As I continue to pastor a church that is attempting to live into the mission of Jesus in the place he's called us in the east end of Richmond, VA, I'm regularly struck by something: The way writers and thinkers in the missional space attempt to help people make a paradigm shift towards 'missional' and the way people actually change seem to be missing each other.
I call it, 'The Jesus Juke.' (OK...it's not really me calling it this. Jon Acuff coined the phrase and I'm just a happy beneficiary of it.)
Here's one way of defining a 'Jesus Juke':
Most people experience Jesus Jukes something like this (and this is a borrowed example):
(Mike) I can't wait for Saturday! We are going to get to the stadium like six hours before the game. I'm bringing my grill to cook up some burgers, we can play cornhole, and then as soon as the gates open, we can head on in. It is gonna be awesome!
(Todd) Yeah... But I was just thinking... What if we spent those six hours that we were going to tailgate and watch the game by going down to the homeless shelter and serving food? When is the last time we got this excited about spending six hours in prayer?
You see that juke there at the end? Plain as day.
But how can a Jesus Juke exist with 'missional' when the whole topic is actually talking about jesus?
I think it's fairly simple.
It revolves around the element of shame. Let me give some of the subtle, under-the-radar things people seem to say when trying to speed along the missional paradigm shift:
- "That's great that you love the Bible. If you really understood the Bible, you'd understand that everyone is a 'sent-one'."
- "I love to see how passionate you are about following Jesus. If you were really a disciple of Jesus, you'd be living out his mission in the world wherever you live, work and play."
- "You see to love bringing your friends to the worship service. Maybe if you worked a little harder at loving your neighbors and being incarnational, you'd get it."
- "It's nice that you feel blessed that you were finally able to buy a home. If you cared more about the mission of God and less about the American Dream, you'd understand what I'm saying."
Now I don't think I've ever heard people say these explicit words. But I've heard more writers and speakers than I can count infer these ideas.
It's a problem.
Because all of those things speak more about what I KNOW or how hard I'm TRYING than it does about the kind of spiritual shift that needs to happen.
Yes, there are elements to the missional paradigm shift that require solid Biblical teaching and a simple framework of understanding. But we can take that waaaaayyyy too far. People aren't going to intellectualize their way into a genuine paradigm shift. Particularly a spiritual one! It will take a move of God in their hearts and minds to see their place in the world as a sent-one of Jesus to all the places and spaces they inhabit.
The great irony is this: For all the talk in the missional movement about being incarnational and being where people are, there's next to none of that grace for people who are already Christians.
We need to actually be where people are. We need to inhabit how they understand things and engage with them on the spiritual level of they find themselves at. In the same way that missional folks seem repelled by the idea of using guilt or shame to 'make' people tithe, come to faith in Jesus or any number of things, we shouldn't be exerting those same methods and tools for our supposed righteous end.
Jesus is at work in that person. And I believe Jesus wants that person to be sent into the world he so loved in the same way that he was sent from the throne of heaven. If they are being sent, he wants them sent out because there's something inside of them that has shifted, something they've repented of, something that's driving different behavior. There's a spiritual element to that. A deeply spiritual element.
Sure. We can use the same old methods of guilt and shame and try to cajole people into a right way of thinking. But it won't last. When it's guilt or shame, it relies on their human will power to sustain that kind of living. And the only way to really live this out is through the power only the Holy Spirit gives.
There is probably a reason so many people who made the 'missional shift' are spiritual fatigued and burnt out. If we don't want to add to that number, perhaps we need to change the way we walk alongside the people God has entrusted to us.