02 November 2005

Discerning Missional Vocation

OK, so now I'm finally getting around to writing about the actual subject matter of the Gospel and Our Culture Network Conference I attended. The basic motivating idea behind the conference is "Missional Church", which I've blogged about before, but in a nutshell, it's the idea that the Christian church is, in its most fundamental identity, a people on a mission. That mission is to be the sign and foretaste of the inbreaking Kingdom of God by proclaiming the Good News of God's redemptive work in Jesus, and by transforming the world through imitating Jesus' acts of welcome, love, and healing.

One easy thing to miss in that definition is the corporate nature of that missional calling. The church is not a collection of independent persons on a mission; the church is a people on a mission. Together. Early in my Christian walk, I "got it" that I as an individual Christian have been gifted and called by God to a particular ministry, a particular vocation. It's my job to discern the shape of that call (which may be fairly broad, but will be related to my natural and spiritual gifts, my passions, and my cultural context) and to live it out in the world. I've been busy with that process of individual discernment for much of the last three years. But what I missed until recently was the fact that this missional calling isn't just individual; it's collective. Just as each Christian has a particular call to ministry and mission, so does each church, each judicatory (diocese, synod, etc.), each denomination, etc.

And that, more or less, is what this conference was about. If congregations and larger church bodies also have a missional calling based on their particular gifts, passions, and context, how on earth would they go about discerning and living out that vocation? The good news (and I use those words intentionally) is that there are organizations out there bringing to bear a combination of deep, biblical, missional theology and leading-edge sociological tools to provide great resources to church organizations (congregations and larger bodies) that are ready to get serious about discerning and living out their missional calling in the world. I came in contact with many of these organizations in Minnesota, and I know of a few others from different sources, so my next post will include pointers to some of these resources. Stay tuned....

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