My thoughts continue rolling out like a slinking rolling down the stairs about the great debate of missional vs. attractional. If you didn’t read the previous posts, can do here and here. Now I want to look at what Jesus did, the most superb model.
Jesus was the greatest example of the both/and principle, confounding the intellectuals and practitioners of his day as well as embracing everyone with the slightest amount of interest in his message, repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. (Side note: Maybe we have moved to far away from his core message in trying to be more like U2, the most beloved figure in the world rather than like Jesus who stirred things up.) It wasn’t just the Pharisees who didn’t like him…unrepentant sinners didn’t give him much time, nor did a handful of other segments of society. Maybe, Jesus was the best contrarian as well.
Jesus knew the culture and at times moved seamlessly within the culture, but where the cultural norms and customs either played such a small part in people’s thinking or contradicted the way of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus flaunted the cultural rules such as no one could. In this greatest story of mission, Jesus crossed barriers and stepped right into a situation in Samaria that allowed him to be missional and attractional.
Rather than walking around the region of Samaria, pungent to any upstanding Jew, Jesus ventured right through the area with his disciples. I can only picture them murmuring among themselves, doesn’t Jesus know where he is going. We can’t stay here. Let’s just keep our head down and we’ll get through this land of half-breeds quick enough.
Now, to make matters worse, Jesus stopped right there at a well to rest in the middle of the day. At this point, the hungry disciples took their order to go to town and pick up food. Oh, that had to be a cross-cultural episode of epic proportion that I wish the writer and participant of the story would have shared. Meanwhile, as the twelve ran to In&Out, Jesus waited patiently at the well for a woman who also hoped no one would be around. She hoped to sneak out while no one was looking and avoid the gossip.
With her head down and keeping to her business she kept clear of the Jewish man who surprisingly entered her neck of the woods. Yet, Jesus did not ignore her. He initiated conversation with her that led to him sharing about the living water of the Holy Spirit and salvation. He led her through a conversation that piqued her interest, and then looked directly into her soul…the heart of who she was and called her out. He said, I know who you are and what you have done, and yet I am willing to still be with you and call you into relationship. This blew her away.
This woman who had five husbands and now lives with another man not her life completely transformed in that moment from shy to inquisitive, from bashful to bold. She found Jesus and wanted to be with him…and share this story with others. This is where the great story of mission turns into mission and attraction.
She goes into town, so fired up that she met Jesus that she leaves the jug of water by the well, and tells the town folks that loved gossiping about her to come see a man that told me everything I ever did. I am not sure how attractive that is…come see this guy who knows the deep, dark secrets of your life. He is amazing…but it worked and the whole town came out and saw Jesus.
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42
Yet, her mission to the people in town was not enough. She could not just tell them she found the messiah. That initiated the interest in the townspeople, but they still wanted to meet Jesus for themselves.
As we are on mission, let’s not discount the ways that we can attract others to meet Jesus. Let us also turn loose these people with their lives changed to be on mission to the places we don’t go, but not discount the ways that we can create space for them to attract people to meet Jesus with us.