In my class on the Missional Imagination students are required to select a “missional space” for the duration of the course (and hopefully beyond). The only requirements for selection are that it must be local, public and regularly accessible. So, for instance, if they live in Fort Worth, their location shouldn’t be a favorite hangout in Dallas (unless they drive there every day for work), it shouldn’t be a church building or their living room and it shouldn’t be someplace like Six Flags that they can only afford to visit a couple times a year.
Beyond that, they can choose just about anywhere. A coffee shop, local bar, grocery store, community center, town square, neighborhood park – or in some instances, perhaps even their front yard.
Each week part of the course curriculum involves spending time in this location. The first assignment is simply to describe what they see. What are the sounds and smells of the place? How is the place decorated? How would they describe the atmosphere? What do they notice about the people? Is this a place where people come for escape or connection? Do people notice each other or keep their heads down as they go about their business?
And what we often discover is that we’ve seen a place a million times without ever seeing it.
As the course progresses I ask them to look again. When we talk about the missional imagination, we’re talking about the ability to see what could be, can be and will be as the kingdom of God breaks in more fully. Where is the kingdom of God already breaking in here? Where does this place and these people desperately need God’s kingdom more fully?
What do you see?
I believe that most, if not all, of us could benefit from someone walking alongside us all day long asking this question. “Wait. What do you see?”
Because our temptation is simply not to see. Perhaps its a matter of convenience, self-absorption, frustration or fear, but we just don’t see. We don’t see the stuff that is right in front of us…so how can we possibly see what could be? Whenever people ask me to help them think through ways to engage a more missional orientation to faith, this is one of the first questions I ask.
Whenever someone complains that missional – or any other – theology is too abstract or theoretical, this is one of the first questions I ask. Whenever someone says that they aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do with their life, don’t know how to move from intellectual to holistic faith, don’t know where to begin…I ask, “What do you see?”
Everywhere we look, if we will look, there are signs of God at work and there are signs that the people of God need to cry out for God’s ministry of reconciliation, redemption and rescue.
So, what do you see?