From Pity to Compassion
What Does Missional Mean?, Week 9
Author: Andrea Lingle

Being missional or sent out is tricksy. It is tempting to go out in one’s strength toward those considered needy. We, here in the safety and security of privilege, come to you, there in the lowness and dislocation of your need. If the people of God move out, missionally, from a place of certainty, then a missional way of life just becomes another, hip crusade. It is the way of pity, and no one wants to be pitied.

To move from pity to compassion—from feeling for or, worse, at (that destructive tendency I have of becoming emotionally responsible for a person), to feeling with—requires living from the contemplative stance. The contemplative stance is a mindset described by MWF founder Elaine Heath as showing up, paying attention, cooperating with God, and releasing the outcome. It is only when those who are sent out are sent out from a place of release and unknowing that the movement to pity to compassion happens.

Show up

In all the stories about Jesus feeding crowds in the gospels, Jesus sees a need and has a need. The people are hungry, and he needs something with which to feed them. Showing up does not require that you show up with your hands full.

Pay attention

When the loaves and fish were handed to Jesus, with various degrees of faith, Jesus saw them for what they could be. Jesus joined imagination with faith, seeing both the need, the gifts of the people, and the outcome.

Cooperate with God

Then comes all of the mundane stuff. Jesus walked the disciples through the steps of ecruiting, organizing, and clean up. There were volunteers to organize, baskets to find, groups to form, food to pass out, and someone had to do the dishes. When we ask what missional means, we find that the answer is usually mundane. To be missional is not only to sit with the stranger and the marginalized, it is to make sure that the trash is taken out. To be missional is to start with imagination and end with a broom and a dustpan.

Release the outcome

And this is the point on which the whole thing hangs. The law and the prophets. The order and the spirit. The administration and the vision. To be missional means to do all of these things without justifying why. It is to do all of this because it is right. Although we rigorously evaluate the efficacy of our process, the outcome can only be enjoyed: whether it be a success or a failure.

To be missionally wise is to connect the impulse to live outwardly to reflection and experience. It is the difference between living in the certainty of a destination of truth and journeying on a way of discovery. Jesus’s earliest followers were called those of The Way. Jesus calls us to let go and allow the Christ before us and within us to be way the truth and the life, for, truly, no one who grasps their way or truth or life too closely will be able to see God. For it is in the others to whom and with whom we are sent out that we are able to see the truest face of God.


Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • Contemplation cannot be mastered, it must be practiced. How can you practice a contemplative stance?

  • How does the contemplative stance change your practice of missional living? Of evangelism?