Incarnational Living


I often bump into people that really appreciate the "misisonal conversation" - they love the books, videos, and conferences - yet still struggle with the concept of, "What does this actually look like in my life?"  And because they are conditioned from years and years of evangelical church life, they wait for someone to organize something, and give them a time and a place to "go be missional".  This dilemma is why the concept of being "incarnational" is paramount to our understanding of how we go about a missional lifestyle.  The idea of incarnation comes from John 1:14 where it says, "The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us."  Another translation reads, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood."  If we are a sent-people, living as missionaries in the world, the way in which we are sent is to "dwell among" a group of people, to identify with them (in a sense, become like them), in the same way that Jesus "became like us".  The reality is that we already live in a neighborhood, occupy a social space, work along-side of others, and exist within in a community.  Therefore, the way in which we DO mission incarnationally, is to embody (incarnate) the "good news of the Kingdom" within the midst of the lives and relationships we find surrounding us, in the spaces we already inhabit.

For Carissa & I, being foster parents has granted us access to a community that otherwise we would never interact.  Specifically, we are now in relational proximity to our foster baby's Mother.  For over two months now, we have interacted with her 2 to 3 times a week for visits and doctor's appointments.  Our primary focus is to simply be a blessing to her.  When we asked ourselves, "What would be good news to her?"  The obvious answer is, "to be re-united with her son."  So the mission for us became, “how can we embody this good news around her life and champion their re-unification?”  After months of this posture, she has gravitated relationally towards us.  She is being drawn to the kingdom, because we are incarnating the kingdom around her life.  What does this look like tangibly?  Well, last night when we went to pick up "Dub" from his visit, we offered to bring her ice cream and just sit outside and talk.  On this occasion, for a second time, she opened up about her life, her fears, her trials, and ultimately how very blessed she now feels.  She is convinced we love her and her son.  To the point that, when she is able to move out of the domestic violence shelter where she has lived ever since her son was taken away, she desires to live as close to us as possible.  We have already talked with our relatives about adopting her (and Dub) into the family...

This is what incarnational mission looks like - Look at the lives of the people that you live near, party with, and work along-side.  Ask yourself, "How can I be good news to them?"  Allow your life to embody an experience of the Kingdom that they can experience along with you.  Realize that you can't coerce or manipulate any form of behavioral or spiritual transformation in others; that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  But you can create the kind of environment that gives room for the Spirit to work.  Pray that God will give you eyes to see and ears to hear, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few...

by Clarke T. Cayton, Forge Joplin Co-Director

(Originally posted, 8/24/12)