Missional Field Notes

Quotes, Examples, and Ideas from My Missional Frontier

Here is our cycling team at the end of last year's race

Here is our cycling team at the end of last year’s race

Today I am on a 200 mile bicycle race in Alaska. So, in the spirit of the bicycle and mission I offer the following from Len Hjalmarson:

Cycle riders know that there is more than direction and velocity in keeping a cycle moving: it requires balance, and balance is a dynamic reality. Stop moving, and the bicycle and rider end up on the pavement. It’s the same with discipleship and mission: they exist in a dynamic relationship of motion and energy.

And it’s very different on paper than in reality! The knowledge that comes from riding is experiential knowledge – physical and personal. It’s the kind of knowledge that exists in the body before it exists in the mind. Too often in our culture we rely on a strange kind of knowing that is divorced from practice. The other kind of knowledge, personal knowledge, is the kind that God designed for us to live in, and it’s why the Great Commandment appeals to all parts of the person.

Cycle riders know that riding requires that level of integration. You won’t last long unless your head and hands work together. It’s a centering movement growing out of a dynamic relationship between balance and forward motion. Lose the center, and get out of balance, and the bicycle falls. It’s the same with discipleship and mission: they exist in an integrated motion, a rhythm of life.

The traction for a bicycle rider comes from the rear wheel. The chain drives the rear wheel, and the contact between the wheel and the surface move the bicycle forward. Mission works the same way. Mission powers discipleship. If the wheel of mission stops turning, discipleship becomes distorted into an internal “self-improvement” reality. Every expression of discipleship eventually feeds back into God’s mission of redemption. But remember, this is mission much more broadly seen than merely evangelism and conversion. God is concerned with all of life, and mission includes justice. “He has shown you, O man, what is good….”

Direction for the bicycle comes from the front wheel. Discipleship gives mission a telos – a purpose and end goal. We share the good news so that people can know Christ, and have life in his name. This is much more than membership in a local church. Jesus did not say, “I came that they might have church, and that more abundantly!” Rather, the goal of mission is to bring healing and redemption to all creation. Discipleship, then, imparts the attitudes, relationships, and skills necessary to live a life of wholeness in the world. Connected to Christ and in harmony with one another, we are a new social reality: a sign and a foretaste of the kingdom of God.

2 thoughts on “The Bicycle And Mission

  1. I don’t pretend to understand “missiology” nor do I do well with analogies and theories using religious jargon. But I must say that I strongly object to Mr. Hjalmarson’s cryptic dismissal of evangelism and discipleship as vital components of the Great Commission. I don’t know his denominational affiliation (if any), but his emphasis on social justice and “wholeness” fits right into a humanistic point of view that turns the Great Commission into just another feel-good campaign. If I didn’t know any better, he could be describing the goals of the Lion’s Club, Shriner’s, United Nation, any social justice group. While I can applaud these outreaches for their social value, it’s not the Great Commission of the New Testament. It may be “missional,” but it isn’t New Testament Christian.

    The Great Commission was issued at the end of Christ’s earthly mission. Evangelism was crucial. Where is the starting point? How does one become a Christian? By osmosis? Isn’t discipleship taking a new convert from Point A and leading him/her in spiritual growth to a point of maturity so that s/he may evangelize others? If New Testament believers were assigned the task of advocating social justice, I have yet to see it in the New Testament. There were plenty of social ills prevalent in Roman times; yet He concentrated on bringing the Good News to the lost. His was not a political or social justice movement.

    By sweeping aside the call to evangelize and disciple, Mr. Hjalmarson confirms my worst fears about the future of denominations that skip the Great Commission’s call to evangelize and disciple. My local church, for instance, has never had an evangelistic “anything.” (I highly doubt the congregation knows what “evangelism” means.) Discipleship? Non-existent. Checking the state denomination’s webpages, there is NO reference to evangelism, while discipleship seems to mean attending a Sunday School class or being involved in a church-related activity. In over ten years of church attendance, I don’t know anyone and they don’t know me. This is a “missional” church?

    If the assumption of modern missiology is that everyone is already “saved” and there is no need for personal growth/development in one’s walk with God, then I can see why many church leaders adopt the “new social reality.” I think the author’s bicycle tires are missing some vital spokes.

    1. jimdoepken says:

      Mr. Hjalmarson is a Baptist from Canada. He is the pastoral leader of First Baptist Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He is an adjunct professor at three evangelical schools: Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago, and George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland. He would identify himself firmly in the “evangelical” camp.

      That said, I don’t see this as a dismissal of evangelism or discipleship at all and am not sure I understand the critique. The point of this particular quote is that discipleship and mission are connected together with discipleship giving our mission a direction — we are engaged in the world in order to have persons live more closely with Christ and follow Christ in their lives. He writes: “We share the good news so that people can know Christ, and have life in his name. This is much more than membership in a local church.”

      Where I read him to be critical of evangelism is where it is divorced from practice — a change of heart (or thought) without a change in one’s life or a change in the world. He writes: “Too often in our culture we rely on a strange kind of knowing that is divorced from practice.” His concern is making sure churches are practicing their faith.

      The assumption of missiology is not that everyone is “saved” (the author says we share the Good News so others may know Christ). Neither is assumed that there is no need for growth and development but that this growth and development involves “attitudes, relationships, and skills” and it not only an issue of one’s personal walk with Christ.

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