I have been thinking about how to explain incarnational ministry more simply and more succinctly to people who have never come across the term before and thought I’d float some preliminary thoughts here for comment. In essence I see the incarnation of Christ as having a number of implications for Christians:

Like Jesus we are to humble our selves, becoming nothing

In Philippians 2:5-11 the apostle Paul advises that Christians should have the same attitude as Christ and, just as Jesus humbled himself in becoming human, we too should to make ourselves nothing. Some theologians refer to this process as self emptying (Greek: kenosis). I am thinking the related concept that true worship is to offer our lives as a living sacrifice, as Paul speaks of in Romans 12:1, also speaks into this. And one of the implications here is a sharp critique of high and mighty forms of Christianity.

Like Jesus we are to engage our world, becoming all things to all people

In 1 Corinthians 9:22 the apostle Paul speaks of challenging people within their own cultural reference frames, meeting them where they are at. The woman at the well story is a good illustration of how Jesus went about it. Again, one of the implications here is a sharp critique of all attractional “you come to us” and “if we build it they will come” forms of Christianity and any notion that spiritual conversion should be accompanied by some form of Christian subcultural conversion.  No room for disengaged puritanism here.

Like Jesus we are to embody the Word, mediating between the seen and unseen

Now I understand this is potentially the most controversial bit so let me explain before reacting. One of the things we need to hold in tension as Christians is the universality and uniqueness of Christ, that is, his full humanity in which sense he was one of us as well as his full divinity in which sense he is truly in a class of his own. I am not minimizing how crucial God’s grace is, I am simply highlighting that we become like that which we worship and true worship leads to divine imitation (Greek: mimetes). Whether we worship God or a God substitute this has concrete lifestyle implications. We are called to be true to our original nature, as images (Greek: eikon) of God. Some verses to pay attention to here are John 1:14, John 20:21 and Ephesians 5:1-2. Again, one of the implications here is a rejection of lifestyle dualism and an embrace of holism and the lordship of Christ over everything in our lives. Another implication is the embrace of beauty as well as truth and goodness.

4 thoughts on “Incarnational Ministry – What’s It All About?

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