Continuing to look at the idea of churches starting missional communities and the realities of doing so, I wanted to share this post from David Fitch. This gets to the idea of what is required as the first steps to launch a missional community in a church plant or newer ministry. Here we read about the importance of community and learning “a way of life.” Understanding this, in my perception, is key to launching missional communities.
There are some great points here and I appreciate the thoughts shared on how missional communities can grow and develop as communities of faith. Here again though is the challenge that I continue to see over and over again as it relates to missional communities. What is an already established, long established, local church to do with these ideas? We know they work in new church plants, but how do these ideas translate into transforming an already established congregation?
There are three things I think already established congregations need to do before launching missional communities that directly relate to this idea of creating a way of life and rhythm based in community.
#1 – As church members you should have a really good understanding of your current way of life, your current DNA, structure and what you do as a church. How well do you know your values, beliefs, priorities as a congregation? Is there already a clear vision and mission? How are you doing with your current spiritual formation and discipleship practices and disciplines? How do you understand your current way of life as a church body?
#2 – You should spend time understanding where God is calling you as a church. What is God’s will for your congregation? Who is He calling you to be and how are you going to answer that call? Is there a particular pattern or rhythm of life together God has been leading you toward?
#3- In an already established congregation there are already established ministries people are connected to and involved in. How will launching missional communities impact those ministries? Is it right to stop those ministries for the sake of starting something new? Is there transformation that needs to take place? How does that work in your church?
Every one wants to become missional these days. Seems like a lot of churches want to start missional communities, and become that missional church we read about in all the popular church books. There are also a ton of people who are blogging about missional communities. Using a newly discovered WordPress plugin I found article after article on the subject of missional communities. You can read the links below. Please do check them out and you can see how diverse the style, approach, format, and context a missional community can form.
Launching missional communities will not save your church. In fact, if not done well, simply trying to launch a missional community can actually do more harm than good. It takes a core group of leaders with the right set of skills and gifts to launch a missional community in an already established church. Of course my advice here doesn’t apply to church planting, as starting a new thing is in many cases easier than transforming an already existing organism and organization like a local church. Not that church planters have it easy, but that’s a totally different blog series!
We’ve created a document to help existing churches navigate the idea of launching a missional community. We hope this will help you and your leaders understand what you’re getting into as you journey down the path of launching a missional community in your church. Missional communities are not the magic bullet solution to everything that is wrong with your church. They can be a part of the solution, or they could simply serve as a band-aid fix to a much larger spiritual formation and discipleship challenge in your church. Be sure you know what the real issues behind the issues are before pursuing the missional community idea. You could find yourself saying those famous last words, “…it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Download the free white paper 14 Realities of Missional Communities
This past Sunday my husband’s family laid to rest a great family man, friend, teacher, and coach. Larry had been a math teacher and basketball coach teaching and coaching several generations of families in one of the local schools in northwest Ohio. Over 40 years of teaching and coaching led Larry to develop and instill this motto in the classroom and on the basketball court, “Do what you think you should do.”
This motto penetrated the culture of the school and sports programs and the lives of the students and young people he interacted with so much that pencils were handed out at the funeral home and memorial service printed with the motto, “Do what you think you should do.” Every person who stood to provide a favorite Larry story at his memorial, adults and students alike, stated how much this statement meant to them and how it shaped their lives.
Larry wasn’t just teaching them the things they needed to have “head knowledge,” he was instilling in them something they would carry inside their hearts for the rest of their lives. He was giving them a way to remember that they needed to take action and do something with what was intuitively in their heads and their hearts. To live applying the lessons they were taught.
This piece of scripture from this translation gets to the idea behind, “do what you think you should do.” Every local church has been blessed in some way by God to go out and make disciples, raise up and nurture along spiritually mature people, and make an impact on the communities they are called to serve. Every local church can and should do the things that God is calling them to, not just their own thoughts, but thoughts based on the teachings of Christ. Many of the churches we work with and many of the churches involved in a Healthy Churches Thrive! Pilgrimage are coached on how to not just “do” but to “live” out the things they have learned and studied about their faith with a worldview shaped by the teachings of Christ.
This is our prayer for every Christian and local church today. We give thanks for the gift of Christ and we pray now that we may find ways to live out what Jesus taught us and do something that helps others understand who we are as Christians by the life we share and show them.
Our Thanksgiving prayer…
“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given.
You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him.
You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith.
Now do what you’ve been taught.
School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it!
And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” -Colossians 2:6 (MSG)
I know, I know. Did we really have to jump on the end of the world banter flying around the internet about Hostess shutting down?
YES! Yes, we did!
Because as a ministry working alongside other ministries to help local churches grow to be healthy and vibrant organizations and organisms the question was just too obvious for us not to ask.
What would happen if the announcement came that your church was going away, being shut down, just like the factories that make these snacks?
Would our communities have the same reaction if the local church was shut down as they had to the shutting down of the Twinkie factories?
I don’t take this Twinkie issue likely. The community I live in would be impacted by the loss of jobs if this doesn’t get resolved somehow. I am not making lite of the issue, it’s really quite a serious question. I believe the response to the news about Hostess says something about the consumerism and pop culture we are living in today. It really says something about the challenges local churches face related to relevancy and impact.
Those working in ministry including churches and para-church ministries like Church Doctor Ministries, still have a long way to go in our work of transforming the local church and regaining relevancy for Christianity today in the communities we’re trying to reach. You’ve heard this question before, if your church went away what if anything would be missing in your community?
Would your community even know if you shut your doors?
Your community, I guessing from news reports, went running to clear store shelves of the last few boxes of Twinkies available. Would your community to that for the (insert descriptive name) ministry your church provides?
We freak out about a snack going away and wonder, (not Wonder as in the bread) but wonder as in amazed, why they couldn’t reach an agreement or come to some resolution. We expect the parties on both sides of the issue to change their mind, perhaps even repent of some bad behavior and thinking in order for yellow sponge cakes to stay on grocery store shelves. Yet, when faced by the challenging changes our local churches must make we resist or continue to find ways to add to the conflict. Instead of being a part of the solution to transform our local churches, many would rather remain to be part of the problem. Personal agendas and not changing is how we lost Twinkies. We’re dangerously close sometimes to losing our local churches in manyof the same ways. Some churches and church members don’t even realize or know they are contributing to many of the reasons why people don’t want to come to church at all anymore.
So what is the local church to do? Follow what we read in the book of Romans and start first with a transformation of your own mind, change how you see the world, how you think and act and behave related to the local church, discipleship, and spiritual formation. Look for ways to be a part of the solution to regain relevancy and impact your community.
How would you answer that question – If your local church went away, like Twinkies, would people flock to your church to get the last little bit of Jesus that might be left on the shelf? Or would they even notice at all?
John Maxwell writes, “We first form habits. Then habits form us.”
How true is this for you and your spiritual formation habits?
Consider your prayer life. We’re taught to take things to God in prayer, and with thanksgiving and praise we take our prayers to God and He listens. He hears all of our prayers. Even the ones we think we shouldn’t pray. He listens. When we don’t know what to pray, God knows this too.
Sometimes we struggle with knowing what, how, and when to pray. We’re curious about when to listen, when to talk. We ponder, do we talk out loud, do we sit in silence. All of these things are part of our prayer formation and spiritual life. As we seek and discover answers to our questions about prayer, we’ll begin to develop habits that will shape our prayer life.
Eventually, we focus on spending time in prayer and developing good habits for our prayer life we’ll start to see how our prayer life habits start to shape us. This means our worldview will start to change and be transformed. We’ll start to approach life’s challenges and problems we face a little differently. We start and end our days differently, and we’ll read scripture through a new lens that has been shaped and formed through developing prayer habits that fit our spiritual lifestyle.
God made each person different and unique, and wants us to discover the unique relationship He desires to have with each of us. Start discovering how to set your prayer life in motion by developing some habits that fit you and your spiritual life, then allow those habits to form and transform you. An exciting journey awaits you and we form these habits and they form you.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. - Philippians 4:8, The MSG
How many times do you leave a church meeting, event, or activity and wonder why you went all?
How many times in the car ride home from worship have you critiqued the music, the reading, the sermon?
How often do you drive by a nicer, newer church building and wish your church didn’t look so old, or had newer carpet, or had enough money in the budget to afford to look like the new church down the street?
It’s okay, you don’t have to confess these things out loud, but the reality is at some point in your history of your church membership, you thought, in some category, your church could do better at (insert whatever is on your mind).
Now think about this. How often to you fill your mind with the possibility and potential God has in store for you and your church?
How often do you follow these instructions from Philippians 4:8 and meditate on the things that are true, noble, authentic, compelling, and gracious.
Do you focus on discovering the best for you and your church? Do you find ways to talk about the beautiful experiences you have had through the ministry of your church?
Do you share these experiences with others?
How often do you offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God and those He has called and gifted to carry out mission and ministry in your community? When was the last time you stopped and literally thanked God for what He is doing.
Today, with all of the challenges we face in local churches it seems our biggest enemy perhaps is not really “the enemy” but how the enemy uses negative thoughts, the worst critiques, and the ugly perceptions to tear apart our faith communities.
Scripture tells us we’ll do our best when we focus on the positives and not the negatives.
The next time you find yourself complaining about your church, criticizing the service, or focusing on what you don’t have and can’t do meditate on what you have been given and gifted by God to do, pray about those things that are true, authentic, and gracious. Encourage others to do the same.
Soon you’ll find God bringing out the best in you and your church. The more you celebrate God at work in your church, the less likely you’ll find thing to curse about your church.
I spend a lot of time coaching with pastors and ministry leaders trying to help them move their church from here to there. We work a lot on the challenges and ceilings related to spiritual health and vitality. One thing I have noticed that has become increasingly harder for many church members to do is to put themselves in shoes of a new Christian who is new to their church.
We do so many things in our local churches really well. God definitely has His hand on many wonderful ministries and there are churches effectively helping new Christians grow spiritually. Still others are a bit slow to understand how to disciple and bring along a new Christian or a Christian who has been distanced from the church and God for a period of time. Many churches do not understand a key, critical point about these spiritually immature, or new believers.
They don’t know yet what we know.
Let me explain.
Every local church is different. There are different ways to worship, pray, receive communion, get connected to a small group, or volunteer. Churches differ in leadership, structure, philosophy of ministry, and the ministries they are called to carry out. We need to help new believers and those not yet as spiritually mature as we are understand the DNA and culture of our church. This is an essential part of the discipleship process, to help new Christians internalize and spiritually grow into an understanding of what it means to be a Christian in this (your) faith community.
Many churches offer a new member class. This class is spent helping the new Christian understand what it means to be a, (insert your favorite denomination or affiliation here). But these classes often fall short of helping the new Christian understand who the church is and what part it plays in the larger body of Christ. This leads to a lack of understanding and spiritual growth for the new believer. They get frustrated. Learning about being a member of a local church can also be intimidating. For many people who have fallen away from the church, just walking back into a church can be scary.
Without a clear path to discipleship, spiritual formation, and spiritual growth, and a clear understanding of who you are, the culture and DNA of the church, many new Christians will look for a better place to fit in, to belong. The reality is they may not last very long in your church.
So the challenge is this: Put yourself in the shoes of a brand new Christian or someone coming back to the church after being away from God for a long time. Would you understand everything your church does? Would the worship makes sense? Would you be welcomed even if you don’t know yet what it meant to be a (insert favorite denomination or affiliation here)?
In the shoes of a brand new Christian, in your church, how long would you last?
Should it be that way?
Recently a new road was built close to where I live. The road is a major bypass and is a much more direct route to take than the current road I typically travel. The new road is a smooth, two lane highway. Definitely a more efficient means of getting me where I need to go. There’s just one problem.
I keep forgetting to take it.
Three times in the last week I have totally forgotten the new road was there and have chosen the old route rather than the new one. When I reach the traffic light to make the decision to use the old road or the new one, I have chosen to turn onto the old road. After the third time this week it occurred to me why I was doing this.
For the last seven years turning to use the old road has been all I have ever known. I love the new road. It’s a much more efficient way to get me to where I want to go. But I don’t use it because my routine, what I have always known, takes me down a road that is more comfortable and well known. I don’t have to think. My car just turns and goes down the same road.
This can happen in our relationship with God. We do things a certain way because as long as we have known Him, we have prayed, worshiped, or served Him a certain way. Our prayer, worship, and ministry life becomes routine. Our relationship with God becomes programmed to fit our lives. These things become a part of who we are. A very comfortable part of who we are. At times, because of our routine we forget to look for and see the new ways God may be working in our lives.
When I travel down the new road I am seeing things differently. New perspectives are there to challenge what I thought my community looked like. I also have to think a little more about what I am seeing. The sights are just different. It’s almost a little uncomfortable to travel the new road, particularly after dark, because it looks so different.
Finding new ways to grow in our relationship with God, to bust out of our spiritual routines, can make us uncomfortable. Maybe we don’t pray out loud very often, or maybe we don’t read another Bibles translation because it makes us uncomfortable. To explore these news paths and roadways to spiritual formation and growth may mean we need to change our scenery and to let go of some of the old ways we encounter God.
Perhaps it means spending some time in a Christian bookstore exploring new and different Bible translations, devotional books, or small group studies. Maybe it means listening to a different type of worship music, or maybe even visiting a different style of Christian church to experience worship differently. Maybe it means keeping a personal prayer journal to record your thoughts during your prayer time. It could even be as simple as just setting aside a different time of day to intentionally pray rather than just at meals or before you go to sleep. God can use all of these things to create a new path to a deeper relationship with Him.
I would like to challenge to take the next 30 days and intentionally consider a new road to take in your own spiritual formation. What one thing could you do differently to bust out of your spiritual routine that God could use to draw you closer to Him?
Consider taking this challenge and then come back and share with us here in the comments section or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your experience. I’d love to hear your story!
Recently I had the great opportunity to work with a church journeying through the Healthy Churches Thrive! Spiritual Pilgrimage. This church is experiencing some very exciting things as a result of the HCT! process in their church. During one of our interviews a staff team member used a phrase I had not heard. She said this process has helped her and her team see all of the “God winks” taking place in ministry. I was a bit surprised with this and I am sure had a puzzled look on my face. “God winks, what are those?” I said.
She continued since they had learned about noticing and affirming where God is moving, working, and blessing her team had been putting their focus on joining Him in these moments. She went on to say they were experiencing more and more joy in ministry because of paying closer attention to the occasions where God was blessing their church. One of her team started calling these moments, “God winks” Those times where they could really see God at work.
We focus a lot on being God watchers in the work we do with churches. It has actually become a spiritual discipline for us. We intentionally take time to be on the look out for where God is working and explore and discover how to join Him. We do this in just about every aspect of our ministry. We encourage our team to be God watchers in their own life outside of our ministry work as well.
In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby writes, “God will draw you into a deeper and closer walk with Him so you can trust Him and have faith in Him. He will reveal His purposes to you so you can become involved in His work rather than merely pursuing your own goals and dreams. He reveals His ways so you can accomplish His purposes in a manner that glorifies Him.” He reveals Himself to us. God winks. Makes perfect sense now. He knows what He is doing of course. He knows these things are meant to get our attention yet sometimes we miss them. And we miss Him because we don’t take the time to be on the look out for Him.
“God winks” are God’s way of reminding us that ministry isn’t about our agenda or what we think should be done. They are reminders to us that He has a plan and our work in His plan glorifies Him.
Can you see the “God winks?”
Are you spending time each day in quiet prayer, listening to God more than talking to Him?
Are you intentional about being a “God watcher” when you are going about the business of your daily life?
Are you consistently praying for God’s will and purpose to be revealed to you?
Start pursuing the answers to these questions and I guarantee you’ll start to see your own “God winks” and when you join Him in those moments you’ll experience more joy in ministry!