Wineskins Archive

January 28, 2014

How Mission Shapes Us (Jul-Aug 2007)

Filed under: — @ 6:27 pm and

by Greg Taylor, Managing Editor
July – August, 2007

We are shaped by the mission of Christ. Frost and Hirsh have an incredibly helpful typology in their book, The Shaping of Things to Come.

The Aussie Kiwi combo perhaps speak with a bit more objectivity about American culture as they observe that the mainline churches are dying and a shift must take place. They say that many American churches started with church as the driving force that shapes our mission. Then mission shapes Christ into the image of the church.

Frost and Hirsh call for a reversal of this model to one that starts with Jesus’ mission. Christ’s mission shapes our mission, and in turn this mission shapes the church.

So the progression is Christ-Mission-Church rather than Church-Mission-Christ.

This is no small shift. This is huge.

It turns our “Christian” worldview upside down. It changes the questions we ask. It changes our actions in the community. It completely forever changes the way we live out the call to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

Instead of asking, “Will someone be offended and leave our church?” we preach and counsel the body of Christ in ways that Jesus preached, offending only with the gospel.

Instead of asking, “What ministry programs can we start in our church to help it grow?” we are asking, “How can we join in Christ’s desire to see captives set free in this city?”

Instead of asking, “How can we get more members of our church?” we are asking, “How can we equip more people to be missionaries who are the presence of Jesus in their circles of influence?”

Rather than assuming a mission that is about a church organization and building a little kingdom on earth, the mission of Christ and his kingdom is our mission and kingdom we live and serve in.

Mission changes us in ways we couldn’t otherwise change.

Like Frost and Hirsh, I’ve learned a lot and observed a lot from other cultures. I’ve learned perhaps what I could not have learned without going into another culture.

We went to a lot of funerals in Uganda. AIDS, malaria, dysentery.

Ida Bozonoona had a very sick child. His name was Reagan. He was 8 when he died. We went to his funeral. A village leader collected contributions from every villager. Each village woman brought wood on her head for cooking, a jug of water in her hands and a sack of food. Many spent several nights sleeping outside the home of the grieving, taking turns crying, mourning and lamenting the loss. I saw women who refused to leave the side of Ida and cried when her tears dried up and she was tired. I saw family members and friends digging the grave with a shovel and all of us helping to fill the hole back with soil.

Our mission team, being so moved by this and all the ways we saw communities join hands after death, decided to dig one another’s graves by hand when we die. The first death on our mission team came sooner than we ever imagined when Adam Langford and Moses Kimezi died.

We learned something about death and community and grieving that we’d never learned had we not joined the Soga culture and life.

So also do we learn by going and doing. We learn by the very act of being in the world and living the mission of Christ. We don’t simply go and do the mission. We live into the mission and learn and are shaped by Christ’s mission.

That’s what this issue is about.

Campolo/Darling book to help us discuss this theme, “How Jesus Shapes Our Mission”

Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling wrote a book that will help frame discussion on Wineskins in the next two issues and lead into our ZOE Look to the Hills Conferences in Nashville in 2007 and other sites in 2008.

Our ZOE 07-08 theme and new CD release is called OVERFLOW and we’ll be turning over this theme in articles as well, discussing it from many perspectives, including first how Jesus’ mission shapes ours, then moving on to how worship shapes us for mission, overflowing into our lives as God transforms us by his Spirit when we humbly bow before Him.

Campolo’s and Darling’s book is called God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice.

We think this book is just what we need to help spark the discussion on and move toward action in communities around the world.

Today, we’ll discuss chapter one then next week, with permission of the publisher, we’ll post an excerpt of Campolo’s and Darling’s book, and finally, we’re looking forward to bringing you an interview with Mary Albert Darling on this theme of the God of Intimacy and Action.

God of Intimacy and Action

God of Intimacy and ActionWhy did Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling write God of Intimacy and Action? Campolo says it’s because of a man from a little town called Assisi, near Florence Italy. You know this man as Francis of Assisi, a twelfth century monk who combined the lifestyle of worship and prayer with loving the poor and sharing the gospel of Christ. His spirituality did not take him to lofty mountains but to alleyways and slums.

The kind of mystical spirituality St. Francis lived is truly modeled after Jesus’ own life: a dual mission of evangelism—to “seek and save the lost”—and social justice—to “release the captives and preach good news to the poor.”

Chapter 1: What Mystical Christianity is all about

The use of “mystical” together with “Christian” is intentional. Campolo and Darling warn against two pitfalls: first, we ought not whitewash mysticism or spirituality so that it’s not specifically Christ’s but melts together with New Age religiosities and second, we ought not confuse mysticism with personal piety that comes with head knowledge and theological ascent.

The book, instead, is about how ordinary people can experience God in deep ways that radically transform us.

In chapter one Campolo describes four types of mystical experiences: new insights, I-Thou relationships, conversion experiences, and breakthrough moments. He gives examples of people, including his own stories, who have had these experiences. One fly in the ointment is a great impasse between two kinds of Christian thought. On the one hand, many Protestants bristle at the idea that any effort on our part contributes to our salvation. On the other hand, many Catholics bristle at the notion of cheap grace not constantly “worked out” through cultivation of spirituality. Campolo points to our Lord’s parable of the good soil as an example of how to bridge this great divide.

“What is important about this parable for this discussion,” says Campolo, “is our belief that while the spiritual blessings of some—if not all—of the kinds of mystical experiences that we describe are available to any who really want them, only those individuals who are prepared to receive these blessings will consistently be transformed by them.”

So the book attempts to train us to be good soil, prepared for this kind of transformation, and daily circling back to intimacy with God and how he shows us how to live in the world. Emilie Griffin, author of Wonderful and Dark is This Road: Discovering the Mystic Path, says, “The unitive life is an intimacy with God which continues in the day-to-day course of our existence. Mysticism transforms but does not take us out of the human condition.”

The rub in this book is that many churches have emphasized personal relationship with God and evangelism but ignore social concerns of the gospel. Other churches have emphasized social justice but ignore a personal connection with God and sharing that with others.

This book seeks to answer how to fully integrate this dual mission of the church in organic ways. If they really do show the way forward, this book could be the most important integrative book of the twenty-first century thus far.

Campolo points to Donal Dorr (Spirituality and Justice) and what he believes to be three necessary conversions, based on Micah 6:8: personal, interpersonal, and societal/political.

First, we must be converted to the awareness of God personally loving and saving us through Christ, but awareness is not enough—we must walk humbly with God and yield to the Spirit and allow an intimate connection to God and his life-saving love.

Second, we must be converted to loving our neighbor, the interpersonal conversion that “loves tenderly” those in community and those outsiders in need. Campolo adds to Dorr’s idea the need for Christians to share Christ with others, helping those who commit to Christ find and connect with a faith community.

Third, we must be converted to “do justice” outside of only personal categories but to seek a wider interpersonal sphere but not just to “be nice” or “a good neighbor” but to also look more deeply into how social structures unfairly benefit the rich and destroy the poor and to actively and mercifully “do justice” where we are living, and Campolo adds that this includes justice to the poor but also action to re-create and preserve God’s whole creation.

They close with four great questions for the body of Christ, and these are personal but communal, not individual only, and these can be used in small group discussions.

Are we sharing the loving, redeeming message of Christ with others?

Are we caring for our own family, our friends, and others in our social sphere?

Are we championing the rights of those who cannot champion their own rights?

Are we using our resources, such as our time, money, and our right to vote, to help the oppressed—both human and nonhuman—have a more acceptable quality of life?New Wineskins

Greg TaylorGreg Taylor is managing editor of New Wineskins. He is also associate
minister for the Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His
newest book, co-authored with Anne-Geri’ Fann, How to Get Ready for Short-Term Missions, was released by Thomas Nelson in May 2006. His novel is titled High Places (Leafwood, 2004). He co-authored with John Mark Hicks, Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God’s Transforming Work. Greg and his wife, Jill, have three children: Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Before moving to Tulsa in 2005, the Taylors lived in Nashville, Tennessee four years, and they lived in Uganda seven years, where they worked with a church planting team. His blog is


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