Book Club Blog


Mission is everything.

Its true.  These days, everything in “church-ese” is about being “missional.”  Even if you're not really mission-minded, you want to be thought of as “missional.”  Steve Harper, Professor of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies – Florida Dunnam Campus of  Asbury Seminary, describes what it means and how we know if we've got it:

Missional Spirituality: Apostolic Identity

We have laid a brief but basic foundation for missional spirituality in the previous editions of the Alumni e-Link, looking at it in general and also as a phenomenon inside and outside the walls of the church. Now, we need to return to two foci–one inside and one outside. In this article, we go inside the walls and give further attention to apostolic identity.

Missional spirituality cannot occur unless the members of the church understand themselves to be disciples. We have said this, but we must re-emphasize it. Contained within this understanding is the related idea that we are apostles. When Jesus selected the original twelve (Mark 3:13-19), it's clear that he wanted them to be lifelong learners who went into the world in his name. We commune with him and are commissioned to an apostolic identity begins in the knowledge that Jesus is our Rabbi, and we are pupils in his school. School is always in session. We never graduate. We cannot turn our faith into a formula (e.g. “Six Steps to Victory”). We cannot make discipleship a program. We are called to an infinite God, so we cannot ever think of coming to the end of the formation process. Jesus' call to the twelve was “to be with him,” and that carries with it the idea of being in ongoing spiritual development.

The church is greatly hampered by the mentality that “stops and starts”—engages and drops out. We must recapture the vision of Christianity as life with God in Christ, not merely Sunday participation in institutional religion. We will never become missional apart from this recognition. When we commit ourselves to following Jesus, we do so as those who will never stop the process. In every age and stage of life we are instructed and matured by the Gospel.

An apostolic identity also means that we understand we are sent into the world in Jesus' name. This is the literal meaning of apostle: “one who is sent.” Missional Spirituality is not about finding a new way to serve; it's about finding out how to serve in the places we already go and through the things we already do. I believe this is the most transformative dimension of missional spirituality. It is an igniting moment when we come to see that Jesus calls us to take our “every-day, ordinary life” (Romans 12:1 The Message), and offer it to God. This means that the lifelong learning we've previously mentioned is connected to our already-established ways of service. Of course, God can add new things to our lives, but the initial call is to follow Jesus into the places we already go. Can you imagine the impact if the billions of Christians on the earth got up in the morning and simply “lived for Jesus” where they are and as they are. In the sixteenth century, Jean Pierre de Caussade defined holiness as, “… doing the next thing you have to do, and doing it for God.”

This is the vision and spirit which launches and sustains missional spirituality.

What do you already know? Where do you already go? What do you already do? Give it to Christ, and let him work through your work. This is apostolic identity–a life that never ceases to learn–a life that applies what is learned and “takes it to work” bright and early in the morning, and everyday thereafter.