Dwell: Life with God For the World
As an undergraduate student one of my professors, discussed the pendulum swing in the church throughout history. He explained that the church often reacts to a position or event by swinging its position to the complete opposite side. The more I observe and experience, the more I see the truth presently being lived out in the church. As the body of Christ we tend to be pretty good at being divisive over our opinions, everything from clothing attire, use and accumulation of wealth, worship styles, politics, and everything in between. Sometimes it seems like there is more work across the aisles in Washington than there is in the Church. One such area that I have witnessed this division is, on one side of the pendulum Spiritual Formation, and on the other Missional mindedness. Michael Frost puts it this way in the forward, Spiritual Formation focused people “seem oriented toward the inner work of self-reflection, contemplation and holiness. We missional types are more oriented to the outer works of service, justice seeking, peacemaking and evangelism.” (7).
Though I also know there are many who share Frost’s perspective, I struggle with it because much of what I read in the area of Spiritual Formation has been outwardly focused. One of the best definitions I had found for Spiritual Formation came from Robert Mulholland, “Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” (Invitation to a Journey, 12). This definition from Mulholland and my interest in helping the people I serve live out their faith helped me connect with Jones who spends the book unpacking “missional spirituality—the life with God for the world.” (25)
Jones understands that inherent to conforming to the image of Christ is living for the world, that was at the core of Christ’s mission, and if we are imitating Him it should be at the core of our mission as well. Jesus is the model for the book. What Jones presents is a method for following Jesus and becoming more like Him.
Jones is clearly aware of the risks of both spirituality and missionality, and he does not hold back with his warnings of each. On one hand, “Spirituality…can easily devolve into a form of narcissism.” (19) On the other, “Missionality that is not appropriately spiritual can degenerate into mere activism.” (22). Both camps have their prooftext verses they point to to support their faith/work. What Jones explains is that when we live at either extreme we are not living our faith to the fullest, to the level which God desires us to live.
Jones arranged this book in an incredible way to maximize the impact as each section builds on the previous. He spends four chapters explaining the vision of the life with God for the world. One of the struggles we face in any endeavor is quantifying success. What results should we expect? What is our objective? As I observe the church, I have noticed this as a key reason for lack of success. Often when I have sat down with groups of people to evaluate an event or ministry activity it seems that one part of the group views the activity as successful, another part as mediocre, and a third view it as a complete failure. The reason is revealed when one asks the group what the purpose of the activity is, and realize there exists at least three ideas of the desired objective. If an event is going to be successful, there has to be a clear idea of what success looks like. This is true for our lives as well. If we are going to successfully follow Jesus, there has to be a clear idea of what that looks like. Barry Jones does a fantastic job painting a picture of what a successful life of Jesus following accomplishes.