A significant piece of the missional conversation deals with the starting point for mission activity. When we begin to see the church (individually and collectively) as the sent, missionary people of God, we no longer view the church as the jumping off point when thinking about mission. Rather, we look for God’s activity in our local setting as the place to begin our missional engagement.
Among other things, this means the nature and shape of mission cannot be decided beforehand, but must be discerned in relation to God’s participation in a local context. Instead of “front-loading” mission plans and strategies with what we think the people in a community need, we begin by listening and learning what God is already doing. Only after discerning what God is doing in a particular setting do we then ask how does God wants us to participate with Him. Another way to frame this conversation is to consider the four D’s of missional engagement. We will look at the first two D’s today.
If it is truly God’s mission and not ours, then we must discover where God is at work. Now your first thought might be, “but isn’t God at work everywhere?” To which I would say, “yes!” I do believe God is active all around us, but we are not always attuned to his activity. In many cases we have to be awakened to what God is doing around us.
Therefore, the first step in discovering what God is doing comes through listening. We must have “ears to hear” (Mark 8:18). Both individually and collectively we must cultivate our ability to listen well on three fronts; to God, the local community, and to each other. It is simply impossible to ascertain the movement of God without carving out significant time to listen to His voice through prayer and Scripture, as well as the voices of those we desire to serve.
In addition to listening, participating in God’s mission will involve the difficult task of discernment. Not only will we need to discern what God is already doing, but we will need to ask the follow up question, “In light of my (our) gifts and resources how does God want me to participate in what He is doing?” The fact is we can’t do it all, which is true for both individual followers of Jesus, as well as local congregations. But it is also true that God has gifted us all to do something! The point of discernment is to determine where and how to participate in God’s mission.
Do you have examples of how you or others have modeled these first two Ds?