Rouse and Van Gelder believe that God's vision for congregations is to live out its missional identity. Congregations need to live out their sent-ness.
Let me give you an example. A friend of mine pastors a church that is about 10 or 12 years old. In the past, their church has spent a lot of money and energy on creating a spectacular Christmas Eve with everything from live animals to pyrotechnics. Things flew and illumined, startled and marveled those who came. Each year it was bigger and better and thousands came. It was a prime example of a ministry that we would call attractive in nature. Their Christmas Eve was an excellent event that brought many into contact with their church.
Earlier this year they decided as a leadership not to do it. It wasn't merely about money. It was a definite dis-ease with the "come to us" attitude that so many of us adopt during this season. They decided instead to go to different parts of the community and tell the story of Christmas through their actions of kindness and sacrifice throughout their city. They decided to go to the people. I will be curious to know how it all went. But I think they get it right.
How appropriate. How risky. They run the risk of alienating their own congregation by canceling the "big event" and giving themselves away. Why - isn't Christmas Eve service a tradition for my family? How can we celebrate with our family without it?! It's so cozy and warm and ... for us....for me...for my...I.... The opposite of missional is 'I' 'me' 'mine'...the heart of missional is 'thou' and 'thine.'
This is the description of missional - sent! We are sent into the world. It is the essence of incarnation, the very essence of Christmas...go into the world. God isn't just with us (the church) God is with the world! Maybe this is a good Christmas message.
Let me give you another example. On Christmas day, some friends of mine are headed East to be with family. During the last year they became acquainted with a homeless man who was working the 12 step program at the Rescue Mission. One of the parts of the program is to take responsibility for past actions and make amends. The man had an outstanding warrant and went back to Maryland to face charges. He is serving time in prison for his part. On Christmas day my friends will spend part of their Christmas day in prison visiting him. They truly count it a privilege and are looking forward to it. Their friend has been in prison for a few months now. They will be his first, and to date, his only visitors.
Maybe these two true stories will serve as an encouragement and example of what is meant by being sent into the world. Missional character is Christmas cheer for the world.