Is ministry incarnational?
The Incarnation is a singular, unique event that can never be repeated and yet ubiquitously explains every relation between God and humans:
- Unique in that only the Word became human;
- Ubiquitous in that God always relates to creation as the infinite does to the finite.*
With that said, do Christians engage in incarnational ministry? not exactly.
We are ambassadors for the infinite God who dwells in inaccessible light; and we by adoption enter into Spiritual union with the Incarnate One. For this reason, we Spiritually mediate the Incarnate One’s presence by our mission and ontology.
At the same time, we are not in-carnating, in-fleshing in our ministry. Put simply, being in-person together does not equal incarnational ministry.
Does it matter?
Is this mere word ninjutsu? That’s up to you. Here is why I think it is not.
Knowing Christ as he is is the primary way we contemplatively move from one level of glory to another (John 17; 2 Cor 3–4—gazing at this face). For this reason, getting our concepts right matters, even if we often use improper idioms.
Justifying in-person ministry as incarnational may give it an air of authority or mission or divinity that Scripture does not itself lend to it. So, we may use a term “incarnational” to make our ministry sound pious, even though it is not proper to call it such.
Obviously, in-person ministry is essential, good, and right. That’s not my point. We should meet in-person.
What should we say then?
Ha! There is the question!
In my view, we could say something like “Spiritual ministry” since our Spiritual union ties us both to the Incarnate One and to each other.
We could say: “Mystical ministry” since our mystical union does the same. This one is a joke because almost no one uses mystical this way today. Let me have at least one silly moment, please!
If mystical ministry does not work, I find myself left with Spiritual ministry because it means that I am united to Jesus and to my fellow believers. It may not have the same “kick” that incarnational has, but it seems more accurate to say.
And I think words and what they represent matter. So whatever we call what we do in-person, let us do so with the best language we can so that we can uncover the truest concepts that will let us grow in grace and glory.
*The Word relates to humanity in such a way as to totally remain infinite while truly united to humanity without mixture of confusion. The particular relation of the finite to the infinite might be called real while the infinite to the finite might be called rational.