I really resonated with a blog post by Scot McKnight “Incarnation is not a Ministry Strategy” as he talks about how recent efforts to brand a ministry as “incarnational” water down the term. Read it here.
McKnight is reflecting on a book by Andrew Root about the topic and he says this:
In the “incarnational model” You, the ministry, do something to the Other in order to bring about a result. The incarnational moment or act then is done not for the sake of other but for the sake of a designed result.
But this confuses end with act and mistakes what incarnation is all about, so claims Root. Instead of the Person loving the person, instead of You loving the Other, or instead of You indwelling the Other — which is what God did in the Incarnation — incarnational models see through the Other to the result and so focus on the result not the Other.
I agree that the focus of incarnational ministries can be on the gift beyond the person who is a gift in and of themselves.
But the misplaced focus of this model is beyond even what McKnight draws out, I’m afraid.
I’m amazed this was missed: the Incarnation is not about us.
In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks of the future judgment and says this (CEB):
‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
Do you see it?
A truly Incarnational ministry doesn’t try to be Jesus to other people.
An Incarnational ministry allows other people to be Jesus to us.
End of story.
So if one’s ministry isn’t solely on the other person–sitting with them, not doing things for them–then it isn’t Incarnational in the first place. If one’s eyes are fixed on the coming Judgment and how they will be received for doing these good deeds today, then they aren’t allowing the other person to be Jesus to them. And which side will we sit on? Sheep or goats?
Thoughts?(Photo: “An ordinary day in a trooper’s life” by Kalexanderson, Creative Commons share from Flickr)