We began our look this week at what I’ve termed the Missional Sweet Spot, essentially, what’s most needed so that you can live on the mission of God in your context.
We looked at the overview of the three basic elements: Christ, Congregation, and Community and how those shape who we are and how we live in the world.
Today, we want to begin to look at each of these more in depth and how we can live fully present (incarnationally) in all three.
First up: Christ.
As I’ve gotten older, my fitness goals have changed a bit. As an eight year old in the back forty of my parents farm, I was the reincarnation of Joe Montana. Sixty yard bombs with laser like precision coupled with a sub 4 forty yard dash meant I went number one overall to the Kansas City Chiefs and led them to twelve straight Super Bowls.
Kind of reminds me of this commercial:
In junior high I knew that I was destined to be a great two sport athlete. A stellar running back and a dynamic low post player, my future was bright and contained millions of dollars in signing bonuses.
In high school I took up wrestling and found a passion and dedication that had long been missing from my previous sporting excursions. I became dedicated. I practiced. I trained hard. I eagerly looked forward to two-a-days and then went home and worked some more. And a funny thing happened: I got pretty darn good. Was I the best? No. Will I go down in lore as a local Kansas folk hero? Probably not. But I am also convinced that I was able to win more matches that I should have because I was willing to outwork anybody. My hard work and dedication beat other peoples natural talent.
I remember many nights where dinner was a huge bowl of steamed vegetables. Did I want something else? Sure, but I gave it up to be better than everyone else. I gave up soda cold turkey (and for a guy that was having five a day, it was quite the withdrawal). I ran on school breaks, begged to be let into the weight room, and found every opportunity to inflict pain, err I mean ‘train’ with anyone willing.
When I underwent that strict training, I saw the results. Stamina, power, and strength all improved. That dedication led to tangible results. I ate well, drank well, and exercised often.
As we look at what it means for us to live fully in Christ, we need to adopt that same sort of mindset. We need to eat well, drink deeply, and exercise often.
For the Christian, this is what it looks like:
For us to eat well, we need to be diving deep into the word of God. Jesus is our bread of life, and by reading, knowing, and finding ourselves in his story, we grow in faith. The psalmist urges us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good”
For us to drink properly, we must spend time in prayer. Conversation with God nourishes our soul with living water and creates in us a space of rest and peace.
For us to exercise often is to live in a state of compassion for those around us, particularly those that Jesus identified with: the poor, lost, hurting, broken, and excluded.
Any good athlete in serious training also knows that there is one more important key to growth: rest. In fact, rest is so important that many people don’t see improvement in their race times, mile splits, or strength training because they don’t take rest. The proper timing of rest can be the difference between success and failure.
For the Jesus follower, we also must undergo times of rest. Times where we aren’t going, doing, or reaping. We simply need to have times where we are away from the distractions of our world and have time alone with God. If you look at how Jesus did this in the Gospels, he had regular rhythms of rest, prayer, solitude, and retreat. He had times of celebration and rest in God both privately and with his disciples. This down time is a key aspect of continued growth in Christ.
Our continued growth in Christ is pivotal to our ability to live life in the missional sweet spot. For us to live a life of faithful, missional effectiveness we must understand ourselves in light of the work of Christ. For us, Salvation is not a past experience but a current reality. [Tweet that] For us a common phrase out of our mouth should be: “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.”
In the next post of this series, we are going to look at what it means to be a part of a congregation that equips and deploys for mission, but the precursor for that is a proper orientation of our life in Christ. If we don’t understand the proper rhythm of eating, drinking, training, and resting, we become restless and ineffective missionaries. This often leads to another danger: pharisaical living.
If our “personal relationship” in Christ becomes our only area of living (we don’t have a congregation or live in our community) we become a Pharisee. We judge our life (and the lives of others) based on a set of rules (that we made up) and force others to to live up to our standards.
Both John Burke and Larry Osborne have done excellent research and writing into the area of Pharisees. John Burke’s study with the Barna group revealed that 51% of professing Christians are pharisaical in both their actions and their attitudes towards others, and a full 86% are pharisaical in one or the other. Osborne notes: “…as you press forward, it’s inevitable that you begin to notice that some people lag behind. And it’s at this point that your personal pursuit of holiness can morph into something dangerous: a deepening sense of frustration with those who don’t share your passionate pursuit of holiness. This is the critical juncture. If you allow your frustration to turn into disgust and disdain for people you’ve left behind, you’ll end up on a dangerous detour. Instead of becoming more like Jesus, you’ll become more like his archenemies, the Pharisees of old, looking down on others, confident in your own righteousness.”
It’s because of the pervasiveness of this attitude among Christians that I have found it necessary to point to the multi-faceted approach to living in the Christ circle. Yes, Bible reading and prayer are important but too often we settle for these as healthy spiritual markers when in reality we need to be immersing ourselves in the lifestyle of Jesus by befriending the poor and outcast among us. Only by keeping this a natural part of our life in Christ can proceed to live in the missional sweet spot, something that often reveals itself as we practice healthy spirituality: good eating, good drinking, good exercising, and well timed rest.
This post is part of a series. Read the first post here.
sources: Osborne, Larry (2012-10-09). Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith (p. 20). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.