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This Sunday, I am completing an eight-week series through the book of Jonah. Tullian Tchividjian’s new book, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (Crossway, 2010) has been very helpful to me as I have sought to present the gospel through this Old Testament prophet’s story.

Here is one of the best sections of the book:

We can’t escape a stark contrast in this story—the tribal mindset of Jonah versus the missional mindset of God.

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 that’s 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 for the tribal person. And God—ever-gracious, ever-pursuing, ever-compassionate—serves as the trophy for the mission-minded.

Jonah runs from his enemies; God runs toward his enemies.

Jonah serves himself; God serves the world.

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5 thoughts on “Are You Tribal or Missional?”

  1. Sylvia says:

    Wow! What an awesome excerpt…. What an awesome God! Looking forward to reading that book. Thanks for the post.

  2. Dave says:

    For those who are interested in excellent additional insight into Jonah, Johannes Verkuyl’s article on Jonah (found in a Google Books version of World Mission) is worth reading. I’ve created a tiny url for it at:

  3. Shu says:

    sounds a bit like the sociological term “ethnocentrism”… interesting…

  4. you could have a fantastic blog here! would you wish to make some invite posts on my weblog?

  5. Great info it is definitely. We’ve been waiting for this tips. I also like the design was this a free theme or a pay one?

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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