Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Missional vs. Commissional

I have observed that many times the greatest change that comes in an individual's life, comes from the slight adjustment in attitude. To illustrate I must relate a story that I heard from a friend a few years ago, a modern parable if you will. This friend worked for a local manufacturing firm, that builds wonderful machines and systems that utilize reconstituted and recycled plastic, and remolds that plastic into useable bottles for other household cleaning products and such. These machines look like giant wheels with various pipes and tubes, for the injection of the plastic and air into the mold to form the bottles. It was an involved process taking other machines to convey the reconstituted plastic, now in bead form, to the "wheel", compressed air to inject the material into the molds, as well as other contraptions to move the finished product to be packed for shipping. The idea with these machines is that they are to be sold to other manufacturers of different household products, i.e. dishwashing liquid, etc. to use recycled plastic and fill the bottles and market them again. I was privileged to see on of these machines in operation, and it was a lot of fun to watch it take reconstituted plastic on one end of the process, and turn out useable plastic bottles on the other. It was almost like watching a magician do sleight of hand; "see the small plastic pellets, presto-chango, now it's a bottle". It was really cool. Anyway, my friend described to me how one of these "systems" was sold to a "household product" manufacturer in Germany. It seems though that there was a problem. When the "wheel" was forming the bottles, something was not working correctly. The "finished" products had holes in them. Actually, the bottoms of the bottles were either missing or just partially there. Being that the German company had purchased this multi-million dollar system, had it shipped to Germany, installed and setup and trained personnel, at great expense; the results were a little disconcerting to say the least. The company here in the U.S. bundled up their best engineer, one of the creators of this wonderful machine, and sent him to Germany, with instructions to "do whatever it takes to keep this customer happy". He was charged with the responsibility to find out what was wrong and to fix it, at all costs. This was to be an open ended repair job, in other words, the engineer was to stay on Germany until the problem was resolved. The engineer was intrigued, of course as one of the creators of the machine. He displayed great diligence and preceded directly to the factory as soon as his flight had landed, he was not interested in checking into his hotel. He immediately went to the manufacturing floor upon arrival at the factory, and requested a demonstration of the machine in operation. The operators obliged, started it up, and showed their displeasure when the machine began to produce bottomless bottles! The engineer obliged them, apologized and asked them to be quiet. He listened to the machine. He paused and took a small screwdriver from his front shirt pocket, inserted it into an adjustment screw for airflow. He turned the screw a quarter of a turn, and an amazing thing happened the machine started to form perfect plastic bottles! A simple adjustment = great outcome. The engineer left the factory a hero in the eye of both companies and returned to the U. S. that day. This story really can be likened to our Christian walk; we often think that it takes the greatest effort on our parts to serve a gracious loving Father-God. When in reality it takes the small adjustment from the Holy Spirit to our thinking or our attitude to make the greatest change. I have tried to apply this story to my perception of how I serve God and how I serve others. In Matthew 22, Jesus answers a pointed question concerning the greatest commandment. Jesus answers that, paraphrased; to love God is the greatest commandment. Then He adds that the second is just like it, to love others. In a post-modern church culture, we have put an emphasis on serving our communities, on being "missional"; this was a long needed change to move the established churches outside of their own walls. I am concerned that what was started as an adjustment to help the church see those, and reach those outside their cloistered environments, has in reality in some ways "turned the screw too far". In our efforts to more effectively address the second command we have turned from the first. By this I mean, in our efforts, (key on effort), to serve our communities we are displaying that salvation can be earned. "If you "DO" this, you will be good enough". I've personally heard churches and people derided because they don't "work" enough. I guess the adjustment that needs to be done is this; we need to serve and reach out to our communities as an expression of our love for God. We need not be missional for the sake of doing something to serve. But we do need to be missional as an act of worship and love for God, and to truly reach the lost, with the grace and truth of God. As an expression of God's love for them not as the target of our merit badges.

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