Someone asked me, “How can we practice the incarnation?” (See my post, Reflections on Church Growth, 09-27-10). The concept of God encapsulating Himself in flesh is difficult enough to grasp; how do we put it into practice? Difficult or not, I am convinced that it is the incarnation of God that teaches us exactly how we ought to live out our Christianity in this dying world.

The Church Growth groupies, it seems to me, place too much emphasis on the human side of the equation. The questions that guide the thinking run something like this: “How can we make this church grow? What can we do to attract people to church?” And so on. Human ingenuity reigns.

The flip side of that, however, misses the point by just as much. This approach is led by thinking such as: “We don’t need to reach out to people at all—God will lead them to us. Our job is merely to assemble here, protect the Truth, and let the Holy Spirit bring Truth Seekers to us.” This approach places too much emphasis on the divine side of the equation.

The balanced and appropriate approach is, I believe, the incarnational approach. By this I mean the approach that Paul describes in his letter to the Ephesians when he says that the church is the body of Christ (1:22-23). He goes on to demand that the church “grow up” (mature) to the point that it attains “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:12-13). We ought to be Christ in and for this dying world.

God is NOT an intellectual idea or concept—He is a person. Salvation is NOT attaining correct information (Gnosticism)—it is entering into a covenant relationship, a working partnership, with God. And, finally, Christian discipleship is NOT surrounding and protecting a doctrinal formula until He comes back—it is actively joining God in His passionate, ongoing work of redeeming His beloved creation.

God’s eternal purpose is to indwell human beings, bring them into fellowship with other indwelled human beings, create a transformational partnership with them (the church), change the church into a community of what human beings were designed to be, and then to express Himself through His Church to a lost and dying world. That is the goal—that is Incarnational Christianity.