The incarnational aspect of our Lord’s ministry went beyond the theological truth that Christ was literally God in flesh. Jesus came as God in flesh to be with people. He told his disciples that his mission was to seek and to save that which was lost. Jesus did not camp in the temple in Jerusalem and build a ministry around a physical location. No Christ Jesus came to love the masses. Jesus went to the lost and served them. An incarnational ministry means that the church goes to people the way Jesus did! If Jesus came in our day, he would probably be just as misunderstood by the established Church today as he was by the Jewish leaders in his day.
The gospels tell us that Christ Jesus was a “friend of sinners,” (Matthew 11.19). He associated with tax collectors, prostitutes, the diseased, and the down and outers of society. The religious leaders despised him for it and called him a glutton and a winebibber, because he attended the parties of the sinners, (Luke 7.33-35). Socializing with these kinds of people ruined Christ’s testimony before the religious leaders of His day. The missional church is also often misunderstood and maligned as it attempts to reach out to people in the same manner of our Lord.
At the heart of being incarnational is simply loving people like Jesus loved people; loving people enough to go to them. The missional church understands that Christians are to follow the example of Jesus. Jesus came to physically be with us and to reach us with the Father’s love. The missional church is an assembly of Christ’s follower’s that understands that they must penetrate the culture with their presence. Jesus did not retreat from culture, but penetrated it. He was out among the people, going to their parties and reaching out to them in love. Christ socialized with people of whom the religious leaders of his day would have nothing to do with.
The missional church sees its mission as the same as the Lord’s. Christians should be spiritually distinct from the world, but we are not called to be socially segregated from it. God wants us to be a living Christ-like influence in this world. Jesus drew close to us and the missional church seeks to draw close to those who do not know Him. This is what it means to be incarnational; in the world but not of the world! The world is not something that the missional church seeks to be isolated from or to shun. The world is a place we engage and penetrate as missionaries spreading the love of Jesus.
I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them in to the world. (John 17.15-18)