In my last post, I concluded many churches have a lot of regular church attendees who don’t engage with “sinners” like Jesus did. In this post, I will try to explain the approach the Family Church network is embracing to fix this problem.
The Prescription: Engaging with the people around whom we live, work and play is the prescription. Most people come home, open their garage, drive in, and close the door. What would happen if we tried to engage these people in conversation and in life? What if we invited them over for dinner before we ever invited them to a church service? We are missionaries. If we understand that our families are living on mission, then where we live matters. Maybe, just maybe, God purposefully placed us where He has so we can build relationships with our neighbors not just eat, sleep, and watch TV in close proximity to them.
God is a personal God. I love how He uses personal pronouns to describe His relationship with the Church. The Church is His Bride and He is our Groom. We are His children and He is our Father. Throughout the Bible, we see that relationships matter to God. Like Jesus, we need to befriend the people with whom we come in contact every day. If we are genuinely interested in impacting the lostness that exists all around us, then we must approach the lost world as Jesus did.
The Plan: Missional Community is the plan. It is Christ followers living on mission, inviting friends and neighbors to join us as we pursue God’s design for life and family. It’s what it looks like when people are connected by a common mission to love God and their neighbors.
Deciding to live as missionaries seems so simple, yet we’ve missed it somehow. In some instances, we have programmed the relationship factor out of our evangelism. Sometimes I get weary of cliché phrases like the one most commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” Point taken, but of course we have to use words. The Gospel must be caught and taught. Living this way demands Gospel explanation because there is a purpose to the mission and it’s not just having community for community’s sake. Missional communities don’t just want to know God’s Word; they want to get together and do it. The mission must remain central. A missional community is pursuing God’s design and inviting people who are far from God to join us in that pursuit.
Missional communities start with relationships. First, we develop relationships with fellow mission-oriented believers. A missional community can begin with a leader, co-leader and four others who purpose together to develop relationships both within the group and outside it. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, we read how often Jesus spent time eating with people. He didn’t alienate those who were far from God; He invited them to hang out with Him. He loved the lost. He still does and should we too. Christ followers gravitate toward “holy huddles” and before we know it, we prefer it that way. When this happens, our groups are closed to new people and by nature, are closed to people who don’t think, speak, or live like us. Missional communities can’t be just another book club for the redeemed.
Missional community members will hold each other accountable to live on mission. They provide a way for every believer to be in the game–a training ground for young believers to learn to live relationally and be disciple-makers. They are a place where the long-time believer, the recent believer, and the yet-to-believe can sit around one table.
Each group will have flexibility to own the disciple-making process and employ its own creative strategies. We have a recommended approach, but it’s not hard and fast:
- We see missional communities gathering one week for discipleship, including a shared meal, prayer, and Bible study. They will also plan an event as a group that unbelieving friends outside the group might attend.
- The next week will be an inviting week for the agreed upon event.
- The third week is the event. Hospitality, friendship, fun, food, relationship, conversation, laughter, common interest, etc. are the ethos of these gatherings.
- The final week each person in the missional community follows up with someone with whom they connected at the event.
The goal isn’t to “get them to church this Sunday.” The goal isn’t to share 50 Bible verses. The goal isn’t to make this person your “project.” The goal is to listen and to become a true friend. “Jesus came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matthew 11:19).
We believe that missional communities are effective when those far away from God embrace the Gospel, repent, and become followers of Jesus. How could we not join Heaven in celebrating when this happens? We also want to see new leaders develop out of these groups so that new missional communities are birthed.
It’s our nature to protect our group, but that mindset sacrifices our mission on the altar of comfort. God never asks us to pursue comfort; He asks us for count-the-cost obedience. What if the disciples had decided not to come out of the upper room after the Holy Spirit fell on them? I’m pretty sure Peter or Thomas didn’t stand up and say, “Hey guys, this is awesome. If we go out there and tell others, whatever is happening might go away, so let’s stay up here and protect it. We know each other and I don’t want anything to change.”
The whole mission is to reach others and it will be uncomfortable. It will take an extreme amount of effort and time. We are the church gathered, but we must also be the church scattered. In my next post, we will look at the pace and the payoff of living in missional community.