This chapter actually marks a major shift in the book…from now on, we start to get intensely practical. All for the good…theory needs to move to praxis…beliefs need to transform into action. Although the chapter has a peculiar title, “Leaving”, it all makes once you see how the authors are attempting to steer the reader to face significant lifestlyle challenges and changes. This is the hinge pin for me personally with all the books that I have read regarding missional living/paradigm. A vast majority of them are deep theologically…they explore the paradigm well and lay out their perspectives with clarity and passion. What most are short on though are practical steps for implementation of the vision. My long distance friend, Alan Hirsch, did a good job with application in The Forgotten Ways (especially the handbook that was recently published) and there are a few others – yet without some real life examples of action, theory and theology gets a bit cold for my taste.
So, let’s jump in:
“…leaving, which entails intentionally giving up what is comfy, easy, and familiar and going somewhere else, doing something different, and giving up time so that we can connect with people. Since the word ‘missional’ theologically means “to be sent”, leaving is where living like a missionary really begins. Leaving isn’t just about going overseas. It’s about replacing personal or Christian activities with time spent building relationships with people in the surrounding culture.”
Now, some have said that such talk is a blatant attack on gatherings or doing “church” as Christians have for many centuries…though I can understand how people might feel that way, let me assure you, that Hugh and Matt are not saying this at all. Take a peak at this…
“We’re not saying that we shouldn’t have private times with believers…”
This type of thinking isn’t church bashing…it is rather a plain and simple challenge to no longer define (our identity as followers of Jesus) ourselves by our gatherings, programs and buildings. We are called by God to be more comfortable and more intentional about doing “our stuff” in the midst of culture than behind closed doors in safe environments. So much of recent history is filled with example after example of people who follow Jesus being “programmatic enslaved” to their local church…being kept busy with insider activity after activity. My opinion? We’re stuffed to the gills with information, preaching, and internal efforts to get us to grow…real growth happens when we put the faith that we have to the test in the midst of real life with real people in real situations. Hugh and Matt give some specific examples of what it means to leave: from having dinners and doing meals with people who are spiritual “sojourners” to going out of our way to build relationships with people and looking for a chance just to talk…but much of the point has to do with the word “leaving”…threatening to most…but vital for the purposes of God.
More to come manana…