One distinctive of the missional movement is the emphasis on fully inhabiting the community in which we’re planted, and to shift from viewing our neighbors in terms of us (saved) and them (unsaved) toward a “we” orientation. This emphasis can be seen in books like Smith and Pattison’s Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Sparks, Soerens, and Friesen, and Staying Is The New Going: Choosing To Love Where God Places You by Briggs and Frost.
The desire to be planted is not only about mission, but stems from our own longing for deep roots in a transient world. Wendell Barry, whose writing gives voice to that longing for many, captures that longing with these words: “…And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here.”
I understand that longing for a “here.” My experience as a member of the Jewish community has taught me the lessons of what it is to live a wanderer’s existence. More than two millennia of diaspora existence has hard-wired in the Jewish people adaptability, inventiveness, and the counter-intuitive notion of maintaining a unique spiritual identity not bound by place or local culture. My experience as a follower of Jesus has reframed that wandering in new terms.
Followers of Jesus live the mission of God via both rootedness and wandering; both “here,” “there,” and every step of the journey between the two. Both here and there must exist side-by-side in our spiritual lives, a Kingdom parable of sorts. But I’d like to suggest that in our rapidly shifting culture, recognizing God’s purposes in a Diaspora experience can help us live more fully into what it means to follow Jesus. [Read more]