Missional Spirituality for Us All

Four disciplines every Christian should practice as we strive to live missionally.

Mobile phones are everywhere.

In fact, I cannot think of a person in my life who does not have one. Each comes with default settings. They are created in the software when programming is placed on the device. When you buy a phone and power it on, these settings are there for normal use.

Because we’ve become so familiar with our mobile devices, it is easy to forget how dependent we are upon them. They keep us connected via text messaging and email, allow us to air our grievances to the world on social media, provide maps and directions for anywhere you wish to go, and keep up with basically your whole life’s schedule. This is how they operate…by default.

So, what about the Christian? There are certain default settings that we need to heed in our own lives. Upon receiving salvation, you are sealed, anointed, and filled with the Holy Spirit. An excitement washes over you.

The default should be a spiritual life that embodies the mission assigned by Christ to the church. We do it as individual, collectively as congregations, and universally as the church. Mission will lead us to leave the comforts of home for neighboring cities to plant churches or international lands to do the same. The missional spirituality that we strive to live by has default settings. Allow me to point out a few from Philippians 2:12-13.

Committing to Growth

The passage tells us that we are to “work out your own salvation.” The idea that a Christian work is not in competition with the grace that we received. Be mindful that you and I are not working for God’s grace but in the power supplied by God’s grace. We are called by God into the serious business of spiritual disciplines. They are spiritual because these actions result from the work God has done in us. They are disciplines because we make exertions to complete them.

As others have preached and written, God is quite opposed to you earning salvation because you cannot. But he is not opposed to your efforts after you are saved because he is empowering you. It can feel like a paradox. But it’s unmistakable that we are commanded in the passage to do work. Why? Because no one drifts toward holiness. We drift away, wander away, slink away, and even intentionally walk away. So choose something better. Choose a commitment to spiritual growth. It is to be normative for the Christian life.

Committing to Worship

The apostle Paul tells us to work “with fear and trembling.” The attitude is not one of fright but of reverence. We approach our life in Christ with awe and wonder. The Bible is replete with the idea that we “fear God” not because he is scary but because he is God. Christians are giving a radical call from a radical Christ.

But too much of the world and of our own flesh domesticates Jesus. We have in mind a hippie that prances across Israel’s landscape doing magic tricks and spouting relational proverbs. We position God as a sanctified Santa Claus who doles out good gifts to us when we act properly. Our lives should come under the powerful hand of God because he is a good King. As we live out our salvation, we do so because he is worthy of worship. Our expression of faith with a holy life committed to growth is so that the world will know who he is. Missional spirituality puts God on display—not ourselves or our congregations—because we are committed to worship the Lord with every moment of life and every fiber of our being.

Committing to Holiness

Paul also tells us how it’s possible for us to live with this type of holy commitment. He wrote, “for it is God who works in you.” When God is at work in you then the transformative work that he does for you can be made manifest through you. It is why you can live with an active commitment to holiness.

Many people dilute holiness to simply making the proper moral choices. If you’re good, then you’re holy…like monks who hide from the world or your sweet grandma who never said a cross word to anyone. Our ethics are included in the concept of holiness but are not the sum total of it. The biblical portrait of holiness is to live according to the will and ways of God. It is the decision to have the mind of God about all things and to live in accordance with the truth he provides.

It informs how we live out the spiritual disciplines and a life of worship. The actions are not the goals. They are some of God’s practical tools that the Spirit uses to focus our mind’s attention and heart’s affections upon the Savior. Successfully completing a checklist of disciplines is never the goal. Knowing the one, true God is the goal and a commitment to holiness is how we can practically allow his work to its way in us.

Committing to Mission

This type of living will naturally lead you to a commitment to God’s mission. Paul wrote that God is at work in us “to will and to do for his good pleasure.” God is busy at work in you so that he can shine his glorious gospel through you.

In John 6, Jesus fed the multitudes and then the next day did some teaching. The key moment of the teaching came in verses 28-29. The crowd asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” His answer was to not seek signs but something else. He said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent.” Your mission is to believe. But the faith should not end with you. When Paul wrote to the Romans, he said in 1:5-6 (NET), ” Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name. You also are among them, called to belong to Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine). Each day, we can choose a life of humble joy where God grows us up to send us out among our neighbors and among the nations. When we go, our life of holiness empowered by his grace and shaped by his glory is a witness where we can be ambassadors of our good King. As we do so, our maturing life by God’s mercy bears witness and persuade others to live by faith. We live a missional spirituality because of how God has worked for us and how he works through us. It is a beautiful gift of grace.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Great Commission Collective September 10, 2020. Used with permission.

Philip Nation

Dr. Philip Nation is Vice President and Bible Publisher for Thomas Nelson. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has previously served as a pastor, church planter, publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources, and as the Assistant Professor of Leadership and Biblical Studies for Houston Baptist University. Philip is the author of several books and Bible studies including Habits for Our Holiness, Compelled: Living the Mission of God, and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. Philip married Angie in 1994. They are the proud parents to Andrew and Chris, along with Chris’ wife Jenna.