Just as God’s reign was ushered into the world by God becoming one of us (John 1:14-18), so we also practice ministry by immersing ourselves in the contexts to which God has called us. Such incarnational ministry is articulated in Paul’s statement, “I have become all things to all, in order that by all means I might save some" (1 Cor. 9:22b).
For The Brethren Church, “incarnational,” as an adjective, speaks to both our ministry ethic and our ministry practice.
Ethically, we seek to “become like Christ” (Rom. 8:29) to those around us and toward each other. As our congregations relate to one another, we seek to live up to the example of humility and service set by Jesus for us. We strive to be “one in spirit and of one mind,” avoiding “selfish ambition or vain conceit” even as we “value others above [ourselves], not looking to [our] own interests but…to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:2-4). We recognize that it is our love for one another, which is energized and enabled by God’s love for us, which bears witness to God in the world (John 13:35). This same others-oriented love is played out not just in our interactions as congregations who make up The Brethren Church, but also in our engagement with others. We recognize that acting with selfless concern for others is part of Jesus’ highest demand on our lives (Rom. 13:8-10).
Practically, we affirm that we minister best when we embody the realities of the places we are in. Just as God sought to restore His relationship with humanity by becoming human, so also, as we seek to take part in God’s continuing restoration work, we must become like those whom we are trying to bless (John 1:14). Just as Jesus knew himself, and so was able to engage with those to whom he was sent (John 13:3), we likewise follow his pattern and encourage all our congregations to have a strong sense of identity, mission, and vision. Certain practices and postures follow from this Core Value:
- We take a posture of humility, avoiding patriarchal and demeaning assumptions about the places we seek to serve.
- We believe often the best places our congregations can minister are often whatever places they already find themselves.
- We emphasize short cultural distances between those involved in vocational ministry (church planters, pastors, missionaries, etc.) and the people to whom they minister.
- We enable highly contextualized congregational expressions for ministry effectiveness, even as we seek to be “of one mind” as Brethren (1 Cor. 1:10).