Un-Segmenting Mission

Un-Segmenting Mission:
What Does Missional Mean?, Week 5

by Adam White

photo credit: Ryan Klinck

photo credit: Ryan Klinck

We lead segmented lives.

We divide our time, presence, and energy depending on where we are, who is in front of us, and how much time we allot to a given situation.

Whether it is segmenting our home life from our work life; how we interact socially between family, friends, and acquaintances; or even what mode of communication we invest in, be that in person or through social media—our lives have become and continue to be segmented.

But should this surprise us? We live in a divided world and a tragically segmented American culture. Our culture is one that champions consumerist models of brand loyalty. We segment the particular clothes we feel drawn to wear, the foods we like to eat, the media sources we are told to trust, and on and on. The comforting thing about segmenting the different parts of our lives is that there is a sense of control that we have when choosing how and in what specific ways we divide our time, energy, and presence.

It should come as no shock to us that this kind of segmented/divided reality also exists in the church. We silo different “ministries” of church into committee upon committee, where redundant dialogue usually outmaneuvers practical application. As much as our culture drives this massive machine of segmentation, our churches follow right alongside, and we bring the models of isolation, consumerism, and divided reality into our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

What is left is very different than what the Gospels and St. Paul depict as an unbound reality of missionally following Christ. An integration of ourselves and our communities and God. All of the disciples, each person who follows Christ, are called to un-segment their lives in order to be fully missional.

This sort of unbound, un-segmented reality is countercultural and counter-church operational. This does not mean that we denounce the world or the church, but rather seek to reorient the world and the church in accordance to the Gospel, starting with our individual self. This is the beautiful and yet truly frustrating thing about following Christ and seeking to be led by God’s unbound Spirit, it throws into disarray the nicely divided parts of our lives and relinquishes our control over to something that is holistically unpredictable, messy, but ultimately transformative.

Living in light of following Christ means seeking to embody the sacred nature of the missional traditions we find in the Gospel and New Testament Epistles. These sources all have a common tradition that seeks to orient a missional reality of life, one that reforms the social, cultural, and religious traditions that were operating in the world at that time. This is our task today, to live out of these scriptural missional traditions in ways that reorient our world, culture, and religious institutions. Such a reorientation can be seen in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, as he argues for the tradition behind his Hebrew tradition. The love of Christ has captured his heart. He has surrendered to Christ’s authority. As a result he has given himself completely to God’s mission in the world— a mission to everyone. As he says in Galatians 3: 28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In this, one of the earliest texts in the canon, Paul subsumes his own tradition to the deeper, more ancient tradition of God making all things new. [1]

As we strive to un-segment ourselves in Christ we can place our fears, hopes, and future in being led by God’s unbound, unifying Spirit. We do this as we try and release the perceived control we place on everything. The question becomes, “Are we ready to let go?”


[1] Slightly adapted from Heath, Elaine, God Unbound. (Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2016)

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • Do you feel as though your life is segmented? If so, in what ways?

  • How might God be calling you to un-segment different parts of your life to live missionally?