A Miley Cyrus Missionary

Miley Cyrus can help us think through what it means to be “on mission”.

Last year was Miley’s year. She captured the world by storm with her performance with Robin Thicke at the MTV VMAs. FM radio, the Twitterverse, and every news website had something to say about her and her performance.

A couple of weeks later she released her single, Wrecking Ball, which finds her swinging naked on top of a wrecking ball (as you do). The YouTube video broke all sorts of records and again caused another celebrity stir amongst those who care for such things.

But believe it or not the performance and single had me thinking about mission and the church.

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Miley Cyrus is the latest in a long line of so called celebrities who’ve moved from teenage prettiness to young adult ugliness. Miley, of course, was the lovely, sweet, little girl who played Hannah Montana a number of years ago. This earned her celebrity status among the world’s teenage girls, which has now progressed into superstardom, making herself famous for twerking, nakedness, and shock.

The image of Miley Cyrus has changed dramatically.

So, how is this related to mission and the church?

The thinking and actions Miley has taken in the last 12-18 months can be the same thinking that seeps into the church and its missions endeavours.

For some reason we fall into the celebrity trap where we believe that to stay relevant, to be on the cutting edge, to be noticed, and to have influence over others means our methods of mission need to become outrageous, attention grabbing, and over the top.

In my experience, and in my conversations with those involved in missions in any form – local and global, as well as reflecting on Scripture, I’ve come out a firm believer in simple relationship building as being the means to making disciples.

This type of mission is invested in the long-term where relationships can take years to build and disciples of Jesus are a brick by brick labour.

I’m not for one moment saying that we shouldn’t have cutting edge and relevant methods but I’m wanting to suggest it requires more time, energy, and intentionality than just putting on a show.

There are plenty of ways this can be done, plenty of methods I suppose, but the impression I have when reading about Jesus and his ministry is that it’s pretty simple. Make disciples by modelling our lives on Jesus and speaking about him to the people we come across.

One could argue that Jesus used all sorts of outrageous ways to have people follow him, such as healings and miracles, but I think that would be a mis-reading of scripture. Jesus’ disciples were with him for three years, each day they saw how he operated and soaked in what he taught. What I see when I see Jesus is simplicity. Simply building into the disciples and teaching them everything he needed to.

Jesus was both relevant and counter-cultural. He showed us how to be a disciple without giving into culture too much nor losing that relevant edge.

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