Missional Field Notes

Quotes, Examples, and Ideas from My Missional Frontier

Jeff Vanderstelt on our not making disciples:

Not only have many in the church never made a disciple who has then gone on to make a disciple, but many Christians would say they don’t feel equipped to do so.

It seems to me that we could address the matter of “spiritually unfit” Christians from one of two approaches. We could address it like we address our problem with physically unfit Americans — build more health clubs (read: buildings and events), sell more fitness products (read: curriculum), host more seminars (read: classes), and work hard to make sure everyone has a personal trainer (read: mentor).

No one would argue that we are lacking any of this in America. We have plenty of access to the resources necessary to be fit. However, all of us would agree — we are not much healthier as a result (read: not making disciples).

combat cookies


That, or something like it, is one of my mantras in ministry. It’s missional. It recognizes that God is at work in the world in many ways–and that can be inside or outside of the church. It is a call to action and be incarnational in ministry in your surrounding community.

So, as 250 military veterans come down to Seward for a day of free fishing, our congregation has provided bags of cookies for each of them and all of the deckhands. It’s a way for us to participate in something God is already doing. And when the vets get their cookies they’ll see a simple note that says “Thank you for your service” and says who it’s from. It’s not designed to be some grand statement, but just a way to bless them.

And, since the fishing day is called the “Combat Fishing Tournament,” we’re calling these our “Combat Cookies.”

I’m loving the imagination of the Fresh Expression folks. It was a joy to share a meal with them at the Missio Alliance even in Alexandria a week ago. They help me imagine a different way of being church:

Imagine if even a small handful of people within each congregation could catch a vision of starting a mission endeavor that resulted in reaching 20-40 people who are unlikely to darken the doors of most churches. Imagine if those people formed a community of faith that was very much “church” for them. Imagine if they didn’t see themselves as a replacement for the inherited church, but an important and related complement to it.

The is another quote that’s been sitting in my “inbox” for a while. I’ll go and look at it, think about it, and wonder how it relates to what I’m doing in ministry in my own setting. I like the notion of gardening at the beginning of the quote, as it seems like that’s where I am now…still planting and hoping to get to the pruning stage.

This is from Ben Sternke and his awesome blog:

Change a culture is delicate, harrowing work. It’s less like engineering and more like gardening.

The question is always how to introduce the virus without telling people to change. We introduce the virus, and then care for those who are upset and train those who are excited.

It’s learning to do it like Jesus did, never directly, but always indirectly, in parables that would seem innocuous and even silly in the moment, but later would explode in people’s minds like grenades that shattered paradigms and blew apart illusions.


“A key aspect where missional leadership is concerned, is “the discernment of (the) missional vocation” (Van Kooten & Barrett 2004:139) of the congregation. The church’s function can thus be described as participation in God’s mission to the world and the whole of creation (Cordier 2014:82). It is for this reason that the first and most fundamental function of missional leadership is to constantly refocus the congregation’s attention towards God, to discern in faith whether God is present, where He is already at work in the congregation’s context through his Spirit, in order to determine where the congregation can become an active part of God’s already existing mission (Cordier 2014:82). “Listening attentively to the Word, to one another, and to the world is central to participating in God’s mission. The listening must be accompanied by discernment – the Christian practice of attending to God’s call for Christian communities corporately, and for each of us personally” (Van Gelder & Zscheile 2011:151).

  • See more at: NextReformation.Com (I’ve been reading Len Hjalmarson’s blog for some time now. Always good stuff.)

I know it’s just a small thing.

In many church circles it would never be brought up at all.

We have churches working to rid the world of malaria. We have churches who are opening homeless shelters or building wells in the far off reaches of Africa. We have churches who are finding new ways to minister to “the nones” (those of no religious affiliation) and we have churches that are revitalizing whole neighborhoods.

And all of this is awesome. It’s very awesome. Our God is an awesome God.

I know of churches that are running thrift stores and churches that are educating those around the world to the horrors of human trafficking. I have seen churches lead recycling campaigns in order to help the environment and churches that are taking to the streets in support of equality for all. Look at all the church-affiliated hospitals! There’s even one in our small town working on behalf of our local population.

Churches are doing wonderful, big, and kingdom-revealing work in the world.

I don’t have anything that “big” to share today. I have nothing to offer that is altering the course of this world of ours on a grand scale. The thing I’m talking about it much smaller than that.

And, perhaps, some may question if it’s even worth sharing…

You see, we hand out cookies at our church. I’ve written about it before…HERE…and HERE. In short, we bless the community around us by baking cookies then walking around the town handing them out. It’s simple. And, while it doesn’t require a huge amount of effort, it’s a very relational way to reach out to the surrounding community. It opens the door to conversation and it’s something that everyone, young and old, can participate in.

But, that’s not the big thing I’m talking about.

This is what happened…

A couple of Sundays ago we “flung” some cookies around the community. It was, as usual, a joy. But then, a few days afterwards one of our laypersons emailed me and talked about an event in the community for military veterans. It’s called “Combat Fishing Day” and puts veterans out on boats for a day to fish for salmon and halibut. The layperson who contacted me asked if we could provide cookies for the veterans…to thank them for their service and bless them as they go out fishing.

“YES!” was my enthusiastic response. And on Sunday I gave her a big hug…nearly crying as I thanked her for this.

Now, you may wonder what the big deal is. You may think to yourself that this is just a small thing. But you’d be wrong.

In this simple act I had a layperson see a way to bless persons in the community and move to make that blessing happen through the church body. In this simple act I had a layperson see how God is already moving in the community (boat captains offering fishing trips to veterans) and see how the the church could partner with what God is already doing.

I really like it when I’m able to see a way to be in mission in the world and the church comes along for the ride to be a blessing in the world.

I really LOVE it when laypersons do this themselves. That’s discipleship in practice. That’s getting beyond doing church together but actually being the church together.

A reminder from David McAllister-Wilson:

Our goal should be missional relationships, not mission projects. A project is something done to someone else for a limited time. Mission is about relationships. When youth come back from an Appalachian mission trip, they consistently say that they learned more and received more from those they were serving than they gave. This is important spiritual insight and good practical advice. The school principal, the homeless man, and the director of the clinic in West Africa know much more than we do about what they need. And, there is no problem I can think of that is simple and can be solved in a few years. Don’t adopt a school one year and drop it two years later. The people who come to the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving are there the following week too. Preventing the next Ebola outbreak, or the next Ferguson, requires decades-long relationships.


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