(Post eight in an eleven-part series from Alan Hirsch. Read part seven here.)
We live as if there is an insurmountable distance between the “sacred” and the “secular.”
One of the important dimensions of incarnational mission is to break somehow the dualistic impasse that seems to exist between various aspects of our worlds. We experience God, church, and the rest of life as being in separate, nonintersecting compartments. We live as if there is an insurmountable distance between the “sacred” and the “secular.” But if Jesus is Lord of all of life, there is no such distinction.
The bad scripting downloads through the way we do church; the language and experience of church is generally worlds away from our experience of work, play, politics, etc. In fact, they all seem to be so disparate and exist on their own autonomous principles. The world of commerce, for instance, seems to run on its own principles (e.g., radical competition), ones that you would never apply to your personal relationships and family (which requires a fundamental cooperation) or vice versa. Living under the lordship of Jesus requires that we bring all elements into relation with him—we cannot exclude dimensions from God’s concern, or we create dark zones that invite the idols to enslave us. The way I illustrate this in The Forgotten Ways (pg. 95–97) is as follows:
Here our “worlds” never seem to meet but rather are experienced as pulling in opposite directions. We divide our worlds into the sacred (on the left) and the secular (on the right), and they are experienced as worlds apart. Incarnational approaches try to see the kingdom in all elements of life and seek to bring the dimensions closer. We take the church with us into the world because in the deepest possible way, we are the church.
Moving deeper, therefore, means bringing the disparate elements of life together in a way that creates a more seamless experience of the Christian life. We allow our various worlds to collide. We try to be the same person in at least three places—church, home, and work—but an integrated, incarnational spirituality also means the gospel seeps into the nooks and crannies of our lives.
Incarnational missionary Mark Van Steenwyk (taken from Incarnational Practices) wisely advises,
Once you move into the area (or if you already live in the area), spend time just observing. Don’t get frenetic. Don’t start doing things until you understand the ethos of the neighborhood. Let the spirit of the place make its impression. Fall in love with the little things. Get to know the people. If you start “doing your thing” before you are familiar with the place, then you’re forcing things too much. Ministry should fit with how God is already working in a place. If you start pushing your agenda before you start making friends with the neighbors and finding out about their lives, then you’re a salesman, not a minister of reconciliation. And throughout it all, pray. Pray for spiritual eyesight. It is the Spirit’s job to reveal Christ . . . not just to “them” but also to “you.” Pray that you can see Christ’s fingerprints in your neighborhood. Pray to see the face of Christ in the face of those who live around you. Pray for the Spirit to show you what is wrong in your area, and also what is right. Seek to understand.
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