In the movie, The Matrix, the character Morpheus said to Neo, “You are here because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. There is something wrong with the world, but you don’t know what it is. But it’s there, like a splinter in your mind.”
Most pastors know there is something wrong with the way we are “doing church”, and more importantly, something wrong with the way most of our church members are living as Christ’s followers. We can’t explain it, or put our finger on it, but, it’s there, “like a splinter in our mind.” Instinctively we want to get it out, and we’re willing to try anything to relieve the pain. But, we can’t seem to find it! Two recent books by Alan Hirsch have helped me locate the “splinter,” or, I should say, “splinters” in my own life.
In his book, The Forgotten Ways, (2006, Baker Group), author Alan Hirsch, exposed much of what lies behind the failure of churches to significantly impact the world with the life-changing message of Jesus. In this book, Right Here, Right Now, he and co-author Lance Ford, focus on the individual, and explore what it takes to live out a “missional-incarnational” life as a follower of Jesus.
Basically, what the authors did in this book was to take the popular and often misunderstood theory of “missional church,” and turn it into an understandable and practical reality for the average believer. As Irwin McManus points out in his forward to the book, “What we need is to help people right here, right now! What we need is an everyday mission for everyday people . . . They are trying to get to ground zero, and help those in the trenches.” In my opinion, these guys “nail it!”
The “splinters” in my own eyes had to do with learning how to be missional every day. For me, it was about learning to “move out,” intentionally seeing myself as being on mission; about “moving in,” bringing the presence of the living Christ into my world; about “moving alongside,” connecting and building relationships with individuals in the world God has placed me.
The most difficult “splinter” for many of us is our culture. The consumer-driven, self-indulgent culture of today has ensnared and enslaved us, effectively keeping us from being fully empowered agents of the Kingdom of God. We’ve attempted to work around the splinter, and ease our consciences by participating in “missional” events at our church, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or even going on a “mission trip” to a third-world country. Missional isn’t about what we do, it’s who we are! Getting the splinter out requires changing our lifestyles, our buying habits, and our preferences so we free up both our time, and our budgets, to allow us to give, serve and live on mission 24/7.
The bottom line is, everyone who becomes a follower of Jesus, is a missionary! His call to “Follow Me” defines who we are. Our culture, and sometimes our brand of denominationalism teach us something different.
Why is the message of this book important? If we ever hope to see our churches realize their true potential, we must focus on helping our members discover how to live their lives as missionaries! What our churches need today is not more members, rather more missionaries. And, the two are not the same! Alan Hirsch says, “. . . the church’s true and authentic ‘organizing principle’ is mission.” Biblically, the mission of the church is defined in terms of individuals being on mission right here, right now.
“It’s not so much that the church has a mission but that the mission has a church.” – Alan Hirsch
I encourage you to buy the book, read it, and gather a group of people to join you in applying the principles presented in the book in your lives, and in your churches. If you go to the website, www.righthererightnowbook.com, there are some free downloadable resources for personal and group study.