Missional Field Notes

Quotes, Examples, and Ideas from My Missional Frontier

We exist to share the good news, and tangibly displaying God’s love is an important part of how we do that. We do this because we are imitating Jesus, who as he preached also healed the sick and fed the hungry as signs of a Kingdom that is not of this world. As N.T. Wright puts it, our acts of service and mercy “sketch out with pencil what Jesus will one day paint over in indelible ink.” As the body of Christ, we are helping people see God. They should be able to look at us and glimpse—however faintly—aspects of God’s character.


July 2, 2015

Originally posted at www.jimdoepken.com.

I’m serious with the title of this post. What is it about our church buildings that makes us want to keep kids out of them? And, no, I probably don’t mean ALL kids. Our own kids are fine. The children of our friends are fine. Well-behaved, well-dressed, well-groomed, and well-mannered children are fine. But we tend not to want rambunctious kids running amok in our sanctuary or unattended children playing with toys in the nursery and we sure can get uptight when the youth group or the Boy Scouts or other group of young people leave behind a mess. Even the most welcoming pastor can have her heart sink when she sees the youngster spill the entire glass of after-worship juice on the floor.

Sometimes we’re so concerned about the physical plant of our building that make ourselves unavailable for the spiritual needs of young persons.

I’m not saying there aren’t some horror stories out there. The first church I served in Indiana had a horror story to tell me when I first got there. Apparently, several years before, there was a Boy Scout Troop using the upper classroom. No one is sure exactly how it happened but they somehow lit a garbage can on fire. No one was hurt and, from what I remember, very little damage actually happened. As they told me this story they finished it by saying, “And that’s why we won’t have the Boy Scouts back again!”

But it wasn’t just the Boy Scouts. They didn’t have a youth group anymore. There was no nursery care. No one could remember the last time they had Vacation Bible School. And there wasn’t much in the way of Sunday School for kids either. That one “trash can incident” made them not want to have any kids there at all.

So what is it?

Perhaps it’s because there’s a sense of “joint ownership” of church buildings and the sense that we need to treat the facility as if it belonged to the most nitpicky member of the community. Perhaps it’s because there we equate “holy” with “fancy” or pristine and can’t bear the thought of spills or scuff marks detracting from the perceived holiness of our facility. Perhaps it’s because so many churches are filled with older adults and we’re scared of them. Perhaps, because buildings as such huge financial responsibilities for churches, church committees see dollar signs with every handprint and tracked in mud and broken light fixture.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that last week I had to remind myself that the church should be open and welcoming of all children. AND THIS IS NOT SOMETHING I’D EVER SEE MYSELF NEEDING REMINDING OF.

See, I led a drama week for a local summer camp for kids. It was just one week. It was just three plays. It got me out in the community doing something that I love and hanging out with some pretty great kids for a week. It was a good thing.

Before the week started, we were just going to use our church in Seward for the “performance” of the skits for parents. It was to be a great, one-day use of our space (which is mostly unused during the summer). And the leadership of the church had talked about it.

But as the week began it became clear that it was really going to be best to have the kids there each day. It was going to be easier to focus on the plays.

What surprised me is that, for a very brief moment, I actually debated whether or not to have the kids in the church for a whole week. For a split second, I worried that we’d make too much of a mess. I had a fleeting thought about the clean-up it was going to take after five days of kids.

No one from our church had expressed any concern to me or rolled their eyes when we talked of it. And yet my missional vision for reaching out to those around us was temporarily blinded by my concern for a building…a beautiful, well-kept, yet ultimately soul-less building.

The week went on as expected. The performance was well-attended and we even had an ice-cream social afterwards. And the clean-up took all of 40 minutes or so with a couple of us working. It was a piece of cake. And I was thankful our church building could be a blessing to a large group of kids and parents for that time.

However, my brief hesitation made clear to me just how much work God still has yet to do in me so that to be as welcoming as I hope to be.

It’s just a building.

There is “Fresh Expression” of church in Danville, Virginia with a name I love. It’s called “Grace and Main.” Here’s how the Fresh Expression folks write about it:

If you drive to Danville and want to find the intentional community called “Grace and Main,” logic would tell you to look for the intersection of Grace Street and Main Street. You’d not find them that way, for there is no such street intersection. However, where Grace—the unconditional, undeserved, unlimited, unrelenting love of God—meets Main Street…now that is where you’ll find Grace and Main, a new form, a fresh expression, of church.

Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing…intersecting the gospel of love and forgiveness and welcome with our context? It’s where the GRACE of God meets MAIN Street.

The site for the community talks a lot about what they’ve been up to, the way they partner with other organizations to work out justice and mercy in their community. It’s all good stuff.

But for me, I’m just willing to sit back and reflect on what their name mean; not just for THEIR ministry, but for OUR OWN.

Father, help us to see our lives in your kingdom as an everyday adventure of living with Jesus in the very natural, unforced rhythms of mission. Give us passion to live every moment as a missional moment; the opportunity to offer subconscious worship in every thought and breathe redemptive hope into every circumstance and every relationship. This is the adventure of living with Jesus. In his blessed name, Amen.


(Via Jimmy Larch)

  • What if our kids would feel out of place if they were not living life with other believers?
  • What if our kids would feel like something is missing if they were not going to the lost/hurting/broken in our city?
  • What if our kids would default back to normal and purposefully multiply more disciples?
  • What if our kids just thought that using their home/toys/time/effort to serve others was normal?
  • What if our kids did not know how to make life decisions without considering the character of God, people of God, and call of God?
  • What if our kids were not shocked by new stages of life because they have always known disciples who were following Him in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond?


(Via River City Church)

You might have seen advertisements for these in your neck of the woods:

  • Churches having laser tag nights for neighborhoods.
  • Churches putting in portable climbing walls or bounce houses in the attempt to appear young and hip and exciting.
  • Churches trying to get “cooler” and “cooler” with their music selections to have church resemble a rock concert more than a church.

These are not bad in and of themselves. We want churches to be a place for community and we want churches to be a place can indeed be fun for folks. However, I often think this can turn into a “bait and switch” — attracting newcomers with a fun, new thing that is exceptionally culturally relevant and then moving to the serious, “less fun” stuff after they’ve started building relationships and are “hooked.” And I believe churches can get into the trap of trying to add more and more entertainment to keep people coming.

While churches can have rock concerts and Slip-n-Slides and all that stuff, the work of the church is about serving others and trying to live a Jesus-shaped life. One of the things I’ve learned from all of the missional conversation is that it is even more effective to have the church witness by giving of themselves, loving others, and serving. This is what the church is about. And there doesn’t have to be a bait and switch along the way. All in all, it’s a healthier way of doing evangelism.


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