What then is incarnational ministry?
The working definition of incarnational ministry as popularly expressed is any form of relational ministry focused on showing nonbelievers what it means to be Christian in a manner where the tool of conveying characteristics of God and Christianity becomes alive through daily living instead of books, sermons, tracts and other forms of starting a conversation. Simply put, incarnational ministry relies on developing friendships that may become a tool for spreading the gospel, not with fancy words or debate, but through daily living. It is through sharing life together, such as being there when a neighbor is discouraged, that the traits of Christian living move from parts of conversation into reality.
One factor that makes incarnational ministry very difficult in America is our focus on individual and personal relationships with Jesus. We may attend a church service and Bible study together, but we are resistant to letting another person into our daily life as a Christian (i.e. we’d much rather tell God we are mad at a friend than actually tell the friend we are mad at them and explain why). Incarnational ministry does not thrive but struggles to take root (let alone bear fruit) in such an individualistic environment. With all of our preconditioned defenses guarding against someone finding out how very vulnerable and broken we actually are, we undermine any effort of walking through life with anyone in a manner that shows them they matter to both God and us. That doesn’t mean incarnational ministry is only a concept or ideological discussion rather what it means is that we need to ask the Holy Spirit to break down the barriers in our lives that keep us from opening up to the few people we trust or are interested in learning more about. I am not simply talking about opening up and sharing our complaints about work or a sports team or about how our neighbors bother us; rather, I am talking about being genuinely open in the sense of sharing concerns about daily life (i.e. feeling like a disappointment because of all the goals we never met).
Incarnational ministry is living out the answer to prayer that we, the church (universal), be the body, hands and feet of God. If we truly desire for the church to be the body of Christ, we are seeking for each encounter we have with someone (spouse, loved one, stranger, coworker, etc.) to be marked by characteristics of God that flow through us so the other person comes away thinking they just encountered God instead of thinking about the person that God just used.
— Chip Guyton