Today I’m reviewing the book, Missional Spirituality, Embodying God’s Love From the Inside Out, written by Roger Helland and Leonard Hjalmarson and published by InterVarsity Press in 2011.
The authors begin by making the case that it’s important to address one’s spirituality by suggesting that the root issue is that many people feel like “exiles living in a world that can’t satisfy their deepest longings.” They suggest, and I agree, that we all have a deep longing for love, security and acceptance and that it’s important that we bring our own story of brokenness into the biblical story that addresses the Father’s house as a place of wholeness, warmth and welcome.
The authors remind us that Jesus enabled people to be on mission for God with the example of the Samaritan woman at the well recounted in John 4. Here, the woman drank from the spiritual well of Jesus and became a ‘spiritual spring’ to her local towny as a missionary. This is just one example of how Jesus was doing his Father’s work, or will. Through his interaction with the woman at the well she grew spiritually, and from that was able to be on mission herself. Jesus met her deep needs and, from a greater sense of wholeness and wellness, she was then able to go into her local town and make a difference. This is a beautiful example of missional spirituality.
Missional Spirituality – A Definition. The authors state, “the extent to which we are transformed is the extent to which we can bring transformation. A missional spirituality moves from the inside out. We can’t give what we don’t have, and what we have to give is who we are. Christians must be real-life models of Christ’s words and works. A missional spirituality is fundamental to discipleship. Missional means to participate in God’s mission as he and we work out his will in the world. Spirituality means to live in and by the Holy Spirit. We are spiritual to the extent that the Spirit’s presence permeates our lives and our churches in ways that can only be explained as God’s work.”
Helland and Hjalmarson point out that it is the spiritual disciplines that form us and it’s doing the Father’s will (being on mission for him) that will feed us. They remind us that Christian spirituality is the inward shaping for the outward expression of God’s love.
The book points out that the essence of God’s Spirit is love. Love of God and others that comes from within our hearts. Consequently, our hearts must be well for us to love well and to be on mission well.
Discipleship. “The evidence of true discipleship, according to Jesus, is whenever we bear much fruit. The key is then that we learn how to live in Christ not just to learn about Christ. Imagine the potential wheels we developed as the core curriculum in our newcomer orientation classes and small groups biblical teachings and practices that equipped people to do well in Christ. Imagine the fruit of such a focus!”
The authors also remind us that the telos – the main purpose – of life is to glorify God by being Christlike. And, it’s the Christian virtues in us that our Creator tourist takes that are the characteristics that reflect God’s beauty in us.
“To love God from all our strength is to employee her possessions, our health and our talents in serving him and glorifying him.”
The authors also pace an emphasis on the importance of maintaining a Sabbath. Regular resting is critical to being able to love God with all of our strength. That it’s important that we the rest from the daily toils of life otherwise we would not have the strength and ability to serve God and others with our time and with the talents that he has given to us.
Measuring Spirituality. They point out that what we measure indicates what we value and place a focus on. The authors write, “what would it take to develop qualitative measures to reveal the extent to which people love God and neighbor? Did not Paul have a qualitative idea of the extent to which the Colossians and Thessalonians practiced faith, hope and love (Colossians 1:4–6; 1 Thessalonians 1:3)? What would it take to develop ways to measure intentional spirituality in our personal and corporate lives – for example, the extent to which people practice union with Christ, gratitude, prayer, scripture reading, hospitality and measurable activity in their community and workplace? What telos do we have in mind that we use as the goal or standard for measuring? What we focus on and give leadership to tends to grow.”
Their bottom line. It’s about being transformed inwardly and then being intentional and heartfelt in choosing to love others in practical ways outwardly. That’s missional spirituality.
Helland and Hjalmarson did a great job of making their points about the greater purpose of discipleship and spiritual transformation. I gladly recommend this book, especially for those who are responsible for coordinating spiritual formation initiatives within their ministry or church.
A special thanks to the folks at InterVarsity Press for making Missional Spirituality available for my review.