The way of incarnational community

When we arrived up at the picker’s cabin’s that week we had no idea of the timing of our arrival….

We had actually planned to go visit one day that week but ended up there on another. As we arrived Sue was sitting in the sun reading the “The Shack”. As she had read the book she was becoming undone. God was jumping off the pages and speaking to her. All she wanted to do that day was talk to Gertie and ask her some questions…moments later Gertie and I drove up. We talked at length about God, the book, her journey of pain and the brokenness of her life…Sue talked about all the mistakes and errors in her life…. we talked about Jesus being the “margin of error” for our lives and how he made up the difference. She was hearing us, she was believing us.

After a while the subject changed to marriage as Mike joined us. Sue asked if I was willing to do the wedding for her and Mike who would like to get married. We talked about marriage and what it meant. It was amazing to hear them express their affection for each other while sober. Neither of them have ever been married.

Gertie, myself and a few others have shared and cared for those living in the picker cabins for a couple of years. At first we were just the food delivery people…meeting their practical needs. We decided to not come regularly and not always bring food. Sometimes a coffee, sometimes food, sometimes just a visit. Over time many of them became our friends. They felt like we belonged and are now interested in the things that interest us. They now ask questions about our lives. They have met Maryanne and my children several times. In fact our cat Sully is one of their kittens our son Jayden took home to raise.

Hugh Halter in his book the “Tangible Kingdom” talks about the incarnational life and describes living a missonal life…

“You’ll notice quickly that in opposition to an attractional process that focuses on creating a place where people can go to hear the message of the gospel, the incarnational approach tries to first create a people to which someone can belong to so that they can feel or see aspects of the gospel lived out…. the options for these belonging environments can be just about anywhere, thus giving people a much wider range of options for starting their faith journey. The next step involves the Sojourner confessing interest, not belief… you will easily see God in their curiosity and their genuine interest in you and your community of friends. The proof of their interest will be seen as they begin to initiate meaningful conversations about their life. They’ll ask more about your life. They’ll invite you deeper into their lives, the lives of their children, and you’ll be invited to enter the world of their friends.” Halter compares the two approach in the chart below.

Attractional approach
Unbeliever is invited to church
Unbeliever confesses belief
Unbeliever repeats a prayer
Believer joins church
Cognitive discipleship
Focus: Counting confessions
Believing enables belonging

Incarnational Approach
Sojourner is invited to belong
Sojourner confesses interest
Sojourner experiences good news
Sojourner participates in community
Experiential apprenticeship
Focus: Transformation
Belonging enables believing

He goes on to say…. “The incarnational way culminates in this primary difference: Belonging enables believing. Often when Christians ponder living the incarnational way they come alive with excitement. They say things like:

• It takes the pressure off me. My part is to offer a place for belonging, not push the bible on people
• I can trust God to do the “converting” thing
• As an introvert or one with hospitality gifts, I know I can be a part by simply creating belonging environments
• It puts the focus back on my inner life instead of what I say and don’t say to people
• I have to become good news to my family and friends if I want to influence them
• This fits the natural flow of my life. I just have to be intentional and authentic.

In this incarnational approach, everything hinges on a community of friends that provides belonging or is with people together. Community is the center of the entire missional/incarnational approach.

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on September 10, 2010.

2 Responses to “The way of incarnational community”

  1. Love the story you started this blog post with… it actually moved me today. Thank you for sharing this true and ‘international’ example of how God is allowing you and your friends to invite unlikely people into your life together. I pray for more of the same in all our communities.

  2. I’m glad you said that?


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