How To Missionally Engage Your Community – Part 1

– Advice & Resources from Missional Experts

I’ve noticed a few common things happen since I’ve been blogging and speaking about missional living over the past 4 or so years. I’ve seen people’s eyes widen. God has captured people’s hearts with the idea that he is inviting them to join in his mission in the world. They want to be Kingdom people; to show others who Jesus is. They want to declare the gospel, bring hope, reconciliation, beauty and healing. God has been been capturing people to be bearers of shalom.

But I’m always asked how to do this practically. Instead of me just giving one answer, I’ve asked people who have been out there in the field doing the stuff for years for help. My hope is that all of their shared experience will help you know how to missionally engage your community. Well, here goes…

There are some within my church who are looking to missionally engage with their community but are struggling to know how to effectively do this. Do you have any words of wisdom to offer them? And what are some of the resources and tools you would direct them to?


Part 2 features Steph O’Brien, Brad Watson, Todd Engstrom, Jonathan Dodson and Tim Kimberley.

Part 3 features Alan Hirsch, Jon Shirley, Carlos Rodriguez, Gwen Adams and Carolyn Custis James.

Part 4 features Dhati Lewis, Graham Hill, Steve Timmis, Steve Addison and Karen Wilk.

– Part 1

Jeff Vanderstelt

How To Missionally Engage Your Community - Jeff VandersteltI encourage people to start with prayer. Jesus commanded his disciples to wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit to empower and direct. I especially encourage them to invite the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to see the harvest around them where they live, work, learn or play. Ideally, they should do this in community and share with others who God is showing them. Ask the Spirit to give names and faces of those he is already preparing. Begin to pray with others for them and ask the Spirit to grant opportunities to show and share Jesus. As the Spirit directs, engage in everyday rhythms like eating, celebrating and recreating with them. Share meals, go to their parties or invite them to yours. Engage in activities together. As you do, listen well. Listen to their stories. Pay attention to how you might bless them. Then, begin to intentionally bless them with words and actions. As you build trust, you will be given opportunities to share the reason why you are doing what you do. When that opportunity arises, share how Jesus has done the same for you so that you can show what he is like to others.

Recommended Resources:

saturatetheworld.com. Saturate provides training and coaching for missional living for churches, leaders and everyday people. Hugh Halter’s book The Tangible Kingdom and the accompanying primers are very helpful. My books Saturate and Gospel Fluency were written with this purpose in mind. Each have accompanying videos and workbooks for groups to go through as well. Ben Connelly has also written a very helpful guide with Bob Roberts, Jr. to add in your journey, A Field Guide for Everyday Mission. And lastly, much of Alan Hirsch’s works are very helpful in answering this question.

‘I especially encourage them to invite the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to see the harvest around them where they live, work, learn or play.’ 

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate and the Soma family of churches, as well as the teaching elder at Doxa Church. He travels frequently speaking and teaching on missional leadership. Jeff has written Saturate, and Gospel Fluency, the Making Space course, and co-wrote the Saturate Field Guide and Gospel Fluency Handbook.


Gina Mueller

How To Missionally Engage Your Community - Gina MuellerExperiment! I love the word “experiment” because it gives us freedom to try things. As you discover who you sense God is calling you to reach with the Good News in this season, start experimenting with what it looks like to gather, to be among and with, to build intentional relationships. The kind of mission we see through the life of Jesus is always WHO, not what. Sometimes we get stuck thinking too hard about what we are going to DO. But if we clarify who we are sent to, we can start taking steps towards discovering what it might look like to reach them. Try things. Allow the Holy Spirit to unleash missional creativity. Remember to be Good News people as you go. Settle into growing new skills and stepping out in things you don’t feel good at yet as you follow God’s prompting. After all, scripture tells us it’s in the very things we feel weak in that God’s power is perfect.

Recommended Resources:

3dmovements.com. 3dm specializes in creating a culture of discipleship that produces missional leaders and training leaders to live a missional life. Weekly Coaching, free webinars and other training opportunities available – see the website for more information.
Recommended Reading: A Jesus Shaped Life.

‘The kind of mission we see through the life of Jesus is always WHO, not what.’ 

Gina Mueller is a national leader with 3dmovements where she trains churches, leaders and teams in discipleship and mission. She is currently leading the Hub that is pioneering the movement in the upper midwest and the northeast. Her greatest passion is equipping everyday people to bring the power and presence of God to their neighborhoods, workplaces, and everyday spaces. A pioneer a heart, she has transformed ministries, planted churches, launched missional communities, and coached leaders around the country in what it looks like for them to live and lead like Jesus. Gina lives with her husband and two kids in Minnesota.


Dave Ferguson

You were born with a God-given mission for your life. Through each person that God brings into this world He also gives birth to a mission. It is knowing and living out your God-given mission that brings purpose, meaning and a fulfilling way to make a difference with your days. Exciting stuff, huh?

How To Missionally Engage Your Community - Dave FergusonAs followers of Jesus, we should model our lives after his: do what he did, and practice what he practiced. The first element of the Jesus Mission is Reach, and it’s about reaching people far from God. The second world-changing element of the Jesus Mission is Restore, and it’s all about restoring God’s dream for this world. God’s dream and desire from the very beginning is for us to live in perfect relationship with Him and with each other. The eternity-altering and world changing elements of the Jesus Mission include Reaching, Restoring, and lastly Reproducing this mission in the lives of others.

Whatever you discover as your mission, make sure that you apprentice at least one other person. If it’s reaching out to kids or students – reproduce the mission in someone else! If it’s volunteering for a local food bank – bring someone alongside you! If you have your own start-up idea – do it, but don’t do it alone! For the mission to be accomplished we can’t keep it to ourselves, we have to reproduce it in others.

Resources:

Discover Your Mission Now (Ebook)

 

It is knowing and living out your God-given mission that brings purpose, meaning and a fulfilling way to make a difference with your days. Exciting stuff, huh? 

Dave Ferguson is an award-winning author, founding and lead pastor of Chicago’s Community Christian Church, a missional multi-site community considered one of the most influential churches in America. Dave is also the visionary for the international church-planting movement NewThing and president of the Exponential Conference.


Ben Connelly

This is such a common question! For the first three years of our church’s life after we planted, we laid a missional theology, but people began asking this very question: “but how?!” At the risk of sounding self-serving, I was honored to co-write a resource trying to address that very question, called A Field Guide for Everyday Mission. Several of the concepts in that book are designed to help answer the question you’re asking. But I’d start with this: if we start to see non-Christian people around us as “people”, rather than “projects”, we’re well on our way to missional engagement.

How To Missionally Engage Your Community - Ben ConnellyWe do this exercise in our new member’s class, where we ask them what Christians enjoy doing together. “Spending time together,” “eating meals,” “movies [or] sport [or] concerts,” “meeting at the pub,” or “playing games” are among the most common answers. Then we ask what they think non-Christians enjoy doing together. People sometimes start to smile as they realize the answers are the same. While Christian people do talk openly about Jesus at times, that doesn’t consume 100% of the time we spend together. But somehow we’ve forgotten that we too, were at one point, not a Christian but very much a human. We can forget that God created every person in his image. We can forget that God values every human life. And we can forget God’s patience, and the years he pursued us, while we, too said “no” to him.

That forgetfulness can lead us to (wrongly) interact with Christians as fellow humans, but to treat people who don’t know Jesus as projects: we only spend time with them with a goal in mind; we try to force Jesus into every conversation; we walk away frustrated if all we did was hang out (as if “building a stronger relationship” is a bad thing?!). But once people – Christians or non-Christians, adults or children, anyone! – realize we actually care about them, that relationship may be the exact venue God ordained, to be able to one day, in ordinary conversation, share the good news of Jesus with them.

Now, if we truly care for these people, we of course want to share the good news of Jesus with them… but this is, by title, a one-question interview. So that topic will have to wait for another day 🙂 Bottom line, God opens the doors for relationships with people who don’t follow Christ, all the time: the first step toward engaging missionally is to walk through those doors, pursue a relationship, and care for the people God puts in our path even in their unbelief . . . just like God did with us, while we were we in ours.

Resources:

‘If we start to see non-Christian people around us as “people”, rather than “projects”, we’re well on our way to missional engagement.’ 

Ben Connelly, his wife Jess, and their 3 children live in Fort Worth, TX where he started and now co-leads The City Church. Ben also directs church planting for Soma churches across North America, training people across the country, and blogs occasionally at benconnelly.net. He wrote A Pastor’s Guide for Everyday Mission, and Co-wrote A Field Guide for Everyday MissionSaturate Field Guide, and Glospel Fluency Handbook.


Logan Gentry

I would offer 3 words of advice.

How To Missionally Engage Your Community - Logan Gentry1) Anyone can learn to share their faith.
I like to say that I used to be awful at evangelism, largely because I never did it. There came a point when I was fed up by that and decided I would learn by failure. So I prayed for opportunities and stepped out in faith at my engineering workplace at the time. It led to some awkward conversations, but also some amazing opportunities. The best way to learn how to share your faith and missionally engage your neighbors is to do it, fail, and learn from it.

2) Start with what’s comfortable.
I preached a sermon on a few seemingly inconsequential verses in Acts that highlight how Paul would reason in the synagogues where he traveled. This has theological reasons for sure, but it is also where Paul was most comfortable having been educated and trained as a Rabbi. His experience allowed him to bring the language of the gospel into the regular language of the people. The same is true for us. If we love sports, talk sports with fans of your favorite team and look for ways to bring up the truth of the gospel. I have 3 kids, so that became an easy entry point to relationships with parents who all want to raise their kids well and the gospel speaks to that desire. Eventually, you will be able to learn to cross into other industries and hobbies to connect with people and help them see the gospel, but start where it is easy for you.

3) Begin with an invitation.
We often over-complicate engaging with our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. We can simply invite them to church, into our home, out to dinner or to any event we are going to. Labeling it missional can lead us to think it is outside of our normal activities and lifestyle. It is quite the opposite. Our everyday lives are ripe with normal events that everybody does that can be used to create relationships that lead to the gospel.

‘I have 3 kids, so that became an easy entry point to relationships with parents who all want to raise their kids well and the gospel speaks to that desire.’ 

Logan Gentry serves as an Associate Pastor at Lower Manhattan Church in New York City. His experience has focused on missional communities, leadership development and church planting initiatives. Logan regularly assists churches in creating, cultivating, and implementing ministries to meet the needs of their congregation and engage their context with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has contributed articles for Verge NetworkGC Disciplship and The Gospel Coalition as well as his personal blog.


Part 2 features Steph O’Brien, Brad Watson, Todd Engstrom, Jonathan Dodson and Tim Kimberley.

Part 3 features Alan Hirsch, Jon Shirley, Carlos Rodriguez, Gwen Adams and Carolyn Custis James.

Part 4 features Dhati Lewis, Graham Hill, Steve Timmis, Steve Addison and Karen Wilk.

4 thoughts on “How To Missionally Engage Your Community – Part 1

  1. This is a great piece. I’m currently leading training for our region of churches in Starting a MC Where You Are and your contributors are hitting the nail on the head. Through prayer and natural interactions the Holy Spirit leads us to engage those in our natural setting, not as projects but as fellow human beings. We are challenged to love them as Christ first and foremost in the everyday stuff of life. That way people are not so much projects but rather friends who you grow more and more intimately connected with and find conversations about God and faith woven through it all. Love it.
    We have a word we use all the time at The Bridge here in Niagara Falls — UNFOLD. We step out in faith to love our community and engage where we believe the Spirit is leading and we watch it unfold as God is at work. It is very humbling yet exciting all at the same time.

    • That’s really encouraging to hear what’s happening in your area. You are so right about the importance of valuing people for who they are rather than seeing them as gospel projects. And ‘unfold’ is a great word.

  2. Well I did like your graphical presentation and use of fonts etc . ” Missionally Engaging ” . Whats that ? . Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks …. and also writes . Simple kingdom principles are that we need to have fire to set others on fire … saved or unsaved . A touch of the Holy Spirit will not do the job , we are meant to challenge people with the Word and the Spirit to the works of Jesus . Programs live and die . We are left with the challenge to take up the gauntlet of being Jesus representatives here and now . Evangelism is about getting out of the boat and making your flesh crawl sometimes . What I mean is inside the church walls we have a degree of control and do ” our thing ” but the early believers ministered 95 % of their time OUTSIDE . And there, outside in the weird world that Jesus died for you can meet anyone – the good the bad , the ugly , the hurting , the sick , the drug addicts . And we haven`t got the answers for them . There we have to ask on the spot ” help me Lord to do something here ” . And you will fail . But you get up on your bike again and again . People of other religions will not think about coming to a church meeting to here a christian give a testimony . Gods advice to his people is just go . Walk out the door and relax believing that he will lead you to anyone . Its fun . I pray in tongues about it and lean on the Holy Spirit . Without him I can do nothing .. but with him i can do everything . Gods not looking for champions and we fail when we think we know just about everything . But be a volunteer , especially if you are a leader .Go . When you come back with a testimony of what God did when you were out it will inspire others . Leaders will lead others and be able to ” train ” others on bible ways . The Great Commission is a command coupled with to love others . Its that simple . So have fun .

    • Hey Alan. Thanks for your thoughts. I think those who have contributed here would agree with your points. The main thrust of their message isn’t program based but the opposite. I would summarise it as, trust the Spirit is at work in people around us, treat them as people and not projects, and look for ways to join with what God is doing.

      The heart behind this post certainly isn’t to tell people exactly what to do. Cut and paste techniques won’t work. Instead I was asking for practical ideas that people could apply and adjust to their context. Hope this helps clarify.

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