Tribal Mindset vs. Missional Mindset

These two mindsets involve fundamentally different values. The highest value of a community with a tribal mindset is self-preservation. A tribal community exists solely for itself, and those within it keep asking, “How can we protect ourselves from those who are different from us?” A tribal mindset is marked by an unbalanced patriotism. It typically elevates personal and cultural preferences to absolute principles: If everybody were more like us, this world would be a better place.

But in a missional-minded community, the highest value isn’t self-preservation but self-sacrifice. A missional community exists not primarily for itself but for others. It’s a community willing to be inconvenienced and discomforted, willing to expend itself for others on God’s behalf.

A tribal mindset is antithetical to the gospel. The gospel demands that we be missional, because the gospel is the story of God sacrificing himself for his enemies. Both these approaches are robustly present in Jonah’s story. Jonah represents the best of a tribal mindset, the absolute best. He’s like the trophy-boy for tribalism. And God—ever-gracious, ever-pursuing, ever-compassionate—carries the trophy for mission-mindedness.

Jonah runs from his enemies; God runs toward his enemies. Jonah serves himself; God serves the world.

– Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised By Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels; 134,135

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