Sunday, July 01, 2018

DE Ponderings

MRI Theology

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you. And surely I am
with you always, to the very end of the age.
—Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

The Sunday morning preacher at Annual Conference, Leonard Sweet, provided a lesson in MRI theology which seemed fitting in the midst of the compelling vision process within which we find our denomination engaging over the next couple of years. Sweet envisioned the Church putting aside its emphasis in developing mission and vision statements to focus on the Great Commission. Within these two verses at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, and particularly in verse 19, Sweet points out that we have all we need in understanding what we are called to do. Our calling is threefold: missional, relational, and incarnational, or MRI for short.

We are called to go, not remain within the walls of our buildings trying to attract people to come. Going is missional, reaching out into the communities where we live.

In our going we are to make disciples, to enter into relationship. Sweet noted that we focus much time and energy today talking about and working to create leaders, when, instead, our calling is to create disciples. Another way to think about this, we are to be in relationship, with God and with others. And then, third, all nations, or more accurately, all cultures, are invited to the table, into fellowship, into the way of God. This is the incarnational piece. No one is excluded from receiving the love of the God through Jesus the Christ. This supreme love is manifest (incarnated) within us to be shared freely and openly with all.

The above is an oversimplification of Dr. Sweet’s sermon. For the complete sermon, follow this link: However, I have reflected on Dr. Sweet’s sermon and imagine the distance this MRI theology might take us on our compelling vision journey. What if, instead of thinking about ways a compelling vision will make us more attractional, we begin to consider the opportunities and options we have for reaching out to our communities, our zip codes? Instead of committing arduous hours of creating and finding leadership, we focus our energy on building relationships, connecting deeply with others, sharing about the wonder and grace of Jesus the Christ? And instead of fearing other cultures, we rather give tremendous effort to learn more about those cultures.

Sweet was careful to say that none of this will be of any value or purpose if we fail to center attention on Jesus. The Great Commission states that we are to hang on everything that Jesus commanded. What did Jesus teach? Go with these instructions in hand. How did Jesus relate to others, even those despised by his tribe? Make disciples, connections, friendships, just as Jesus did with the vulnerable, the underserved, the hated. And, then, journey with others at a level well beyond superficial, building trust rather than enmity between multiple cultures.

Imagine a compelling vision not as something new and creative but rather a tried and true commission given to us some two millennia ago. Imagine what this MRI theology will help us to understand about who we are and how we function and what our relationship is to the One who calls us. And, then, imagine the outcomes encouraged by goals and objectives tied directly to the tried and true. The possibilities seem endless AND exciting. What do you think?