– 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 3 features Alan Hirsch, Jon Shirley, Carlos Rodriguez, Gwen Adams and Carolyn Curtis James.
– Part 4
I truly believe that to effectively engage with our communities we have to recapture the art of hospitality. Hospitality is a concrete expression of Christian love and we see it encouraged all throughout Scripture. In Romans 12, Paul reminds the church to show hospitality as an outworking of the gospel. In 1 Timothy 5, hospitality is part of the litmus test for faithful widows who need support from the church. In 1 Peter 4, Peter exhorts believers to be hospitable people. Hospitality is so critical for the church, it is even listed as a requirement for elders in Titus 1.
Practically speaking, hospitality helps our family overcome barriers of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic differences that come with living in the city. If you’re struggling with identifying what that might look like for your family, here are a few principles I think are foundations of hospitality. Be relational. Invite people into relationship with you, not time and space. Be integrated. Think intersection, not addition. How can you intersect your lives with those around you? Be genuine. Treat people like people, not a project. Be explicit. Be explicitly Christian, but intentionally relational.
These are just a few key principles that you can take and apply in your context to authentically express hospitality to your neighbors. For more resources and information about how to take your burden to reach your community and turn it into a tangible expression of God’s kingdom, check out the Among Wolves book and Biblestudy. There, I share 8 movements in the book of Matthew that we can emulate to unleash disciples in our neighborhoods.
I truly believe that to effectively engage with our communities we have to recapture the art of hospitality.
Dhati Lewis is the Lead Pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia and the Executive Director of Community Restoration with the North American Mission Board. Dhati has seven beautiful children and is married to Angie, a discerning woman who empowers and encourages him to live fully in his identity in Christ. He is the author of both the Bible Study and book, Among Wolves: Disciple Making in the City.
Engaging your community begins by loving your neighbors and neighborhood. I love living in my neighborhood for so many reasons. Thinking about why you love where you live is a fun exercise. Too often we imagine the “greener grass” elsewhere, or envy the lives other people have. But thinking about why you love where you live stirs up a lot of gratitude. It helps you reflect on the good things that are in your life. And it helps you think about ways you can contribute to the peace and joy and wellbeing of your neighbors and community.
No neighborhood is perfect. Like every neighbourhood, my neighborhood of North Epping in Sydney has its fair share of addiction, domestic violence, depression, anxiety, financial stress, and so on. You can’t really love your neighbourhood and remain blind to its brokenness.
But life is so much better when you love where you live, and when you strive and grow to love the people who are your neighbors. Loving where you live involves seeing what’s good in your neighborhood, and also seeing what and who is broken and hurting. And life is so much better when you decide to do your part to care for your neighbors and your neighborhood, and make it a better place.
My neighbors have turned my suburb (North Epping) into a community. We’ve worked hard on this, together, as neighbors. It’s a vibrant, connected, compassionate community.
I think the key to engaging your community is friendship. We’ve been in North Epping for 11 years, and the friendships we’ve built here will last a lifetime. Our children have grown up here, and local families have welcomed them into their homes and lives as their own. Through countless meals, sleepovers, community fairs, sporting events, school graduations, coffees, conversations, and chance encounters, we’ve grown with our neighbours—laughing, crying, celebrating, and doing life together. All our children went through the local public school, and have made many, many lifelong friends in the local neighborhood. It’s the friendships and community that help people find connection, meaning, and hope in a neighborhood. Here’s to loving your neighborhood and your neighbors, and enjoying the life you’ve been given!
On resources, I recommend reading my blog post here (which fleshes out why I love my neighborhood). Chapter 9 of my book GlobalChurch is dedicated to practical ways we can transform neighborhoods. Alan Roxburgh’s book Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood is also very good.
Graham Hill is the Provost at Morling College and the Director of The Global Church Project. He is passionate about developing Christian leaders particularly in the area mission, church re-vitalization, cultural intelligence and Christianity throughout the World. Graham has written 4 books including GlobalChurch: Reshaping our Conversations, Renewing our Mission, Revitalizing our Churches.
Share your friendships with unbelievers with your Christian community. You could start or join a book group, walking club or toddler group with some other Christians. Be intentional about things like your children’s schooling and which shops and restaurants you frequent so that a few people from church are together being a blessing in the same contexts.
I’m a firm believer in mission by being good neighbours, 1 Peter style. Most gospel ministry is simply ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality – getting on and loving your neighbours together. Pray a lot! Look for opportunities to speak of Jesus. The more we commend Jesus to one another, the more likely we will be to speak of him to our non-Christian friends.
And when your unbelieving friends know several Christians in your community, they will feel less weird about coming along to the formal gatherings of your church body. Make sure that any non-Christians present understand what is happening whenever Christians meet together — whether in a Bible study, prayer meeting, or the corporate gathering of the church.
Not to be glib, but the Bible is all about God’s plan for his people to be a blessing. So start there! Delight in God’s word and teach it to the people around you.
Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert and, coming soon, The Gospel Comes with a Housekey: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post Christian World. (This book will be released on April 30th so I have not yet read it – but if it’s anything like Butterfield’s previous books it is bound to be helpful.)
Acts 29 website.
Glen Scrivener: www.christthetruth.net.
The app “Nextdoor” is available in the US, the Netherlands, the UK, and Germany; it can be a helpful resource for getting to know your neighbours.
Click here to be notified when it will be available outside these regions.
Most gospel ministry is simply ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality – getting on and loving your neighbours together.
Steve Timmis serves as CEO of Acts 29 and lives in Sheffield, where he is the Senior Elder in The Crowded House, an Acts 29church. He is married to Janet and they have four children and 10 grandchildren. He has co-authored a number of books, including Total Church and Everyday Church.
Read the Gospels and Acts looking for answers to these questions:
1. How did they connect with people far from God and identify those who were responsive?
2. How did they share the good news and call for discipleship?
3. How did they train new disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded?
4. How did they help new disciples form churches?
5. How did they multiply leaders?
Step out into the community, there are God-prepared people out there.
“Engaging missionally” is as simple as asking, What did Jesus do? What did he train the Twelve to do?
Steve Addison has been a life-long student of movements that renew and expand the Christian faith. Steve Distills the characteristics of dynamic movements and makes them available to leaders committed to the multipication of disciple-making churches.
Steve began his research into Christian movements in the late 1980s while planting a church in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Pioneering Movements, What Jesus Started and Movements that Changed the World. Steve writes online at www.movements.net.
I appreciate and would echo the input and suggestions from others responding to this question. I would add, begin by learning to listen to God and your neighbour; which requires being faithfully present.
To be faithfully present, one must be intentionally living among, in and with one’s neighbours by engaging practices that shape and empower us to move in this direction as opposed to in our ‘usual ways’. Our ‘usual ways’ are guided by questions like “How can we get people to come church? How can the church serve the community?”
The new direction however, is guided by questions like, “What’s God up to in the neighbourhoods? How can we discover what the Spirit is up to and join God there?” Alan Roxburgh’s book, Joining God, Remaking the Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time explains this shift and how to get there. The website of the organization he is connected with is http://www.themissionalnetwork.com/ and there are good conversations and resources there.
A few other books I would recommend are God Next Door by Simon Carey Holt; The Art of Neighboring (Pathak and Runyon); The New Parish (Friesen, Sparks and Soerens) and from a community development perspective, The Abundant Community (Block and McKnight). Alan Hirsch has already mentioned Forge and there is a Forge Canada as well!
To be faithfully present, one must be intentionally living among, in and with one’s neighbours by engaging practices that shape and empower us…by questions like, “What’s God up to in the neighbourhoods? How can we discover what the Spirit is up to and join God there?”
Karen Wilk is on a ‘Go Local’ Catalyzer with Resonate Global Mission as well as a National Team Member of Forge Canada’s Missional Training Network. She is also a neighbour, wife, mom, and pastor of N.E.W. (Neighbourhood Engagement Workers’) Community. Along with preaching and teaching in numerous places, Karen has written a number of books and was included in the Bridgeway Foundation’s list of “100 fantastic Canadian Christian women leaders”.