Originally published on Englewood Review of Books.
A Review of Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians
Kim Hammond and Darren
While there are many different ways to do church, there are two postures are that are competing for dominancy in the Church today. In their new book Sentness, Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw identify these two postures as, “a church of consumers, demanding goods and services, and a church of missionaries, sent and sending into the world” (11). It’s not hard to guess from the title of the book the posture that they believe the church should adopt.
America is a built on consumption and driven by consumers. Almost every message that we see on a daily basis is trying to convince us that we need to consume something new. We need the latest phone, the nicest car, the biggest home, and the fastest internet connection possible. This posture and mindset is not only pervasive in our economy and culture, but it has also worked its way into the church. “Individual Christians ‘shop around’ for a local church that they think will best suit their needs. Churches identify the particular needs of local people and seek to show how the church addresses those needs. Pastors feel pressured to become providers of religious goods and services—a decidedly consumer-driven approach to ministry—rather than helping their people become more focused on the mission of God in the world” (30). Instead of being consumers, Hammond and Cronshaw argue that we need to see ourselves as sent, as missionaries for God’s mission in the world. In order to do that, they offer up six postures that we need to assume in order to live out the missionary lifestyle.
The first is living as Sent People. In order to move beyond consumerism, the first step is to understand God has sent us on a mission. We have not been called to consume, but instead to go and make disciples. This does not necessarily mean, however, we are all called to leave our homes and travel to a foreign country. Instead for many, it means that we take on, “a posture of availability to God and engagement with the lives of people around us” (61). To see ourselves as sent is to see ourselves and our daily actions as a part of God’s mission of redemption and reconciliation.
The posture of Submerged Ministry has two pieces to it. The first is to submerge ourselves into the places we have been called and to find the places God is already at work. The second part of being submerged is stability. Not only do we plunge ourselves into the community we have been sent to, but we choose to stay there when it is hard and everyone else leaves.
The posture of Shalom Spirituality deals with how spiritual practices can bring restoration and wholeness to our neighborhoods on a daily basis. So many times we see spirituality as something private or something practiced on the weekends, but instead “shalom spirituality discourages navel-gazing, private, individual spiritual practices limited to Sunday temple events. It does not extract people from their world, but encourages us to engage our ‘worldly’ responsibilities with attentiveness to God’s purposes for the world” (90). This posture reminds us that our personal spiritual practices are not only for ourselves, but they should lead us to missional action. They should help us to engage with God and lead us to share God with the world around us.
The next posture of Safe Places reminds us that the church should be a welcoming body to all people. We should be able to provide a safe place for all. All too often we are guilty of building fences around our churches to keep people out. Instead, we find in scripture a Jesus who welcomes all people into a safe place in order to call them to a new life. We need to see the body of Christ as a, “supportive community without shame that calls on people to commit themselves to name and seek release and recovery from their bondage” (127).
Shared Life reminds us that we are called to a shared life in the church. Mission is not something that we do alone; we do it together. Much like the crippled man who was carried to Jesus, the community comes together to take care of people and is there when we are in need of help. Hammond and Cronshaw remind us that, “Jesus loves us and wants to give us eternal life forever. But part of the good news that is often overlooked is that Jesus wants to share life with us now—and invites us to share life with his community” (137). We are not only welcomed into a relationship with Jesus, but also a relationship with the church in order to care for one another and to care for the world.
The last posture is Standing in the Gap. This posture calls to stand for others and to empower them to live the sent life. They write, “we need people and processes that support and empower us in our sentness,” and, “It is not enough to have an innovative idea or a passion for mission. We need those who can stand in the gap for us, and we must stand in the gap for others” (155). This last piece is crucial because it calls us to multiplication and discipleship. The church is not built by celebrities or passionate ministers who do it all, but instead it is built by those who empower the next generation of disciples to live out the mission of Jesus. Standing in the gap is essential to continuing the mission. Sometimes the only thing standing between a person and living out their mission is the one person it takes to empower them and give them permission to take a risk.
All of this begins when we choose to see ourselves as sent. It begins when we choose to live out the mission of God instead of sitting back to be spectators. Hammond and Cronshaw conclude their book by reminding us that successful missional Christians are successful because they did something. They were willing to follow God’s call to live in and serve the world.
If you have read many missional books, you know not all of them would be great to hand out to just anyone in the church. Some of them tend to be theoretical in order to leaders recognize the paradigmatic shifts that need to happen in order to create a missional movement in a tradition church setting. More and more, though, they are beginning to strike a more practical note and are becoming increasingly accessible to everyone. Sentness is one of those books. Not only that, but I would recommend that church leaders do their best to get as many people to read this book as possible. Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw have made the sent life easy to understand and accessible to everyone. If they didn’t, they would have missed the point of their own book that everyone is sent on mission as a missionary of God.