Border Crossers verses Volunteers

The best post I read this week was titled “Disciples, Not Volunteers” by Jamie Arpin-Ricci.  Below is a brief excerpt.  I encourage you to check out the full post at A Living Alternative as well as the wonderfully insightful comments.

“As I’ve dug deeper, I began to see a common thread: we all too often view our involvement in missional church community through the lens of volunteerism.  In other words, we love the vision and reality of ministry and want to be involved, as long as it fits.  We have discipled entire generations of Christians to see missional engagement as a voluntary opportunity they can add to their lives when it works or isn’t too demanding. This isn’t to say that many people don’t live sacrificially, but rather that the general trend reflects an attitude of optionality.”

What do you think of Jamie’s observation?  Have we discipled people to see missional engagement as a volunteer opportunity?

To help us answer that question, we need to better understand what the words “missional engagement” mean.  I watched a great video titled “Missional – Does the word still have value.” The video is a conversation between David Fitch and Gary Nelson shared by Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

Both Fitch and Nelson agree that the word “missional” has become so watered down and is used to mean so many different things that the word has lost meaning. I think Nelson hits on the core issue; the issue of identity.  Nelson adds clarity to the term when he states that mission takes place in “The Borderlands.”  Nelson goes on to say,

“I enter into mission when I cross over from my world to another world where people of faith, no faith, and other faiths interact.  As a borderland person, my identity is changed, I become something different, a different kind of believer…It’s a true missional dialog when we cross borders, it’s just a program when we do not have to cross borders or when we can keep our identity in tact and are not changed by the experience.  If I am not challenged by the tensions that exist in the borderland than I am not a borderland person.”   (Not sure I got this word for word but I think I captured the heart of the conversation.)

I would summarize Nelson’s definition of missional engagement as, “engagement that requires the crossing of borders in which the one doing the crossing is transformed by the experience.”

What do you think of Nelson’s insights into the word “missional?”

When we serve missionally,are we asked to do so as disciples or as volunteers?  What do you see as the difference?  How does the call to engage missionally differ from the call to volunteer?


Filed under missional church, Theology, Urban Ministry

3 responses to “Border Crossers verses Volunteers

  1. Thanks for the link promo. Great thoughts!


  2. This is so very insightful and captures what I have been unable to articulate about “mission” activities typically done in churches.

    Wow! Lots of food for thought here about how I live my own life and respond to my call to discipleship.

    Thanks for posing the “tough” questions!

  3. Pingback: Listening to the Homeless in Monroe Park : Their Thoughts on the Park Closing « Wendy McCaig

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