Posted by: michaelhanegan | September 21, 2008

Missional Sanctification

In this post I want to explore my current understanding of a missional model of sanctification. I did not borrow this from anyone so if I am way off base then I am the only one at fault. But I believe that there are at least some important discussions that we need to be having in our churches about what kind of believers are a part of our congregations and how we hope and plan for them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18). So here it is:


Missional%20Sanctification%20Graph.jpg

Friends/Family/Neighbor/Stranger
These are people who are NOT-YET-CHRISTIANS. We interact with them on a daily basis. They are not limited to our community or our relationships. This includes the “all nations” spoken of in God’s promise to Abraham. This is our community, our nation, and the world whom we are trying to reach.

New/Renewed Believers
These are people who have just become or just recommissioned themselves as servants of God and followers of Jesus. This group needs to be trained, mentored, and commissioned to move closer to Jesus Christ and more fully into the mission of God (a.k.a. the Missio Dei) for his Body, the Church.

Members
This group is characterized by people who are not new or newly recommissioned to Christ but have not grown to the place of spiritual maturity that manifests itself in sacrifice and service. They are in need of equipping and mentoring to become better equipped and more involved in God’s mission.

Ministers
This group is marked by their desire and willingness to serve and minister primarily in ways that effect and benefit only the body of believers. They are in need of equipping and mentoring to become fully involved in and devoted to God’s mission for the church and the world.Too often this has been the “ideal” to which we have taught and striven in many of our churches.

Missionaries
This group is characterized by their love for God and neighbor. They are concerned about the spiritual health and vitality of the church, they are committed to the mentoring and equipping of other believers, and are active in finding ways to express the Gospel in whatever context they find themselves in. This group has moved from being alienated from Christ to participating in God’s mission to their fullest with a desire to grow in their understanding of and participation in it.

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Does this make sense? God has always been on a mission, from before the creation of the world, his plan was already in place. God did not give us a mission he simply invited us, through Jesus Christ, to join him in fulfilling his mission, the blessing of all nations and the redemption of all creation. Jesus is the key to the blessing of all nations but his life, death, and resurrection were not the totality of that promise. Otherwise, why is he coming back?

When we look at passages about the church and our mission (Ephesians 4; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; etc.) we see a picture that looks much different than what we see in our churches typically. I think we need to reclaim the desire and purpose of moving people from alienated from God to missionaries (in the true sense of the word) who participate in the mission of God, the blessing of the entire world.

What would be different if our churches really sought to move people from Not-Yet-Christians to missionaries instead of just members or even ministers? I think a lot of things would be different. But how do we make this move? That may take the rest of my life (or longer) to turn into a reality. Let’s talk about it.

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Responses

  1. Wouldn’t a missional perspective lend itself to collapsing those circles tighter? Seems like the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9ff) would make the ideal distinction between members and ministers basically nil? So I am wondering if the outer circles are further out but once you step into the kingdom you should be engaged in the mission in a way that doesn’t matter if you are “just a member” who lives on Main St. USA or a long time missionary in some remote country. Both are engaged in God’s mission and both striving to be Christlike. Just a thought.

  2. Hey Matt,
    If I understand you right I imagine we are saying the same thing in different ways. When I talk about members, ministers, and missionaries I am not talking about vocation or location. Members are those who are present but either choose not to serve or have yet to mature into a desire to do so. Ministers are those who are willing to “be involved” but do not have the desire or motivation to be concerned about those in their context who have not been added to the Kingdom. The missionary is one who seeks to meet the needs of the people of God and those who have yet to put their faith in Christ. So it’s not so much about “levels” as it is a maturity that reflects an understanding of and participation in the mission of God, the redemption of all creation.

    I think that you can look at it this way and still leave the “priesthood of all believers” in tact. Hope this helps. Thanks for your thoughts!!

    Michael

  3. This is a great post and one that I linked to my blog. In regard to Matt’s post about the priesthood, it is important to note that this letter was written to people of the church. Too often people think that when Peter speaks of those who are disobedient he is speaking who are not in the church, or in context, not members. I think it is the exact opposite. When we are baptized we become part of the church and it is at that point, not after some time of maturation, that we are to begin striving to live out what is known as the Great Commission. Let’s be honest, the number of people actually living the Great Commission, or being a missionary, in their own community is very small. The priesthood does contain missionaries, members, ministers, and new/renewed believers. The missionaries are the wheat that Jesus speaks of in his parable of the wheat and tares. The tares include all these others. Remember, Jesus delivers that parable discussing “the kingdom of heaven,” a.k.a. the church. The question then becomes this: At what point do we tell a minister or member that if they do not become missionaries that their soul is in jeopardy? That is not my judgment, it comes from Jesus’ own teaching of what will happen to the tares.

  4. Perhaps I think one of the most insightful things that comes from such a model of spiritual formation/sanctification is that we avoid what one author calls “drive by formation”. In other words we are conscious of the fact that the people in a community of faith are simultaneously at different places in the spiritual journey and maturity. This doesn’t mean that there is no direction (the goal is to move towards the center), but it prevents us from cookie-cutter approaches to spiritual formation and allows us to actually be more reproductive in our churches because we honor and disciple people at all stages of the journey.

    I hope that makes sense. I think that the diversity of maturity and experience is real and visible to those who look. To not take that into account in our understanding of how God continues to save people (a.k.a. sanctification) is to do harm to that person and the community as a whole. We see this most clearly in places like the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus had The Disciples (an inner circle of 12 men), disciples (a.k.a. followers), and the crowd. All were welcome and there was a message (and a tough one at that) for all. But the level of commitment and maturity were all in line with where people were in their journey of faith. Jesus didn’t water down the message but he didn’t call the crowd to “leave their boats” either.


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