The Missional Tribe

by - 1:31 PM

Street kids ministry to a delightful bunch of orphan boys and girls in Mandevo, Zimbabwe. Photograph by Janielle, December 2014.

I’ve been thinking about our world today as we know it, live it, and breathe it. It’s scary just to contemplate the reality of our generation’s consumerist culture. We are all caught up in the web of ‘more for me, myself and I’ – the subtly vicious cycle of getting, buying, selling, and profiting more, for ourselves. We don’t need to overtly reject or run away from faith or the reality of God, we just need to occupy and cram our minds, hearts and schedules with more ‘stuff’. As Darren Cronshaw wrote, “Malls are our cathedrals.” Our modern havens reek superficiality.

I’ve begun to realize more and more how destructive these trends are. It is precisely so dangerous because it’s not immediately ‘life-threatening’ or obviously detrimental to our well-being. But really, this narcissistic, media-driven, consumer-oriented society is actually driving us all restlessly insane under our very own skin. We just think it’s normal now – an expression of our ‘freedom’, a privilege of our ‘developed’ world. In feeding the physical and the egoistical part of us, we have numbed our senses to our spiritual and inward starvation. We are desperate for a different kind of ‘more’, but we do not know it, or even care to admit it.

A lot of the pre-occupations and seeming ‘necessities’ in our lives are actually merely fine-looking or even noble distractions that take us away from encountering the life-giving reality of God, which opens our eyes to blatant injustice and spiritual need in our world. Much of our identities are all muddled up and falsely shaped by the marketing ploys of the mass-media or by what our peers and even our parents or teachers tell us are important.

I believe one of the things that can help shake up a person’s world is travel. By that, I do not mean camping trips or luxury holidays, nor do I mean jet-setting round the world on a shoe-string budget primarily to satisfy your own tastes or interests. By ‘travel’, I mean entering into diverse places and cultures and communities that are different to our prior life experiences. By ‘entering into’, I mean the act of making certain commitments to learn from, partner with, and work alongside a particular group of people in a specific context that may challenge us deeply in every aspect of our lives.

What I am proposing is simply what Jesus did. He entered in to our context, our world. He still does. He raised up a missional tribe of twelve disciples and sent them out to touch the world and bring life to those worn-out weary souls. What Jesus did miraculously touches me today (and millions of others around the globe). He touches me so deeply (with his mercy), so warmly (with his love), and sometimes so searingly (with his truth), that I am compelled to give all my life to love as He calls me to love tough people in tough places. In all this, I often fail miserably. You and I always will have our intermittent stumbles, but what I’ve come to realize is that Jesus sees our hearts. He sees that we are fighting, we are reaching, we are seeking, pursuing, running this race. So he reaches out and picks me up again and again when I fall. He is the reason why I started this journey, this ‘wayfaring by faith’, and this very moment of introspective writing.

That is why the consumer culture can no longer dictate my motives, my actions, and my plans. I need to go through this paradigm shift, and I still am in the process of it! While I live in Australia, I am faced with it every single day. It’s difficult to not be influenced by it. But I’m finding more and more that if I immerse myself in the words of the Bible, my mind is renewed by Truth and motivated by the love Jesus demonstrated. In so doing, my attitude undergoes a subtle, ongoing transformation. I’m meeting many other followers and seekers of Jesus Christ who are undergoing this same miracle of restoration and radical change in their lives as they turn to faith in Him with tears of repentance and a heart full of newfound hope.

When we begin to re-orientate our lives toward the narrow path Jesus leads us on, we face new challenges, but we also are filled with a remarkable peace that stays with us amidst dark and tumultuous times. When we begin to follow Him more and more wholeheartedly, we dive deeper into His presence and become part of His missional tribe. Jesus doesn’t want us to just spend time with him and live a good life. He didn't call us to subscribe to mere religion and make a nice life for ourselves. He wants to send us out to love radically and be his agents of reconciliation for a broken world. One day I might be stoned for writing all this so openly, but now that I have hands to write, I will write with no apologies. Jesus is sending us out as part of his missional tribe. Isn't that incredible, that God desires us to partner in His great mission work of redemption? He is the instigator and initiator of all missional activity the world over. It's pretty awesome!

By missional, I mean ‘missionary’. It’s not a professional title or merely a credential you study for. It sounds complicated, but really, it’s simply a calling – a calling to each of us who commit to follow Jesus. It is a call to enter into the tough corners of our society, our world. It is a call to journey with Jesus in a cross-cultural mission venture spanning street to street, village to village, city to city, border to border, island to island, and continent to continent.

For many, this calling is for their home turf, their neighbourhood, and their street. For others, it means going to other cities and slums, to other jungles and villages, to other deserts and desolate towns. For some, it will mean doing both in their lifetimes. I’m already brimming with nervous anticipation! Isn’t this crazy and exciting and difficult all at the same time? Precisely so! I hope this moves and inspires and challenges you to rethink your posture in life so you can be on your way to discovering your God-given destiny.

For me personally, 2015 has been a transitionary year of immense growth and simple yet soul-riveting challenges. My pride and self-assurance has been undergoing a time of ‘chipping away’. I hope and pray that one day it is utterly decimated, because I don’t want to cling to it anymore! My need to buy and consume and serve myself has also been confronted drastically. I still fall into these traps, but I have been made more aware of their drastic consequences. More and more, God has been forging in me a fire to mobilize others to spiritual awakening and toward a ‘missional’ outlook in life. We can’t just sit around and keep ourselves happy! Neither should we work our bums off to serve our own needs and interests. True freedom is being able to serve others wholeheartedly as God calls us to.

As I work this out through my daily seeking, my involvement in locally diverse communities (Australia), and abroad in my upcoming return to Africa and my music missions to Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan, I invite you to journey with me and enter into new imaginations and conversations. It is an exciting gift to be alive. Are you up for the soul-riveting, life-altering, heart-transforming adventure? Let’s give God our all! 

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