That’s the question I ended with last evening.
And it’s one I don’t have an answer for really.
If I were to go by the sorts of things that make for good stories at conferences, such as meeting the gang members and drug addicts over coffee every week, then no. Not really.
Indeed, for the last five years I lived in what is described as ‘the mountain resorts’ area of Southern California, a mile high in a small town surrounded by national forest.
Not really a missional hub.
I’ve mostly kept quiet about my personal life, except for some of the more exciting details. Even as, of course, I tended to bare my soul in consideration of spiritual themes and areas of utterly needed spiritual maturing.
Am I missional? I guess that depends on what you mean by missional. What is missional? That link points to an answer I gave a while back.
Now, I’m a PhD student in systematic theology. That’s not really missional. Even if I want to go chat with other intellectuals about missional things using big words and obscure historical points. I enjoy doing that, mind you. But, I don’t see that as really being missional as often defined.
Formational. Sure. Missional would be, I think, how I use this degree, and how I’ve used my Masters of Divinity and how I’ve used my BA in Biblical and Theological Studies. Three degrees that show my increased study of the work of God and his ways in this world.
Am I missional? I’m shy. More shy than most people who meet me would suspect. I’m talking really shy and really introverted. Like a perfect score on the I side of the MBTI. I’m not the sort of guy that hangs out in pubs or coffee shops and strikes up conversations with all and sundry, leading a wide variety of people towards a varying degree of spiritual interest.
I moved to the mountains because I tend towards being a contemplative. I like the sound of wind, the songs of birds, the quiet of a still mountain day, where my thoughts can wander, and leap, uncurling in their untrammeled freedom, unknotting from life’s frenetic entanglements.
I was single.
Now I’m married. I moved from the mountains last month and now I live in the middle of Pasadena, where the major sound is the flowing traffic of the 210 freeway located right behind my bedroom window.
I’ve spent a decent amount of time in nearby pubs and such places hanging out with old friends and meeting new people almost every day.
Am I missional now? Well, the new people I’m meeting are mostly all seminary students. That’s why I’m here. My entire apartment complex is seminary students. My old friends are pretty mature Christians. My new wife? She was a worship leader in the Portland area. Yeah. One of the least churched regions of the country and I still find the Christians to focus on and bring one back with me.
What is missional?
I’ve sought God. I still seek God. Not with big words and magnificent ambitions. I seek God having tasted humility in isolation and poverty, and turned towards deeper and deeper teachings to help me again see the God who just wasn’t like for me as so much of the popular teaching claimed he was like.
Paul writes in Philippians words that I certainly can’t say with the intensity he does, but I would like to, and get what he is saying now more than I did ten years ago:
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I press on. But am I missional? I write a lot about missional/emerging things. Indeed, I wrote a book that begins with emerging/missional themes and shows how they are aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit among us. That book got some fairly nice comments from some fairly intelligent, and truly missional, people, including Dan Kimball. Hasn’t sold all that well.
Maybe because I’m not really missional, and couldn’t put on the book bio anything about my ministry in the city or my extensive work with the devastatingly poor in an unpronounceable town in central India. “He lives in Lake Arrowhead, where he hikes, kayaks, and watches birds” it says, or something to that effect. What do I know about missional?
Am I missional? Maybe not. But, I’m not entirely willing to let go quite yet. Maybe I need to do more of what Dan suggested in his question. Maybe I need to tell more of my actual story and maybe there’s a bit of God’s mission to be found in that.
I guess maybe I’ll venture into doing that next.