The Baptisms of Jesus; by Water, Fire, and Blood

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The Season of Epiphany (at least for us at Life on the Vine) begins with the baptism of Jesus and ends with his transfiguration.

And so I want to offer a brief reflection on the baptisms of Jesus.  Yes, plural.  You see, different traditions focus on different aspects of Jesus’ baptism.  In fact there are three main ways of thinking of baptism in general.

If the missional church in North America is to thrive it needs all three.

1) Confessing = Water

The first main view understand baptism as a confessional act expressing salvation.  This is seen in Romans 6 as baptismal identification with Jesus from death to life (and most of the options described below are read through this lens, negating their specific contributions).

Unfortunately this is pretty much all we ever get from Evangelicals concerning baptism.  The exception of course are the sacramentally leaning Evangelicals of Reformed and Anglican streams who see God at work in baptism to cleanse and seal through the faith of the community.  But this is still essentially connected with salvation.

2) Filling = Fire

The second main view focuses on the Holy Spirit, that we must also be baptized/filled by the Holy Spirit for a fullness of sanctification and for empowerment for ministry.  This is seen in Luke’s writing primarily, that Jesus comes to baptize by Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16), and does this very thing on the day of Pentecost when the disciples are “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).

This is the Holiness and/or Charismatic understanding of the baptism of the Spirit.  A closer reading of Luke-Acts and an openness to charismatic ministry is essential in order for the missional church in North America to move from grand ideas of “joining the Missio Dei” to being fully empowered and open to just such a ministry (and yeah, I’m talking about supernatural types of stuff).  If Jesus’ participation in the Missio Dei was solely predicated on his reliance on the Holy Spirit, why not us?

3) Witnessing = Blood

When  James and John ask if they can sit at the right and left hand of Jesus when he enters his kingdom, Jesus respondes by asking if they will drink from the cup that he will drink from and be baptized with the baptism that he endure (Mark 10:36-40).  Of course this cup and baptism, at this point in the Gospel, refers to the suffering of death that Jesus will endure as a “randsom for many” (Mark 10:45).

This is the more Anabaptist baptism in which our confession of Christ (by water) and our filling in the Spirit (by fire) makes us into such a people who witness through everything we are and through everything we do.  With utter disregard for what it might cost, we proclaim that “Christ is Lord”.  This is the “witnessing” that turns into martyrdom (by blodd) if necessary.

Is the missional church ready for such radical commitment? Does it view witnessing as totally comprehensive with every act and word, even unto death?

Water, Fire, Blood

In many ways “water”, “fire”, and “blood” are primal elements necessary for life.  And because of this let us not merely spiritualize them.  And indeed, they are the very life from which the misison of God flows in the world.

Have you entered into the fullness of Christ’s baptism?

What might it mean for your community to enter into the fullness of Christ’s baptism?

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22 responses to “Prologue to Missional Discussions

  1. When people ask me what “missional” means, I usually reply with something like this… It boils down to two things: (1) acknowledging that God has a mission that precedes and defines our own mission, vision, values, strategy, etc; and (2) approaching every ministry setting as a missionary situation.
    Since that’s so unclear 🙂 , the next question is typically “What does that mean?” or “What difference does that make?” or “So what do we actually do differently?” at which point I try to talk about specific norms generated by those two points (or I say, just wait July and these MissionShift folks will sort it all out for us!)…

  2. I’ll give it a try. To me missional means:
    Daring to follow God in Jesus into the world wherever God leads, always through a cross, but inevitably to resurrection which cannot be simply spoken or outsourced into existence, but must be embodied in self-giving, redeeming lives.

  3. The primary apparent flaw with the missionSHIFT missional manifesto conference is the grossly over-representation of white, male, middle-class, American clergy of the church planting variety. So many voices are not represented. Women, non-Americans, the poor, sexual minorities, other types of ministers (hospital & prison chaplains, people who work with children, the homeless, in hospice, college ministries.) The result is destined to be much of the same unless we open up the table to the full body of Christ.
    Look at the early church one of the first converts to Christianity was a surgically altered, gender-variant, rich civil servant from Africa (the Ethiopian Eunuch) who went home w/ Good News and to this day a church traces its roots to that person. Radical inclusion. New Wine in New Wine Skins.

  4. peterson, thanks for the post, I think you’ve made your point eh? what then do we do with missional? what would be your definition so that this issue dets dealt with? (which I personally have been fleshing out on this blig and elsewhere for a couple years – have you been paying any attention).Micahel ..J. … excellent contributions .. i look forward to sharing in this missional theological construction exercise over the next several weeks …

  5. It’s not mine, borrowed from Roxburgh and Boren. Best one sentence construct I’ve seen. “Mission is not something the church does as an activity; it is what the church IS through the mystery of its formation and memory of its calling. The church is God’s missionary people.” (45) Mystery, Memory, Mission!!

  6. I just spent a week with Alan Roxburgh at Fuller, so I have recently drunk deeply from the well of which Len speaks. Nevertheless I am going to offer:
    Missional is a recognition of the Missio Dei as constitutive of the life and being of the Church, which calls us to a thoughtful study of our own current cultural context, and resulting in a searching critique and renewal of the practices of the Church in regard to their faithfulness to the Gospel and empowerment for mission on behalf of the Kingdom.

  7. Missional means:
    1. God is a God of mission… and God’s mission includes healing/restoring/reconciling the world.
    2. Thus our calling, as Christian communities & individuals, is to join God in that mission… by listening to where God is moving in us, our congregations, and our neighborhoods/cites, and beginning to incarnate the reality of God’s restoration/Kingdom in concrete ways, in our unique context.

    A bit of a long winded ‘sentence’ I know!

  8. MattR, Len, Ricahrd .. these are all wonderful and thick descriptions of “missional” … great summaries … now, after reading evrybody … I think the task is to flesh out what this means for daily, weekly practice… I think Richard, studying with Al R. has got a leg up here …

  9. Richard, great stuff. Maybe can be abbreviated a bit, feels somewhat repetitive..
    Missional is a recognition of the Missio Dei as constitutive of the life and being of the Church, which calls us to exegete our own context, and results in a searching critique and renewal of the practices of the Church relative to the Gospel of the Kingdom.

    I think empowerment for mission is implied here 🙂

  10. Ok, up too early today and running this thru NT Wright.
    “Missional is joining in the ongoing story of God’s reign, his putting all things to rights, first in our neighbourhood, then to the ends of the earth.”

  11. And one more, this an abbreviated version of Ringma:
    “Missional is a renewed theological vision of the church in mission, which redefines the nature, the mission and the organization of the local church as… a sign, a servant and a foretaste of the Kingdom.”

  12. Len, Richard… good stuff!
    I would then maybe say something like…

    Missional- calls the church out into the neighborhood, discovering & joining God’s action there, which then reforms and reshapes our life together, thus sending us deeper into our context with more awareness of and ability to respond to God.

  13. Hey David, okay, missional:
    Missional, although a clunky academic sounding term, for me represents the influences one has on one’s surroundings arising from authentic living. So much of missions happens through life, a daily witness through our faith and practice, cultivating the fruit of the Spirit and sharing it.

    This affects every area of one’s life–not just the church part–and can encompass community relations and service, purchases, diet, social justice, and especially relationships. It is not simply preaching Christ but living in a way so that Christ in me and in you–the hope of glory–becomes realized everyday in us in tasks, practices and belief–mundane and sublime.

  14. What is missional?
    My concern with the term has to do with the idea that by de-institutionalizing the church will we be institutionalizing missional? Turning somewhat old school, Nouwen made a comment that helps lead to what I understand as missional. The goal of education and formation for ministry is continually to recognize the Lord’s voice, His face, and His touch in every person we meet.

    Nouwen seems to be directing his comments to pastors and seminary teachers, so keying off of the idea, ‘missional would be drawing in people and developing them into people who recognize the face of God, not just across the globe but within the neighborhood in which they live, with formation in responding to that face.’

    We must avoid missional from being simply another program, always a danger within the context of NA church I’m sure, but church remains vital, I cannot come up with a way to separate out church from MIssio Dei, as well as avoid missional becoming simply a sandbox enjoyed by academics. If I walked around my congregation on Sunday and asked “are we missional?” I suspect a number of blank stares would be my response or retorts about the significant roster of missions/missionaries the church supports. Missional is forming people to be acting missionaries, and not merely spectators, on their home turf so to speak.

  15. goodness, this is awesome. If we were “voting,” I’d go put my hat in with Len’s redoing of Richard’s! 🙂 But even beyond just my favorite one, this stuff is great. If you’re out there and *almost* throwing out your answer, go for it!!

  16. […] Smith: Missional Mayhem Bill Kinnon: kinnon.tv Brother Maynard: Subversive Influence David Fitch: Reclaiming the Mission Jared Wilson: The Gospel-Driven Church Jonathan Dodson: Creation Project Rick Meigs: The Blind […]

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