From there they move into their next major premise: incarnational mission. “If the essence of missional living is sending, then the heart of incarnational mission is staying. Here I must pause and say, “Yes!” I wholeheartedly agree with their outlook on incarnation being comprised of proximity and presence. (30) The American church needs to learn anew the importance of not only mission, but of incarnation. We have for far too long been people of distance and absence. “Presence moves beyond proximity to identification and surrender.” (30) We must press on into incarnation steeped in mission as we move further and further into post-Christendom realities.
The authors extrapolate the other end of the spectrum from incarnation in dealing with extractional ministry patterns. Rather than being an easy either/or, they offer us a detailed look at what this spectrum might look like as a both/and. For established congregations and pastors, there will be much familiarity here. Regardless of church size, there is plenty to wrestle with here as they challenge the priorities of Sunday gatherings, small groups, missional communities and other forms of engaging in mission.
Their third major theological premise is the Missio Dei. This “mission of God” is a game changer for two reasons: it “should challenge the church to rethink mission” and “influences our activity.” (40-41) If mission is a central aspect of the church and not a marginal activity relegated to a missions board, how might that change our everyday interactions? How might we step into the Missio Dei at work? In the neighborhood? At the park? Ford and Brisco offer the following schematic: discover, discern, do, and debrief. Rooted in listening well to God, the local community, and each other, this challenging yet easy model is a great start to engaging with God.
Part Two: Fostering a Missional Posture: What Steps Are Necessary?
The second section is the lion’s share of the book comprised of nine chapters. The previous theological foundations of their work are fleshed out here. It is basically a compilation of major missional, sociological, and community-oriented influencers mixed in with their own thoughts and practices. If one is looking for a guide out of which she can pull together additional resources, these chapters will give you plenty.
For the sake of this review, I will emphasize one chapter which I believe is essential as it centers around hospitality. At the outset of this chapter, Brisco and Ford rightly highlight the goodness of creation. Broken, yes, but good nonetheless. If there is a perennial problem both inside and outside of the church it is gnostic dualism. Many of the church’s deficiencies fall back into its perpetuation of spirit being good and material being evil. As such, the authors affirm the necessity of seeing this world as our home contra the old hymn.
With this perspective held firmly, we can enter into what hospitality entails. Taken from the New Testament’s use of the Greek, hospitality literally means “love of stranger.” (115) If there is one term which denotes both mission and incarnation, it is hospitality. Be it in our neighborhood, which is their first place of concentration, or the workplace, their second concentration, hospitality asks us to open ourselves up in sacrificial love to those we come into contact with. Generosity and margin are required as we attend to this endeavor. As was said prior, if God is active in his mission, we cannot presume he is absent from our neighborhoods and workplaces. The question is how can we be participants with this divine mission. It is not up to professional Christians – a fictional title – to be missionaries in the everyday; we are all called to this vocation regardless of occupation.