Last week I watched my kids claim their “sentness.”
After a foot of snow fell outside, my kids looked out our living room window. They saw our neighbor open the side door to his house to go shovel the snow around his van. He’s retired, and besides his dog, he lives alone. He uses his van to take his dog out for drives several times every day. Without hesitation, Joe looked at Mia and said, “Let’s go.” Within minutes they were dressed in coats, snow pants, gloves, scarves, hats and boots. They walked through our snow covered driveways, shovels in hand and began helping our neighbor dig out.
There was no nudging from me – the kids came up with this idea on their own. In their “sentness, ” they spontaneously saw a need, knew they could do something about it, and pitched in. After I took and shared some pictures, a well-respected colleague of mine simply stated, “faith in action.” The kids later reflected that it felt good to help. My kids didn’t want him to struggle with all that snow by himself. With caring hearts they went out to see what they could do. That’s what “sentness” is – seeing a need and doing something about it because God has placed us here to do it. “Sentness” is taking notice of needs and acting on them for the sake of others. It is seeing your neighbor going out to a snow-filled driveway and grabbing your shovel. Our neighbor was appreciative. As I watched my kids shoveling, a few other neighbors joined in. “Sentness” can bring people together. It can be contagious too.
“Sentness” begins with a shift in attitude. Rather than asking “What can I get out of this?” we begin to ask, “What is God up to here?” and “How can I help?” Bring your shovel. There are all kinds of ways each of us are “sent” to those around us.
Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw describe this shift in perspective as “sentness.”
“Sent people understand that just as God sent his Son into the world, Jesus sends us to continue his work and share his life. Sent people realize that their reason for existence is not to consume, but to serve. When we understand our sentness, we see our families and our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our communities with fresh eyes. We submerge ourselves in our communities, embrace a spirituality of the everyday sort, foster safe places and stand in the gap for others.” (Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw, Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians. Downers Grove: IVP Press, 2014, 37.)
“Sentness” isn’t a program. It is an attitude. It is claiming that God is already at work, that faith makes a difference and you can too.
Yet claiming our “sentness” can be scary. Sometimes we see ourselves a stationary; not sent. We are afraid to fail. We are fearful of change. We see the our churches as too small to have a real impact in our neighborhood. We are not sure when it comes to shoveling if we are up to the heavy lifting. We don’t set our sights high enough. When it snows again (and it will snow again!), sometimes we need the nudge of another person to remind us to help again while we are warm inside, still sitting in our pajamas.
“Sentness is within your reach. You can do it. It starts with stopping the criticizing and simply embracing your sentness. Sentness is not, however, just about finding ourselves in a particular place and being content that God has sent us there. It also involves submerging ourselves among the places and people God has sent us to, fostering shalom spirituality for them and culitivating safe places for people of diverse backgrounds to explore the meaning of faith. Sentness also means sharing life with the teams and tribes God sends us with and standing in the gap to empower others and dreams for mission. As we are sent, rather than looking for the next best thing that suits our needs, we will start new things to serve others. These are the signs of a well-sent people.” (Sentness, 43.)
Here at St. Paul, we are going to use this resource for our midweek Lenten gatherings starting on Ash Wednesday, 2/18. If you are in the neighborhood, we’d enjoy your input. Wherever you are, I recommend picking this book up. It is a good accessible read with practical application points. Chapters 2-7 highlight six postures or trajectories of what it means to claim your “sentness.”
The Six Postures of “Sentness” are:
1. Sent People, understanding that God has a mission and that mission has a church.
2. Submerged Spirituality, following Jesus and moving among places and people.
3. Shalom Spirituality, seeking restoration of individuals, communities and all things.
4. Safe Places, for people from diverse backgrounds to find faith and community.
5. Sharing Life, forming teams around a vision and strength of relationships.
6. Standing in the Gap, empowering pioneering leaders and missional experiments (Sentness, 25.)
We have no reason to be afraid. We have every reason to connect with those around us. God has sent us wherever we are, to dream big, and join the mission. Grab your shovel. Who knows what you’ll dig up? The stories will be worth it when you return.
Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father Sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)