Our main administrative meeting is just around the corner. Soon we’ll have a gathering of the few, the proud, the “committed enough to show up on a Friday evening” crowd at Seward United Methodist Church. And while we’ll work hard to have our time together NOT be about jumping through hoops and filling out forms, there will be forms to fill out and there will be a few hoops for us to jump through. When all is said and done, we’ll have some sense of where we’ve been and we’ll have some sense of what lies ahead.
Part of this moving forward, however, is about asking the right questions. And there are a lot of questions to ask. But will they be the right ones? Will they help us move forward in missional ways, reaching our neighbors in new ways, and leading us in apostolic ways.
I found some good questions to help us over at The Missional Network in a post by Shawn Duncan. It’s just three questions.
- Is the center on God or on the Church? — We need to be looking at what God is doing and not what the church is, or should be, doing.
- Is the focus on activities or identity? It’s all about a lifestyle and not about adding another program–particularly a pastor-led program.
- Is the connection to neighbors transactional or relational? We don’t just want to meet needs but to transform relationships.
How about us? What’s our center…our focus…and our connection to our neighbors?
I’m always looking for ways to describe what missional communities are. I’ve found some cool ones over the years and I’ve found ones that didn’t seem to fit for our present environment. I like how Reach Church describes theirs. It’s very simple and relatable.
A Missional Community (MC) is simply a “Family on the Mission of God.”
But it has some meat on it. The meat is in the breakdown of three key words of their statement: GOD (the focus), FAMILY (relationship with each other), & MISSION (our ministry as ambassadors). It’s very similar to the UPWARD, INWARD, and OUTWARD model but summarizes it in a nice, easy to understand sentence.
I like it.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here in the United States, Logan Gentry has five ways to be missional at thanksgiving. They are:
1. Celebrate the Gifts of God
2. Invite Others to the Family Meal
3. Family over Football
4. Stuff the Turkey and the Hungry
5. Leftovers for Loving Others
Read more over at The Verge.
OK, I admit to being late to the missional “game.” While it’s a phrase that rolls off my tongue pretty easy at this point, I often feel like I’m saying something that is completely new and unheard of in “the parts” — among my church folks.
But part of the basis of missional theology is the understanding that it’s been around forever and is part and parcel to the basic call of God upon God’s followers. Jarod Grice, over at Relevant makes it clear:
This history-enveloping casting of mission for the Church reminds us that living missionally began much earlier than the 20th century. God called to Himself a people out of Egypt in Exodus, established them as a distinctive nation among others and gave them the responsibility to be a blessing to others in light of the blessing they had received. What is more, the New Testament emphatically extends this call to the Church today. Living missionally has been God’s intention for His people from the beginning.
I think the problem is, the church of much of the 20th century got so far removed from missions that it seems so very new to folks. And, as long as it took us to get away from missions, it’s at least going to take us a while to find it again.
Our annual meeting is coming up in our congregations. We’ll fill out reports. We assess the health of our church. Sometimes, however, I question if we value people as much as we should.
Hear these words from Logan Gentry in a blog post about the missional impact of the Good Samaritan:
We too often value tasks and achievement over people and presence. We commit to more things than we are able to be faithful to, we run late and our minds often wander to the next meeting or activity. For those of us with families, we fill their schedules and commute everywhere for the latest sports activity, class, or lesson because they must be the most well-rounded, advanced child in everything. They need these things for their college application, future resume, and because we didn’t have them.
A successful day has become getting a lot done, advancing the bottom line or the mission, and when we reflect on the day, we don’t remember a single person we interacted with.
Jesus was busy, but never too busy for people. His disciples would often push people away or wonder why he spoke with certain people, but Jesus’ value, His mission always had to do with people.
How can we, amidst all of the meetings and numbers, show that we value people the way that Jesus did?
Matt Weston has 13 signs of a Church on Mission. They are good. So, the truly missional church has all of the following characteristics:
- …loves Jesus and as a result, loves the people that Jesus loves.
- …has members who are aware of and tangibly living out their unique missional calling.
- …spends a significant portion of its budget outside the walls of the church building.
- …is welcoming. Throughout the pages of the New Testament, there was never a hint of a person who was uncomfortable approaching Jesus.
- …has apostolic leaders with an eye towards movement.
- …tells stories of what God is doing amongst not-yet-believers.
- …has a plan for moving people into faith in Jesus and along the path of spiritual formation.
- …has a high view of the role and activity of the Holy Spirit.
- …spends the majority of its time with and for those who are far from God.
- …is made up of men and women who are deeply aware of their own brokenness.
- …has leaders who are people-developers.
- …believes and hopes for big things for the community.
- …is recognized and loved for its contribution in the neighborhood.
See the whole list and the details over at Matt West.