In this series, I have dived into the milieu of a recent discussion among church leaders and strategists on the church being missional or attractional. In previous posts, I unpacked this is a false dichotomy. Often, the missional guys point to Jesus as our example to be on mission as he was constantly moving and going to people. So I want to look at Jesus’ ministry to further point out that it is both/and.
Jesus did come and live on mission (missional), yet he did not do that at the expense of drawing people to him (attractional). When we jump into this discussion, we often feel like both sides want to pull on the Bible to say their way is more accurate. As we look at Jesus let’s notice that Jesus uses multiple methodologies throughout his ministry.
People flocked to him from the cities, the rural countryside, the hills, and regions beyond Palestine. People from all backgrounds, the sick, the poor, children, women and the working class, the broken, the despised, the sinners and hurting came to be near Jesus…Something about Jesus stepping into our world with the kingdom of God sparked a move of people crossing whatever barriers they could to see Jesus. Some even broke through a stranger’s roof to get their friend a front row seat with Jesus (Mark 2). And the people who came to see Jesus were not always the people most like him. People came from all over to see Jesus: Gentiles from Syria, the Decapolis, Phoenicia, and non-Jewish soldiers, and more.
Yet, Jesus never remained satisfied that people were dogpiling over each other to get near him, as the word picture in the Greek implies in the narrative of Jesus by the shore (Luke 5:1). Jesus never contented himself or allowed for what we might see in today’s culture to set in—a sense of celebrity. That is because he always knew when to move on (Mark 1:38). The crowds began filing in from everywhere, but Jesus was up early praying. When the disciples found him, he said, I have to go; more towns need to hear the gospel. Jesus constantly was on the move going from town to town and people to people to bring the good news of the kingdom of God.
In this, Jesus was the best example of mission…and attraction. He crossed cultures and drew men, women and children unto him. In his ministry, Jesus allowed for both forms of connecting with people, because discipleship was his primary focus. Jesus was always moving out and stopping to allow people to come but moving out again at the right time. He kept a keen ear to the voice of the Spirit as he lived out mission and practiced the appropriate methods for the current task. Here is a map (Jesus’ travels and followers-maps) that gives a picture of where Jesus went (the first map) and where people came from to see Jesus (the second map).
People crossed cultural barriers to meet with the one believed to be the Messiah, a great man among the Jews who also could affect their lives. Let me illustrate this point with a look at Mark 3:7-8. Imagine people descended from Esau, and the Edomites, now living in Idumea, nearly 500 km south of Galilee down by the Dead Sea. These people were overlooked in the time of Jesus due to their background and status. Yet some from there came to find Jesus. Why?? How? Perhaps a neighbor or relative saw him while north on business. When they returned home, they likely grabbed their friend or cousin and got them on the next bus north. Well, not a bus, but a long walk to see this teacher who taught with authority unlike any they ever heard. The crowds we picture on the mount where Jesus preached his famous story likely comprised a multi-ethnic crowd, some drawn in to Jesus and others that Jesus found.
As we seek to do mission in Bangkok, we want to first listen to God’s voice, and in everything pour our life into the people we work with to make disciples as we walk together with Jesus. We won’t be here forever, but we want to leave people behind that are lifelong disciples of God. I am less concerned with how we connect with them than I am with having meaningful connections with the people we serve.