsiders feel hostile toward Christians, and especially conservative Christians, is not because of any specific theological perspective. What they react negatively to is our "swagger," how we go about things and the sense of self-importance we project. Outsiders say that Christians possess bark—and bite. Christians may not normally operate in attack mode, but it happens frequently enough that others have learned to watch their step around us."