The final two chapters of Borderland Churches are “Missioning the Church” and “Mapping the Journey.”
Why do we commission people for an ecclesial vocation, but not for a vocation of mission where they are? Gary recalls the story of chapter 5 and suggests that we fail to commission people for vocation in the world because we need them to run church programs. Moreover, when working with declining churches, the sense is often “we don’t want to die” and the push is to attract people who will help preserve what always was, rather than looking toward a new future. In attempting to protect what we have we lose it. Walter Brueggemann notes that,
“While the hegemony of Christendom left us with this legacy, our withdrawal into enclaves has occasioned a similar loss. Whatever it was we preserved in our safe fortresses, we lost our immersion in God and His redemptive purposes. As a result, we lost our identity as God”s sent people. Like Israel, we became comfortable in the land and surrendered to idolatry.” (The Prophetic Imagination)
Why should we “mission” people? Because worship is what happens Monday to Saturday — it’s a kingdom reality because Jesus is Lord. Too often we have become tourists rather than travelers and pilgrims. (I’m thinking of chapter 20 in Peterson’s “The Pastor” here also). Tourists focus on comfort and convenience — pilgrims embrace the journey as an adventure. Elsewhere Stan Hauerwas notes, “A journey requires not only an end, a goal, but also the ability to keep at it — constancy. Travelers.. learn to trust one another when the going gets rough.” (Resident Aliens, 64). To be a people on the move requires a special type of community.
Gary then advocates for the four E’s of Borderland living, where all dimensions of life are transformed into “a cluster of practices of dissident discipleship.” (116)
Experience: being shaped for sentness
Faithful spirituality is intended to be experienced before it is shared. It then mirrors a passionate quest to see God’s kingdom actualized. Where this experience is lacking, we may embrace the gospel as a set of propositions but we have difficulty in articulating how the gospel has been “good news” for us.
Engage: getting to know your Borderlands
Scrutinizing the Borderlands as a detached observer is not engagement. We must live into the contexts where we find ourselves.
Embed: living in the Borderlands
Our greatest challenge is the reconstruction necessary for us to actually live in the Borderlands. When we function apart from the systems and relationships that compose our cultural contexts we develop rhythms and schedules that prevent our becoming embedded in these networks. To truly “engage” we must “see” our neighbours, recognize the differences, honor the uniqueness and respect their values. Too often we are service-providers but not stake-holders.
Embody: living as an alternative community
We surrender our personal vision of God, and even our unique giftedness, into the hands of a living Body. We become citizens of a new nation (1 Peter 2:9-10) and together demonstrate and embody a new, kingdom culture.