– 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 1 features Jeff Vanderstelt, Gina Mueller, Dave Ferguson, Ben Connelly and Logan Gentry.
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 2
Over and over as I ask those that I disciple and coach what their biggest barrier is when it comes to living a life on mission, I get the same answer:
“I just don’t have time to live missionally”
This is just simply not true. You do have time. In fact… it doesn’t take any specific amount of time to life in a missional way. The biggest lie about living life on mission is that you have to find more free time to do it. Living life on mission is about a change of perspective on what you are already doing rather than a change of what you are actually doing.
Living your life in a way that you are constantly aware of what God is doing around you and asking for courage from God to join in God’s action in the world.
Living missional means you are always asking the question “God, what are you doing?” in:
• My workplace
• My family
• My school
• My neighborhood
• My local Target
• My favorite coffee shop
• All your everyday spaces!
As you learn to see what God is doing and hear God’s voice, you will see things you hadn’t before. Some of those things will bring you closer to the heart of God. Participating with God may lead you to make changes in your schedule and priorities.
BUT the biggest lie of missional living is that it takes more time then you have to offer.
If you have a life and you’re living it… that’s all the time you need.
Steph O’Brien s one of the pastors at Mill City Church in Northeast Minneapolis. She is passionate about equipping God’s people to live on mission, loving their communities in the name of Jesus. Steph co-hosts the Lead Stories Podcast with Jo Saxton and blogs online at pastorsteph.com.
Start with learning how to listen to other people. Become a curious person that goes beyond the weather, news, and pleasantries and ask engaging questions. I’m becoming increasingly convinced the greatest missional skills we can learn are listening and eating. Begin by hearing the people around you, and ask them over for dinner where you ask them even more questions. If you don’t know what to ask, we’ve compiled a great list here: https://saturatetheworld.com/resource/10-questions-to-help-you-listen-to-others/
I’m becoming increasingly convinced the greatest missional skills we can learn are listening and eating.
Brad Watson serves as an equipping leader at Soma Culver City in Los Angeles where he develops and teaches leaders to form communities that love God and serve the city. Brad is the Director of Resources for saturatetheworld.com, contributes to the blog and hosts the weekly podcast. He is the author of Sent Together and Multiply Together, and co-authored Called Together and Raised with Jonathan Dodson.
Identifying Names and Overlap
As you start a new missional community, rather than simply arbitrarily choosing a mission, I would recommend spending a lot of time focusing on names of people that your core team already knows. I often use an exercise illustrated by the chart below with an entire community. Have everyone:
1. Create a chart with two columns and ten rows
2. In the first column, write out the twelve people you spend the most time with
3. In the second column, write whether they are following Jesus or not
￼Those who are following Jesus are your community, and those who aren’t following Jesus are your mission. If a newly forming community has each participant do this exercise, look for overlaps in those lists. Your mission as a community will be whatever the common thread is that holds those relationships together.
If there isn’t, think of places and ways that you can begin to integrate your lists together over time. How can you naturally involve those believers in your group with folks who aren’t yet following Jesus on a regular basis?
Teams of Missionaries vs. Missionary Teams
Lastly, most missional communities will begin more along the lines of a Team of Missionaries, and transition to a Missionary Team over time. Generally speaking, because we live in such an individualistic culture, true pockets of people can be hard to come by.
Start with people who live, work, or play in generally the same place and have a passion to make disciples, cultivate a loving community, and start looking for ways to overlap relationships that you already have. Also, you can start with folks around you who have an interest in Jesus, but aren’t yet followers!
Lastly, I’ll say this – missional community is about practices helping serve the mission to make disciples, not perfection in the model. Many people have been loved and served well by lots of other forms of church, and while I think missional community is a particularly effective strategy, it’s not absolute. Pursue a heart that is captivated by God and His word, and is seeking to obey what He commands, and over time, community and mission will tend to come around.
Mission is primarily about people, not projects! We do mission through the demonstration and declaration of the gospel to people with real names, real lives, and real stories.
Todd Engstrom is the Executive Pastor of Ministries at The Austin Stone Community Churchin Austin, Texas. Additionally, he directs the efforts of The Austin Stone in church planting – training, resourcing and deploying church leaders to glorify God wherever they are. Finally, he regularly speaks, writes and consults with churches on the topics of missional communities and organizational leadership. At home, he is husband to Olivia, father to five kids, and a missionary in his neighbourhood.
If you’re struggling to engage missionally, begin by asking yourself, “Who is my neighbor? Who has God placed in my life that needs the hope of the gospel?” This could be a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member, or someone at your grocer or gym. In Acts 17 we are reminded it is God who fixes the boundaries and times of men. The places we frequent (home, work, gym, favorite spots) are not accidental; they are the result of a providential God. He is seeking the good of those around us who are groping for God, and he is seeking our worship through faithful witness and service to them.
Most of my secular friends are neighbors and people who frequent the same coffeeshop. These relationships require time. If you are looking for an overnight convert, or a new attendee to your group, neighbors and regulars probably aren’t going to jump right in. In fact, they can often feel the conversion agenda and are put off by it. Instead of making them a target, make them friends. Invite them for dinner, out for a drink, to a movie, on a hike. Don’t use them for the gospel; use the gospel to love and serve them.
As you get to know others, look for areas they need hope, acceptance, approval, encouragement, love, joy, peace. Relate to their struggles and then honesty share how Jesus has given you hope, been your greatest source of acceptance, the fountain of peace in your life. And, eventually, invite them to know him, to meet others who know him, even to join a group or Sunday gathering.
Take the long view in mission; Jesus took the long view of humanity and is still redeeming people from everywhere.
- 8 Easy Ways to Be Missional – Verge article.
- Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities book by Brad Watson & Jonathan Dodson.
- A Field Guide for Everyday Mission – book by Ben Connelly and Bob Roberts.
If you’re struggling to engage missionally, begin by asking yourself, “Who is my neighbor? Who has God placed in my life that needs the hope of the gospel?”
Jonathan Dodson serves as a pastor of City Life Church in Austin, Texas. He has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Unbelievable Gospel, and Raised. Additionally, he is the founder of gcdiscipleship.com where all of his articles can be found online.
Ask yourself the question, “What is something I love that other people in my community love?”
For example, I really enjoy: hunting, fishing, reading, running, camping, and archery. At any time you can get me in a passionate conversation about these topics. When looking to missionally engage with your community don’t overthink it. Join up with a Christian friend who loves what you love and intentionally pray for and spend time with other people who love what you love.
I like to fish. There are people I know who do not know Jesus who like to fish. What if my Bible study friend Brandon and I invite that other guy from my neighborhood to go fishing together? We naturally have tons we can talk about and then talking about Jesus, sharing your testimony, inviting him to church, etc… can flow easily. If this guy starts coming to Jesus then he’ll probably invite his greater circle of friends to come and see Jesus too. You’re now reaching your community.
Be feasting on Scripture all the while and don’t forget you aren’t better than those you are trying to reach. You are the same, your needs are the same, the answer for your needs is the same.
Join up with a Christian friend who loves what you love and intentionally pray for and spend time with other people who love what you love.
Tim Kimberley serves as a Pastor and Community Director at Frontline Church Edmond Congregation in Oklahoma. Tim is passionate about making the truth of God accessible to all people through Plough Boy Resources. While serving as the Executive Director at Credo House Ministries, Tim was a co-host of the long running podcast Theology Unplugged and also has an interest in church history.