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Missional Church: “Three Theological Emphases for a Missional Congregation: Theology with a Cosmic Aim” Part III

March 27, 2011

III.  God as an Incarnational God

Though we usually think of the word “incarnation” in relation to the sending of Christ into the world, once we realize that God’s overflowing love results in a beautiful creation, we quickly discover God has, from the beginning,  been an incarnational God.  By this I mean that with the creation of something outside Himself, God takes a vested interest in the creation and commits himself irrevocably to it.  As soon as mankind falls, and the cosmos is tragically distorted, we find God walking into the garden, and pronouncing his plan of redemption.[1] Even as early as Genesis 3, God has “entered into” our situation with his redemptive purposes.

Of course, this incarnational characteristic of the triune God is most clearly seen in the sending of Jesus Christ.  John 1 boldly proclaim that “The word was made flesh.”  In Christ, God overcomes the “God-world gap.”  In Jesus, “total difference between God and the world on one hand, and full communion between God and world” is “established in and through Christ.”[2] However, this “full communion” has always been the original goal of God in his desire to express his agape love to us.

More than a display of God’s original plan of expressing triune love to us, Christ incarnate is the demonstration of the fulfillment of God’s plan towards us:  “The very act of incarnation is a triumphant demonstration of the ultimate goal.  God’s plan for the universe is that it will be in perfect harmony with itself.  In Christ, that plan is seen fulfilled—in miniature, perhaps, but the perfect demonstration of what God intends.”[3] This is why in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation, we do not see humanity going to heaven, but these words:  “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Rev. 21:3); God has always intended to dwell with man (and entered into creation).

Implications for the missional Church

1.     The very idea of a “missional” congregation is rooted in the idea of incarnation.  God establishes the local church (wherever it may be) as the “body of Christ” inserted into its local context, not imposed upon it.  We do not exist over and against the world.[4] Therefore, one of the primary characteristics of a missional congregation will be its ability and willingness to contextualize within the community that it is a part of without compromising its unique identity.  Just as Jesus entered into our human condition without compromising his “otherness,” so missional congregations must express the reality of Christ within its local context.

2.     The local missional congregation will not seek to be a homogenous gathering of similar individuals, but rather, it will seek to be a diverse community of believers which is thoroughly invested in its particular community.  Jesus did not just interact with those most like himself; he ministered to all.

 


[1] Genesis 3: 14-15.  This is known as the “protoevangelium.”

[2] Swart et al., “Toward a Missional Theology of Participation,” 82.

[3] Sutherland, “The Kingdom Made Visible,” 6.

[4] In fact, this idea of the “Christian church” over and against the “pagan” world is one of the main reasons why the critique of missions emerged in the first place.  The western church, rather than “entering into” a foreign community, becoming contextual and letting the gospel flow outward, it imposed itself onto the foreign community.  See Guder, “Missional Theology for a Missional Church,” 4.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2011 7:16

    Amen Brother. Well said.

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      March 29, 2011 9:12

      Thanks Bill! How are your classes going this semester?

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