For a few weeks now I've been slowly starting to read Reggie McNeal's book Missional Communities. It's basically McNeal's take on the movement that at Central we are calling "pastorates." They're mid-sized communities that function almost like a house church.
Here's an intriguing quote I ran across this evening while I was reading. If you are at all concerned with the church and its mission in the world, this is thought-provoking:
Though God can lay claim to all peoples of the earth, he has created a people with the responsibility of partnering with him as he pursues his work in the world ("Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Exod. 19:5, NIV).
God is the primary missionary. He is the one who has been The Seeker since the Garden of Eden. The mission has been under way since Adam and Eve, well before Abraham and the creation of a covenant people. In other words there was a mission before there was the church. The church did not invent the mission nor does it have exclusive rights to it. Those belong to God. Said another way, the church does not have a mission; the mission has a church.
Why does God need a partner? The simple answer is, he doesn't. So why does God create a partner people? Two reasons seem apparent. The first is that God has a preference for incarnation when it comes to revealing his nature and intention. God prefers to work through people when possible. Abraham is blessed to show the world God's intention for all humanity. His offspring embody the story of God's redemptive efforts. Then ultimately God chooses to wrap himself in human flesh in Jesus.
Those of us who are aware of God's mission in the world grow accustomed to God sightings, though we never grow accustomed to the God who is behind them. We get to see resurrections of hope and life and love. Everything else pales in comparison to the work of God we see all around us. And he is pleased that we notice! (pp. 19-20)
Too often we in the church are prone to overvalue our own efforts and our own work. Fact is, the mission is God's -- it is his generosity and his love that invites us to be a part of it. When we make the mission about us and our efforts, we miss out on God's presence in it and we miss out on the joy and fellowship with him that he wants for us.