Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Re-thinking “Incarnational”

Continuing our focus on Attractional and Incarnational, it is clear that there are those who use the word “incarnational” to identify any congregational ministry that focuses beyond itself. For example, a clothes closet in which members gather, sort and distribute used clothing to persons in need may be identified as a “missional ministry” because the target recipients of the ministry are persons who are not part of the congregation providing the ministry.

However, it is possible for a group to provide such “ministry” without ever intending to really connect with ministry recipients. I see this fashion of ministry provided routinely by churches who feel they must “do something” for those who are less fortunate. But, truly incarnational ministry never sees people as objects that need ministry, rather as people to be loved.

If I do all ministries possible and have not authentic love for those who are receiving the benefits of ministry, I may be doing good deeds, but I am not incarnating Christ. While others saw crowds of people, masses of humanity with overwhelming needs, He saw individuals for whom He came seeking relationship – people whom He would love, at whatever the cost that was required. True ministry always has a cost associated with it. When touching Jesus robe, the woman of Mark 5 was healed. And the text says, “Jesus felt the power going forth from Him.” While I do not understand the depth of that statement, I understand enough to know that ministry did not come without a price.

Sometimes ministry is offered as a salve, not to eliminate the pain of the other, but to soothe our own conscience. We feel better because we have done something for “those poor people.” But unless we long to become real friends with those people, to journey with them through the challenges of everyday life, we are a long way from the incarnation of Jesus. He did not say “I have called you recipients of ministry,” He said, “I have called you friends.”

Authentic incarnation means investing in relationships with people, not just giving them a hand-out. Incarnational mission joins Jesus in seeking those upon whom He can lavish His love. Who are the people Jesus is giving you to love in your sphere of influence? Where will incarnational mission carry you today?

View the second Attractional or Incarnational ministry focus video by clicking the picture above or following this Missional Church Center Video link.

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