– 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 2 features Steph O’Brien, Brad Watson, Todd Engstrom, Jonathan Dodson and Tim Kimberley.
Part 4 features Dhati Lewis, Graham Hill, Steve Timmis, Steve Addison and Karen Wilk.
– Part 3
For individuals in a church who want to engage missionally I would strongly suggest that they find others who are likewise wanting to learn. They should go on a learning journey together. Read various books (like Hugh Halter’s The Tangible Kingdom which also has an associated primer/study or my free ebooks Fast Forward to Mission and Disciplism), get involved with agencies that train people in missional lifestyle (Forge International is one I am associated with and they have online training via Forge America).
For leaders wanting to take their churches in a missional direction, I would recommend many of my books like The Forgotten Ways, 5Q, On The Verge, as well as writers like Brad Brisco, Mike Frost, Kim hammond, etc.) And likewise I would recommend finding some peers who want to do the same and hold each other accountable. Most of all, both individuals and leaders need to actually do something…to experience mission directly. For vision and courage to give it a go, read mine and Michael Frost’s book The Faith of Leap.
For individuals in a church who want to engage missionally I would strongly suggest that they find others who are likewise wanting to learn. They should go on a learning journey together.
Alan Hirsch is founder of 5Q Collective and resident coach and consultant. He is widely considered to be something of an original thought-leader for church in the West. He is author of numerous award winning books on movements, organization, and leadership. Alan is also founder of Forge Mission Training Network,100 Movements, Future Travelers. He teaches extensively across North America, Europe, and Australia. His experience includes leading a local church movement among the marginalized, developing training systems for innovative missional leadership, and heading up the mission and revitalization work of his denomination.
In transformation, we move from becoming AWARE of something (“I heard a great sermon on living a more Jesus-shaped life on mission”) to PONDERING it (“I think I might want to live a more Jesus-shaped life on mission?”) to VALUING it (“I now believe living a Jesus-shaped life on mission is the right thing to do”) to PRIORITIZING it (“I am organizing my life around living a Jesus-shaped life on mission”) to OWNING it (“I have become someone who lives a Jesus-shaped life on mission”).
The transformational process takes years, and the biggest jump that takes the most time is the space between valuing and prioritizing.
We simply don’t move forward in transformation until the pain of not transforming becomes greater.
The thing we have to stare hard in the face is the fact that, many times, we are content to value something (believe something to be true and worthwhile) that we don’t actually do or become. We talk about it, preach it, post about it, but never become it or do it.
Here’s how this looks in my own life today. Currently, I value eating healthily, but I am not doing so. The pain of not eating well has not become so great for me to change my behavior. When it does, I will change. Until it does, I won’t.
In the case of the missional life, we are happy to read about it, talk about it, preach about it – but the real question is…in what ways are we prioritizing a life on mission? Are we building our life around the mission of God? Has the pain of not following Jesus become so great that we will actually move? This might be one reason why many church leaders have been left so perplexed after their plans to move their church toward missional forms failed – their church had not yet felt the pain of not living missionaly. This is why prayer before mission is so critical. Doing a simple audit on this may be one of the best things we can regularly do.
SO, Here’s my suggestion – if the pain point of not living a Jesus-shaped life on mission is great today and you are ready to move, before you go and jump head first into the big missional dream you have, ask these two questions:
1. Who is doing what I want to do, and how can I go learn from them?
2. What do I need to stop doing today, so I can start moving toward what God is calling me to tomorrow?
These might be the most practical things we can all do right now to keep moving toward a Jesus-shaped life on mission.
The transformational process takes years, and the biggest jump that takes the most time is the space between valuing and prioritizing. We simply don’t move forward in transformation until the pain of not transforming becomes greater.
Jon Shirley is a storyteller. He’s a worship leader with over 25 years of experience in church leadership. He’s a songwriter, speaker, and missional practitioner working with the Gathering Network – a network of missional communities in Kansas City. He is also the founder of Love and War – a network of Jesus-shaped worship leaders committed to the art of growing spiritual families that make disciples and live on mission with worship and prayer at the core. Jon also created The Desert Blooms, two short films documentry the Gathering Network’s transition to missional communities.
I would start with people who are doing it already. Go find the open doors; a chaplain in the local prison, the lady that helps our at the local food pantry, the guy who is always hanging out with the homeless… these champions are out there all the time. Join them in the journey. Take advantage that they have the connections already… then, find your sweet spot and go to town.
That’s what I have been doing. I connected with a lady who has been ministering in the local prison for more than 17 years. She was so excited to have help. So I helped. And as I started to befriend the inmates and get to know the prison staff, I earned my way into having my own weekly workshop with more than 40 guys from all different walks of life. I did the same with my non-profit, I found people who have been doing relief work before me and I said, “Hey, can I get involved? How can I help get funds, and resources, and workers?” Of course, they loved the question and in turn helped me grow in my own journey.
Unfortunately, local churches get so good at creating local church events that we forget to engage the local church outside the building. But trust me on this, the church is vibrant on the margins! Jesus is with the prostitutes, in the local strip club, hanging out with refugees and loving kids in the foster care system… you just have to join him there. And the open door is usually the silent heroes who have gone before us.
So be intentional in 2018. Book time in your schedule to hang out with Jesus where Jesus is. He told us already in Matthew 25 what his weekly schedule looks like:
Monday: Giving water to the thirsty.
Tuesday: Food to the hungry.
Wednesday: Clothing to the naked.
Thursday: Visiting the prisoner.
Friday: Welcoming the stranger.
The weekend: With the least of these.
PS. While you’re there, learn from the least. Don’t “bring Jesus to them” realize that Jesus is them… and act accordingly.
Humility is the way go (and I promise, it will be rewarding and fun).
I would start with people who are doing it already. Go find the open doors…these champions are out there all the time. Join them in the journey.
Carlos Rodriguez is passionate about reaching the world with God’s radical love. He is a provocative preacher, pastor, teacher, and blogger who serves the local church and loves to be among prisoners, young adults, and anyone who dares to think differently. The Happy Sonship website an international non-profit focusing on empowering children in Peru, reconnecting families with inmates in the US prison system and helping parents fund their adoption process. Carlos’ first book, Drop the Stones, was published in 2017.
The short answer is this: Take the time to study the culture and know what breaks God’s heart about your city. Think about what breaks your heart about your city? The next question is to ask what are the resources and gifts that you already have. The third is to start talking about it, often. Build a team of others who share your passion. Choose one small slice of the pie that feels the most straight forward with the resources that you already have within your group.
For example, our women’s group knew we wanted to lean into the fast growing crime of sex trafficking in Anchorage. We stepped in with two small areas of engagement. We started a prayer group and we provided hygiene/hospitality bags to the FBI. The bags provided a clean set of clothes and basic hygiene items so that when a victim was brought in she didn’t have to sit and wait in her “work” clothes. We provided about 15 bags a month and sent out a once a week prayer text. That is it.
We grew as God made the next step clear. Five years later and we have opened two homes for victims, trained and deployed over 250 mentors, had over 130 victims referred into the program, given dozens of trainings all over the state, led marches and awareness rallies, influenced and been a part of changing legislation in our state to fight this crime, started a cyber missions team rescuing girls who are being trafficked online, send teams weekly into several strip clubs and massage parlors to reach out to the girls, we started a prison ministry for victims of trafficking who are incarcerated, we launched Priceless in three other cities, launched Chosen which is a program for aged out foster kids and we now hold the title given by our governor of the “States foremost authority of trafficking.”
Start small and don’t take one step forward without God’s lead. For people who have already had so much abuse and betrayal in their lives, let’s not let the church be next in line to cause harm.
Take the time to study the culture and know what breaks God’s heart about your city. Think about what breaks your heart about your city?
Gwen Adams is the Founder and Executive Director of Priceless. Based in Alaska, Priceless serves survivors of sex-trafficking, and their families, by connecting them to emergency and long-term housing, counseling, medical and legal services, job training, education completion, relocation services, mobile food pantry connections, etc. Gwen regularly speaks and challenges others especially the church communities — to serve and leave an indelible mark in the community and a force for change. It is in that context that she boldly shares a message of hope and responsibility.
It is heartening to hear that some in your church want to live missionally in their community. I hope that passion spreads.
The questions they are asking are good ones that probably won’t go away. Too many mistakes and offenses have occurred from well-intentioned people who want to make a difference, but don’t know where to start or what to do, and are in too big a rush to wrestle with these questions. No one wants help that is superimposed on them.
So simply listening to those in the community they wish to help is a good place to start. Make friends. Build trust. Then learn from them how best to proceed and work with them to move forward.
Women I know have chosen to get involved with a specific opportunity in their local community, neighborhood, and workplace. Often there are professional organizations on the ground that could use more support and volunteers. I know a group of women who volunteer for an organization that helps women who have been trafficked restart their lives. One of their projects involved furnishing and decorating a room in a new safe house for these women. Others have tackled global initiatives—shipping cases of sanitary napkins for girls in other cultures so they won’t miss school during their periods. Another raises money for fistula surgeries (well over 400 so far) to give young fistula suffers back their lives. All of these efforts are inroads to the gospel and efforts to restore God’s kingdom on earth.
Simply listening to those in the community they wish to help is a good place to start. Make friends. Build trust.
Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Carolyn Custis James is an author intent on exploring what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. She travels extensively both in the US and abroad as a speaker for churches, conferences, colleges, theological seminaries, and other Christian organizations. Carolyn blogs for Missio Alliance and Huffington Post focusing on the needs of disciples as they seek to extend God’s kingdom in a broken world together.