Eric Mason

We keep hearing about urban legends, but we do not see the legend. Too many times incarnational ministry is an urban legend – people talk about it, but it is not visible on so many places.

John 1

Verse 14: “dwelt” – this is an allusion to the tabernacle of the OT. The glory of the tabernacle and the Temple is now found in the man, Jesus. Jesus is the proto-type of what it means to live for the glory of God. What gives incarnational ministry its impetus?

Verse 18: Jesus is in eternal community with the Father and brings that community to those who do not know him. His life is about exegeting the Father for the people exesato.

Heb 2:17-18 – He had to be made like his brothers so that he might become a merciful and faithful High Priest… “He had to be made”: Jesus was authentically human, as well as authentically connected to the culture of the Jews. He did not ask them to submit to the culture of eternity (from where he originated), but he was made like his brothers (Jews).

We see that he not only had contextual connectivity, but also spiritual connectivity. He did not allow his Jewish-ness impede his spiritual vitality. That is, he had a mission to complete and a faithfulness to the Father that took precedence over his context.

He was also empathetically connected. “Able to help”: The people’s issues must become your issues. It is one thing to describe what the city is like, but we need to know a deeper reality of what it means to be a member of the community we are seeking to minister to. The public school problems aren’t problems with the city, generically. The public school problem becomes our problem.

Darrell Guder’s definition of missional living: “By incarnational mission, I mean the understanding and practice of Christian ministry that is modeled by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” His incarnational ministry includes his Cross and the proclamation of the Cross. With the goal and centrality of the Cross being essential to incarnational ministry.

Titus 1:5 – Paul left Titus in Crete in order to raise up elders for the churches. Exegetically, Paul begins with practice and ends with the theological to define the practice. Chapter three shows that the Gospel has social implications (that were mentioned prior to). 3:1 Paul tells Titus to have the people be obedient to the ruling authorities. Then, in verse 3 and following he grounds the command in the Gospel. Incarnational ministry is the outworking of the Gospel.

Principles for Dwelling Incarnationally

Comprehensive Incarnation vs. Reductive Incarnation (social gospel)

Just living in a community is not dwelling incarnationally.


  1. Dwelling as Servants (Diakonia)
    1. Matt. 20:26
    2. See Harvey Conn, The Secular City. The whole of the idea of service is found throughout the Bible. In order to be a healer of a city, you need to know the wounds and fractures of the city. You know this by understanding God’s view of shalom. If we do not understand God’s perspective we will be trying to stop nose bleeds rather than getting the anti-biotic that is causing the symptoms.
    3. Matt 23:37 – Jesus wept for the city because he understood its true need
    4. Col 3 – keep your mind on things above means having a God-centered imagination.
    5. This may be a housing issue. It is not just housing, but we want to look at what a Gospel-centered family, man, etc look like.
  2. Dwelling as Preachers (Kerygma)
    1. Col 1:28
    2. Acts 14:21ff – preaching the Gospel is not just bringing a message but bringing a life-change for the people
    3. Mark 1:14-15 – Jesus is teaching them about comprehensive repentance (metanoia); he essentially tells people to change their minds about what it means to truly live (it’s not just about getting a job, house, wife, etc)
    4. 2Cor 4:5
  3. Dwelling as Community (Koinonia)
    1. 1Jn 1:3
    2. 2Pet 1:3-4 – God invites us into the eternal fellowship within the Godhead.
  4. Dwelling as Worshippers (leitourgia/Proskynetes)
    1. Jn 4:20-24 – worship is not about location, it is about vocation.
    2. Abraham goes into a land and the first thing he does is build an altar. Worship of God is the ID card of the Christian. Our worshipful living is an apologetic for God.
    3. Worshipping God in spirit and in truth will help us not to embarrass God when we seek to minister to our cities.
  5. Dwelling as Teachers (Didaskolia)
    1. Heb 5:11-14
    2. If your people can’t grow others up in the faith then you are not living incarnationally – and definitely not centered on the Gospel. Every follower of Jesus must be able to build up disciples.

Incarnational ministry is both programmatic and organic. You train people and they go and train people (on their own time without you even having to know about it).

Practices of Incarnational Mission (Jer 29:5-7)

A Practice of Presence

A Practice of Place

A Practice of Prayer

A Practice of Peace