Evangelism and Mission, or Communities prepare to be catalyzed


You hear a lot of people talking about the Church becoming more 'missional' these days. For a rough personal translation, the 'missional' principle is kind of like the 'evangelistic' principle in that both suggest that the Church should spread its influence outside of its own walls. Widening the circle, so to speak. From what I've gathered though, evangelism is more about propositions and missionality is more about community. Evangelism is tricking people into believing what you do so they'll know God, missionality is tricking people into being your friend so they'll know God. Both approaches assume that the Church has something valuable to offer that, in corporate terms, should be advertised to draw in interested buyers. At the best, both are about invitation, faith, and a sharing of a profound personal and communal experience. At the worst, both are about sales, and self-preservation on the part of the individual or church.

I tell you all of this because I recently started a job as "Community Catalyst" for our new Episcopal Diocesan Commission for Emerging Mission. One of the responsibilities of my job is to increase the level of missionality among Episcopalians in the Diocese of Olympia. I suppose its about reassuring Episcopalians that their religious experience is something valuable, and convincing them that our religious system has the potential to be hot and sexy in the postmodern world. Both are things that I believe deeply.

I have to admit that I've always had a tendency towards religious fervor, which is something I've been a bit embarrassed of in the past. It runs in my veins as the grandson of multiple ministers though, and I really can't get beyond my religiosity. I've tried, and I'm generally quiet about it, but it comes out whenever I write or drink. Having given you that obligatory apology, I'm grateful to have a rare chance to be paid to work as an Anglican/Episcopal missioner. I've spoken before about my generally confused attitude towards theology. Anglican religion as expressed in the Episcopal Church though might just be the best institutional example of a Christianity where spirituality is still recognized as antecedent to theology. That is, participation in religious practices is more important than, and determinative of, religious beliefs. We Episcopalians have some affinity with some streams of Buddhism in that regard (or so I understand, I'm no expert on Buddhism), and lots of affinity with the uncertain postmodern ethos. To us, God is a mystery, but religious practice is a tried and tested path for walking into that mystery. Maybe there is no God, but religion allows us to experience God (ht: Pete Rollins, (who everyone should read) via Jordan Rickard, last night at a bar (who has written less but still should be read)).

So, the mission really is to follow the path and provide the means for other people to do the same should they so choose. Invitation, which is good because I'm a horrible liar and I suck at sales. I'm happy to be selling Spiritual practices you can believe in.

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