The church as missional seems to bring up many, many apparent contradictions in its discussion.
1. Do we build community first that is attractive to others (John 17) or is community to be build around its mission as a core identity of that community? I've never come up with a solid answer to this question... I wonder if it can be a "both / and."
2. Are we to be always "sent ones" (apostolic) in our mission endeavors as in Luke 10, or does most reaching out to others take place within our oikos connections (discussed in Petersen's book, The Insider-- I summarized this book in some earlier blogs that start here). It seems to me that, again, both are important. Perhaps each as its season in our life?
3. Are we leaven that works quietly within the context we find ourselves in, or are we light that is set on a hill creating some type of public awareness? Are we to be mostly about doing and caring for others ("if necessary use words") or is there a time and place for mostly proclaiming good news?
I have been looking at some of these questions in light of different spiritual gift "leanings." In fact, we have been in the process of identifying our own "gift leanings" using the five-fold ministry of Eph 4-- apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, and pastor. The idea is that most people tend to lean toward one of these types of gift-areas more than others. We are using this simply as a method for dialogue about the different ways that people are gifted-- and how the differing gifts may be used missionally in different ways.
For example-- those who lean toward the apostolic may be those who are more excited about crossing cultural-group boundaries (whether locally or overseas). They may think nothing about going out to different types of neighborhoods, taking incarnational ministry into ghettos, meeting new and different people, or joining a mission trip to Timbuktu (a real town in Mali, by the way--I've been there).
Those who lean toward the prophetic may have a greater excitement and propensity toward the miraculous and the marketplace. They want to be part of taking healings, prophetic words, and prayers for people wherever they go.
The pastoral "leaners" may be those who want to take compassion, compassion, compassion. They might be the ones who say with Francis: "Let all the brothers... preach by their deeds." They are comfortable bandaging up the broken and caring for widows and orphans as their primary missional endeavors.
The evangelist leaning is the desire to see people make those clear conversion decisions. It seems to me that there is a time and place for "the closers." Those who are gifted in this area seem to do this naturally and have an innate sense about the right timing for it without causing people to feel "dumped on" or hammered.
Finally, the teacher leaning is, perhaps, those who have such a passion to see people "grounded" in the story of Scripture.
I realize that this is very simplistic, but my point is to create some dialogue around being missional that allows for differences. The body of Christ is infinitely varied so, it seems to me, that as we come into our own spiritual identities our missional activities will be as varied as we are.
I'm concerned that almost any missional discussion tends to have that "this is the way it's done" air about it which creates a narrowness. Nevetheless if we DON'T have missional discussions and encouragement we seem to have a strong self-centered tendency to lapse into a place of comfortable inertia. So... we need the dialogue... Can we make room for differences and variety?