Most Christians (and many non-Christians) desire to do good in their community. They want to serve the poor, confront injustice, combat racism, help refugees and share the love of Christ through word and deed—especially deed. Part of our discipleship process should empower people to engage the mission of Christ wherever they are.
We shouldn’t see discipleship activities like church services and Bible studies as preparation for the mission. Jesus didn’t take this approach and neither should we. Rather, we should view missional activities as part of the discipleship journey. We learn, we serve—and we learn by serving.
Mission is not something that occurs after disciples become mature. It’s part of the maturation process of discipleship. Christians that desire to help disciples “be conformed into Christlikeness” need to integrate missional activities—or let’s just call it a “missional lifestyle”—into the process.
Just to be clear: I don’t believe we should replace morality with mission. To become like Jesus, we need to pursue sexual purity, sobriety, generosity, selflessness, kindness, and we need to put to death vices like anger, greed, jealousy, lust and pride. My point is not to replace morality with mission, but to view mission as part of morality.
So what does it mean to live missionally? I just so happened to stumble upon a description of the term missional from Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. It’s honestly the best summary I think I’ve ever seen. So instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ll just hijack Dan’s description—giving him full credit, of course:
“Being missional means that the church sees itself as being missionaries, rather than having a missions department, and that we see ourselves as missionaries right where we live.”
“Being missional means that we see ourselves as representatives of Jesus ‘sent’ into our communities, and that the church aligns everything it does with the missio dei (mission of God).”
“Being missional means we see the church not as a place we go only on Sunday, but as something we are throughout the week.”
“Being missional means that we understand we don’t ‘bring Jesus’ to people but that we realize Jesus is active in culture and we join him in what he is doing.”
“Being missional means we are very much in the world and engaged in culture but are not conforming to the world.”
“Being missional means we serve our communities, and that we build relationships with the people in them, rather than seeing them as evangelistic targets.”
“Being missional means being all the more dependent on Jesus and the Spirit through prayer, the Scriptures and each other in community.”
We will explore Preston Sprinkle’s perspective on discipleship in greater depth in the January/February 2017 issue of Outreach.
This excerpt is taken from Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith by Preston Sprinkle, copyright © 2016 by The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Preston Sprinkle is vice president of Eternity Bible College (Boise extension), where he also serves as professor of New Testament. Sprinkle is also the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller Erasing God (with Francis Chan).