Friday, October 05, 2007

Incarnational Ministry

I am sooooo challenged and inspired by Michael Frost's book "EXILES" - living missionally in a post-christian culture. According to him, we have slowly but surely shifted into a post-Christian world, which means Christianity is no longer in the centre, but in the fringe of the society.

I am amongst the exiles: Christians who find themselves caught in that dangerous wilderness between contemporary secular Western culture and an old-fashioned church culture of respectability and conservatism. As a follower of Jesus in the new world around us, I want to live missionally in this post-Christendom context. I want to embrace a dynamic, life-affirming, robust Christain faith that can be lived confidently in a world that no longer values such a faith, especially in the business and artist circles that I am involved with (host community as Frost terms it). I am accepting the risks and making the leap, despite the difficulties and challenges, as I am convicted that this is where God has called me to be.

The biblical, Christian impulse to draw near to those who don't know Christ, described as incarnational ministry & missional living is the way to be. There is a whole world of professioanl Christians who live primarily in the church or the Christian academy, but who never seem to embody the ideas of incarnational Christian witness. On the other hand, there are people who are reading the Bible and intuiting new ways to create proximity with not-yet-Christians on their turf. These exiles often don't feel appreciated or understood by the conventional church, or their professional Christians counterpart. Sadly their other Christian friends think their ideas and lifestyle too radical or too unsafe to accomodate or too compromised etc, without trying to understand Jesus' example of incarnational ministry.

I like the four aspects, described by Frost, regarding Jesus' example of incarnational ministry:

(1) An active sharing of life, participating in the fears, frustrations, and afflictions of the host community......

(2) An employment of the language and thought forms of those with whom we seek to share Jesus.......

(3) A preparedness to go to the people, not expecting them to come to us.....

(4) A confidence that the gospel can be communicated by ordinary means, through acts of servanthood, loving relationships, good deeds.....

14 comments:

Kc said...

It's great to read here again! ;-)

I really appreciate the four aspects listed but should we also speak the truth in love? I am thinking in particular, "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God".

Kitty Cheng said...

Hi Kc, thanks brother! It's great to post again too hehe ;-)

Sure speaking the truth in love has to be included, perhaps when Frost wrote the 4th point "loving relationships", speaking the truth in love was part of it? I do think 'speaking the truth in love' is part of a loving relationship. What do you think?

Kc said...

Absolutely Sis! ;-)

Matthew said...

Hello Kitty

What can I say!

I can see how this call to dynamic, compassionate living, is exciting and challenging, to the current christian world view.
This is particularly true as the church fails to meet the needs of the people. The call to incarnational living and the theology behind it will, challenge our Western view, and current social interactions.
I see this as a partial answer to what I have longed for with my home church. That is for a deeper involvement (as jesus did) with all who have been, rejected, oppressed, slandered, and burnt up by this world.

For me to fully accept what is intended by the Term of Incarnational Living/Theology;
I must ask the following questions.

1. How did jesus intend this incarnational calling to unfold? 2. How did the 1st century Christians live it?
3. When was this new term coined, and the movement started?
4. Who started the movement?
5. Does it line up with traditional theology?
6. Are traditions and practices being added or revived from out side our main stream world view?
7. Are these practises drawing use closer to the 1st century Church or towards the one world religion based on syncretism?

I have much reading and many questions to answer, on this subject.
Matty

Rodney Olsen said...

It's a great book isn't it?

Did you ever get the chance to hear my interview with Mike Frost?

http://www.rodneyolsen.net/2007/03/exiles-living-missionally-in-post.html

Kitty Cheng said...

Hi Matty, your questions are thoughtful and really worth pondering on. Apart from reading though, I think engaging in incarnational ministry actively is also an important step in understanding what it really means by incarnational living / theology. Afterall, theology is not just some study, but should be an action reflection exercise.

Kitty Cheng said...

Hi Rodney,

Yes it's really a great book!

I didn't have the change to hear your interview with Mike Frost. Thanks for the link, I'll have a listen.

Kitty Cheng said...

Hi Rodney,

Yes it's really a great book!

I didn't have the change to hear your interview with Mike Frost. Thanks for the link, I'll have a listen.

Ross McPhee said...

While I consider myself blessed to work and live where I do, the downside is that I feel a little cloistered, spending almost every day of the week around Christians. At the start of the year I took the step of joining a social group, made up of people of different age groups and marital statuses, and then someone from church warned me against doing this. From my point of view, there's something amiss when I can count my unchurched friends on one hand.

Kitty Cheng said...

Hi Ross,

I understand where you are coming from. I can resonate with you and consider myself blessed to work in a mission organisation part time.

I don't see why your friend from church would warn you against joining a social group to reach out to people from different backgrounds and groups. I totally agree that there's certainly something missing if we only have churched friends in our lives. After all, like John Stott writes,
“Mission is integral to authentic Christianity; Christianity without mission is Christianity no longer.” How can Christians engage in mission without not-yet Christian friends?

Ross McPhee said...

I know my friend meant well, but my head is screwed on the right way. The thing with this group is that you can pick and choose the events you attend. What's wrong with wanting to broaden one's social network?

Kitty Cheng said...

what exactly do you mean when you said your head is screwed on the right way?

I see nothing wrog with broaden one's social network whatsoever ross. Sounds like a good group to me! I encourage you to keep attending. I know I would....

Ross McPhee said...

When I say my head is screwed on the right way, I'm trying to say that I'm not easily influenced by others, so unlike my friend I don't have any concerns about being led astray by "bad company." The key is to be discerning about the venues and events I attend. If anything, I think the real danger is from other Christians, some of whom have strange ideas.

Ross McPhee said...

PS: I've read a bit of Stott as well, and also Ray Bakke, and part of my motivation in joining this social group was to put some of their ideas about urban mission into practice.