“The deeply formed mission is fundamentally about becoming a particular person and offering that to the world. This kind of mission is not just about activity; it’s about being Christ for another.”
If the first four values in Rich Villodas’s book The Deeply Formed Life teach us how to live a life that is deeply formed, the last value—missional presence—teaches us why it is important.
I’ve always thought of mission as something missionaries do in far-flung places of the world. But Rich completely redefines this and shows me that it’s something that happens right here as I engage with people around me and that it starts with being, rather than doing. “Our most effective strategy in reaching a world for Christ is grounded in the kind of people we are being formed into. The quality of our presence is our mission.”
I’ll be honest, I’ve always been resistant to the idea of ‘witnessing’. Partially this comes from my Dutch culture, which is very much a ‘live and let live’ one. I also had some negative experiences of ‘pushy’ Christians as a student at Wits and remember thinking, ‘I will never do that to someone else.’ Then there’s the fact that I’m an introvert and struggle to articulate my faith to those who don’t share it.
But these two chapters in The Deeply Formed Life, opened something up in me and made me think that perhaps I can ‘bear witness to the loving winsomeness of Jesus,’ as Rich puts it. It starts with knowing that God is with all and for all (not just for those who share our belief system). Long before we arrive in someone’s life, God is already there, present and active, even though the person may not perceive it. We can draw alongside and be lovingly present to them. We can view them through the lens of God’s tender love (instead of judging them) and be Christ to them.
“To take the call of following Jesus seriously means we open ourselves up to the surrounding world, prayerfully moving toward it in love. The results are up to God, but we have a part to play.”
What I love about that is that I don’t have to be what I’m not. I don’t have to be an extrovert, quoting Scripture (my memory is shocking) or debating with atheists whether there is a God (I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it).
“To be on mission is a multifaceted endeavour. God invites us to consider our personalities, context, and experiences and, out of who we are, discerningly participate in what he is already doing.”
Rich outlines several practices that can help us in this, including hospitality, justice, commissioning in our work, and announcing the gospel. Hospitality struck me as something I would like to do more of. Rich says, “Hospitality is a holy act because it mirrors the God who welcomes and receives all,” and goes on to quote Henri Nouwen: “Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”
I think this will continue to be a challenging area for me personally, but I am grateful for the shift in my thinking. I pray that I will be more sensitive to God’s presence and working in people’s lives, and to his guidance on how I can lovingly support it.
Ultreia et Suseia. Further and Higher.
This is Part 7 of my Pilgrimage Blog series. Read The Storytelling Pilgrim (Part 1), A Call to go Deeper (Part 2), Building a Contemplative Rhythm (Part 3), Racial Reconciliation (Part 4), Examining my Inner Life (Part 5), Towards Sexual Wholeness (Part 6) and Going Forward (Part 8)