Incarnation as the model for mission

Incarnation as the model for mission

We just celebrated Christmas. The big deal is that God became a man and came to live on the block in downtown Nazareth. He set into motion what was to become the essential model for the mission of his people. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you into the world” (John 17:18, 20:21).

Incarnation is the very heart and nature of mission and it can’t be anything else. We’re called to go into the world because it’s the world that God so loves, the world that needs to be made right, the world into which the Kingdom needs to come. The particularity of incarnation is that it teaches us that things are always changed and transformed from the inside. God came into the world in the person of Jesus and he comes into our very lives through his Spirit. God indwells us and the world and to the degree that we give him space change happens.

The problem with how the Church (and YWAM) has often done missions is that we have not always gone into the world except geographically (Judea, Jerusalem, the ends of the earth). But the world into which Jesus came was also political, military, cultural and interested with economics (fishing, farming and making wine). The religious part of culture is one that he generally kept at a distance. He came as a real man to live in a real world. But the Church has gone into the world bringing with it its’ own culture and asking people to join it. It participated in a form of religious colonialism whether Catholic, Protestant or evangelical. Instead of going into the world through incarnation we preferred reproducing our own religious brands.

We’ve asked people to come out of the world when Jesus asked us to go into the world. Come into our programs, come into our church community, come out of the world because it’s fallen. But Jesus came into our fallen world and into our fallen lives because it’s from the inside that he begins to rebuild in the midst of the ruins.

What does the world look like? There are so many cultures, peoples and nations. How can we love them all? By loving the individual, the particular. Jesus came into the world by limiting himself to one family, one town, one people, one language, one culture, one country. By focusing on the particular with all the constraints that becoming rooted means, he lived and died in a way that transformed the whole world. At times, our relationship with the world because of so much travel is really superficial. How invested are we locally? Are our training programs teaching our students how to become rooted and how to incarnate or are these more surface oriented because we’re just passing through and not staying long enough to make any significant changes? But the message of Jesus still remains: “Like the Father has sent me so I send you into the world”.

Pierre LeBel

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