Church Planter: Missional Is to Go, Incarnational Is to Stay

A leading proponent of the belief that Christians should always be on mission, or "missional," in their daily lives says it's time for believers to stay and live longer in the areas of the world that they feel God has called them to.

Church planter Jeff Vanderstelt, who leads Soma Communities, a body of church planting churches in South Puget Sound, Wash., was one of several speakers discussing what it means to be missional on Wednesday during the first day of the two-day Verge 2012 Conference at Austin Music Hall in Texas.

During the conference, that is also being live streamed on the Web, Vanderstelt discussed what it means for Christians to move from not only being missional (living a life that brings people into a relationship with Jesus), but to be incarnational (adding a discipleship factor to daily living), as well.

"I like to call mission trips, 'mission visits' and longer term ones, 'mission vacations,' because we are going to vacate when we leave. We are not staying," Vanderstelt said. "And that's a problem. I'm watching a lot of people getting excited about the hipness of going.

"Missional is [to] go and incarnational is [to] stay," he explained. "I've seen a lot of people that want to go, but I don't see a lot of people that want to go and stay."

The Verge Conferences were launched in 2010 by the Verge Network of Christian leaders who say the group is an advocate and champion for movements of Gospel-centered missional communities.

"Verge leaders and churches are engaged in the mission of God, centered around the gospel, in community, and understand the value of staying current on issues surrounding the mission of God," say conference organizers.

Vanderstelt defined "missional community" by stating on the group's Website that it was "made up of Spirit-led and filled people who radically reorient their lives together for the mission of making disciples of a particular people and place where there is a gospel gap (no consistent gospel witness). This means people's schedule, resources and decisions are now collectively built around reaching people together."

He said during the conference that the "mission" for Christians should always be about making disciples and that should include living in close proximity with the people for a length of time.

"The mission is always about making disciples and those are the people you're probably forming in the faith, but if you're not staying there you are not on mission there, because mission includes incarnation. It requires staying," Vanderstelt insisted.

"Jesus came and he dwelt among us for 30 years," he said and then asked, "Have you ever thought about that? The God of the universe comes and dwells in austerity for 30 years and he's not noticed. Are we willing to not be noticed? Are we willing to live and stay in a place long enough to convince the people that we love them with our lives?"

He then added, "I'm so tired of hearing people say they want to be missional. I want to know if you want to be incarnational. Will you stay? Stay and make your city your family. Stay and make your neighborhood your family."

He implored people to "stop just running and going."

"Let's start staying where He sends us. You know you are on mission when you are walking in the rhythms of the people daily that God is calling you to reach, but if you only see them once in awhile, I guarantee you that you are not on mission to them," he said.

"You know that you've identified the people you are called to reach when you are not only staying, but you are actually among them to the degree that you are eating with them, playing with them, celebrating with them, walking in life with them," he continued. "You know you are on mission when it gets messy."

Vanderstelt concluded by saying that Christian leaders should not insist their followers "be Jesus," but act in accordance with His power.

"I'm convinced more and more that we are not experiencing the outpouring of the spirit of God because we are leading people to do what they could do without Him," he said. "You have to lead them to what only Jesus can do. Stop telling them they are supposed to be Jesus. They are not. There is only one Jesus that I know of and He wants to live and dwell in you through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, stop [simply] sending people on mission. Send them with the Holy Spirit, with the power of God to do what only God can do."

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