Monthly Archives: February 2012
Here’s some good advice on what to do with your Children in a Missional Community setting.
One of the many challenges that Community Groups face is how to handle children in the community. We have a key conviction that children should be included and seen as members of the Community Group.
This means they are seen as members of the community that need to be discipled with the gospel as we seek to be a community on mission. If we don’t count the children, then we could easily find ourselves in the situation one of our Community Groups faced where there were 14 adults and a total of 16 children. That’s 30 total people that must be considered and accounted for in order to even meet as a Community Group.
In New York City, there are no apartments that fit 30 people and even if there were, 16 children in one apartment is asking for chaos and destruction. It became unmanageable and impeded the ability of…
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A passion of mine has always been how to reach the unreached, how to give a credible Gospel witness, how to share the Gospel in such a way that the current generation hears and understands it. I’ve studied church planting for years and have studied Missional Communities for the last couple years. Yet I’ve found that often times it’s difficult to put what you learn into practice. I wish I could give 6 months of my life to join a church that did MCs well and then come back and do what I’ve experienced. However, we often don’t have the luxury of that. We simply have to try what we’ve read about and adapt as we need to along the way.
Over the last four months we’ve been involved in the business of planting a church. In late September, our sending church approved of our mission plan and funding. In October we gathered a core team. We began this blog so that we could share many of the things that we’ve studies and discussed.
Where We’ve Been
Here’s what our Core Team has been doing as we’ve gathered weekly:
- In those meetings we discuss a chapter of the Gospel-Centred Life over a meal. This volume, written by Missional Community pioneer, Tim Chester, does a great job of sharing how the Gospel addresses everyday life and how we’re called to live in Gospel Communities on Mission. Most of our MCs will use this material at some point.
- After each meal, we’ve gone through The Story Formed Way, a ten week session of interactive dialogue and story telling through the key narratives of scripture. The idea behind it is to give the participants a biblical and systematic theology yet be equally accessible to the novice and the mature Christian.
- Almost every week, I’ll also put up a blog post entitled Missional Training. I ask that our core team review that video or post and we often discuss those posts in our meals as well. I recognize that not all people have time to watch the videos, but it gives the self-learners some direction and also posts that our future leaders can point their MCs to for training.
Where to begin with starting MCs?
We are near the conclusion of our training and are ready to plant our first two Missional Communities. For the mean time, we’ve called these MC East and MC West. As each MC gathers and discusses where meeting place and their mission, they will probably take on a more specific name for a neighborhood, development, or street they meet on. We’ve divided the members of our Core Team into these groups based off of their proximity to one another and their affinity. We have diverse ages in each group. Yet we chose to keep our three guys in their early 20s together and our three families with young children together at this time.
My wife and I will attend the group with young families since we have a 9 mo old daughter. Since I’m the pastor, I plan to be at both MCs initially for the first 4-6 weeks to guide, mentor, coach the leaders and be present to answer (if I can) any questions that come up. (I wont need to do this at the beginning of each MC, but my initial leaders felt like they needed me present since we’re really learning what it means to be a Gospel Community on Mission. After that initial period, My wife and I will probably take a few people back to our neighborhood, or somewhere else, to help start another MC.
So, As we seek to launch these MCs, there’s a few things that will need to be done.
- The leaders of each MC will pick a date for starting The Story Formed Way. They will consult their MC members and pick a date about 4-5 weeks out.
- In the mean time, the leaders will work with their team to make sure that there are social and/or service events planned for the weeks leading up to The Story. They will invite their prospects to those events to introduce them to other members of their MC.
- As well as big social events, they will make personal plans with those prospects as well. We’ve been talking about this from the beginning. Most members of our core have been trying to engage their unchurched friends and neighbors. We’ve encouraged our members to invite them into their live before inviting them into their MC.
- At some point in those 4-5 weeks, their to invite their prospects to come to The Story. They’ll explain that it will include many of the people you’ve been hanging out with. It’s low key, in a home, with no expectations of biblical knowledge. Trust the spirit on when to invite them and how to invite them. If they say, “No,” keep inviting them to social and service events. You might have to build your relationship a little further before they trust you enough to open up.
- Who should you invite? We’ve been talking about those people in our lives who need Jesus. Each member should have been trying to build relationships with someone that is unchurched or dechurched. Are they family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers? Who can you engage? Who have you engaged? Who has asked you about the Church Plant? Who has shown interest in joining us? Are there members of St. Paul who have left the church in the last year or so for various reasons, but might be engaged in a Gospel Centered Community on Mission?
In the mean time, my core group will continue to meet weekly. After listening again to Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel Fluency, I realized that I had made a near fatal mistake in our core group training. I hadn’t been asking my core to rehearse the Gospel. I simply asked them a couple weeks back, “What is the Gospel?” I received blank looks, the names of the Gospel books in the Bible, and “Jesus on the Cross.” Now my team knew the Gospel. Yet they weren’t prepared to share it.
So in the following weeks, we will be asking “What is the Gospel?” and will look for an answer that speaks of the whole story of God: Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration. We will also bring up hypothetical situations and role play by asking, “How does the Gospel Address this. We have been studying the 4 Gs since the beginning, but last week I made up cards with the 4 Gs and how to use them. We’ll encourage each member to actually memorize them and use them in explaining how the Gospel addresses sins and anxieties in life.
A second big mistake that we made was that we’ve talked a lot about reaching out to our unchurced family, friends, neighbors and acquantainces, yet we were not intentional about keeping each other accountable. Because of this, it was easy to think about making plans to grow in our relationships with these prospects, but not actually get around to doing it all that much. In the future, we will share with one another who are prospects are, ask one another how we’ve engaged them in the previous week, and we can also pray for those people our fellow MC members are working to win over.
Again, we are learning how to church plant and launch Missional Communities as we go along. I hope what I’ve shared here might help some future church planter or MC leader. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.
Over the last few months, our core team has done a lot of training and talking about Missional Communities, Planting a Church, and reaching out to the lost. Yet there’s a real danger in this, that we might continue simply talking and mistake it as faithfulness. We need to not only talk about the faith and about mission, but live it as well.
Watch the following video and consider the questions below:
- Have you given into this same theory of the Christian life?
- How can we keep ourselves from falling into living as a theorist rather than a practitioner?
Mike Breen and Alex Absalom talk about the process of building a credible gospel witness and growing your MC in their Launching Missional Communities: a field guide. They speak of five stages of growing an MC, Sowing, Sowing, Sowing, Reaping, Keeping. Below is an illustration of each stage similar to what they present, along with their descriptions of each stage.
As we plant this church and begin our Missional Communities, we will all need to be involved in building relationships with the unchurched. Yet, we do the work together. Your job as an individual probably wont be to bring the person through each of those stages. Rather, each individual will probably be more gifted and inclined to be involved at certain stages. In each case, the job of each member will be to introduce these unchurched people to other members of the MC who can partner with you in loving on, witnessing, and sharing life with them.
Think again of the people who are in your life.
- Who is in your life that needs Christ?
- How are you strengthening your relationship with them? When was the last time you had dinner with them, hung out with them, invited them to a social gathering or event?
- Are you praying for them?
We are made Christians through the Gospel. As Christians we’re called to share the Gospel. Yet so many of us don’t know how. This is an excellent teaching from Jeff Vanderstelt about what the Gospel is and how to permeate your Missional Community or church with it. Watch the following video. Consider the questions below.
- How does walking in repentance and belief in the Gospel make you humble? How does it make you bold?
- Why do we need a community to help us believe and walk in the gospel?
- Jeff said, “Every excuse is a gospel opportunity?” What does he mean by that?
- How does Jeff’s explanation of the Gospel expand your own view of the Gospel? How is it helpful?
- Jeff shared 4 questions that help us talk about the Gospel, our beliefs, and lives. He asks, 1. Who is God(His Character and nature)? 2. What has He done (Christ’s Person and Work)? 3. Who are we (as a result of who God is and what he’s done)? 4. How do we live now (as a result…)? How is this helpful in calling us to true belief and action?
- Jeff lays down a storyline: Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration. How does this storyline help you understand your’s and other’s stories? How does it help you understand false stories in yours or other’s lives?
- How is Christ’s life, death, and resurrection a benefit not just for salvation, but in everyday life?
Here’s some great notes from Jeff on Gospel Fluency that covers much of what he’s sharing in this talk.
The Soma School Notes also fill in much of what Jeff speaks about in this video which is missing from the Gospel Fluency document.
In fall of 2010, I attended Soma School in Tacoma, WA. When I was there, I was exposed to a great way of examining our lives, and preaching the Gospel to ourselves, called the 4 Gs. They are from a great book called, You Can Change by Tim Chester. The 4 Gs are a way of looking at your own life, sins, insecurities, and compulsions and examining them with the truth of the Gospel.
Chester asserts that under all sin and anxiety is a disbelief about God. So if I sin or am having difficulties in life, I ask myself the question: “What am I not believing about God?” Below are the 4 Gs that Chester has distilled as the main catch-all truths that we tend to forget.
1. God is Great – so we don’t have to be in control
2. God is Glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
3. God is Good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
4. God is Gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves
Knowing these truths have been liberating in my life. They Address my sin with the life-giving Gospel and not just the law. The result is that I’m motivated out of what God has done for me, not out of my fear of what he could do to me. This is how the 4 G’s can work in Life:
God Is Great
Bill is anxious. He’s been working at the same job for the last 8 years. At one point, that would have given Bill a lot of security, but it seems that every other month they start talking layoffs. Some days Bill works twice as fast as anyone else, pushing himself constantly into exhaustion. When he gets home, he can’t rest. He just wonders if it’s going to be tomorrow, next week, or next month, that he’s going to get that pink slip.
Bill need to remember that “God is Great so we don’t have to be in Control.” God created the universe and keeps it running. The seasons always change. The sun never fails to come up. Though there is drought, rain eventually falls, and the land produces what we need to live. God provides for all we need for our bodies and lives. God moved and worked in History to preserve Israel and the line of the Messiah. Jesus demonstrated power over raging winds and water. He healed the sick and the lame. He opened the eyes of the blind and the hears of the deaf. He even demonstrated power over death as he raised Lazarus and after he himself was raised from the dead. God is great – greater than anything. Bill, and all of us, don’t have to worry, because He’s in control.
God is Glorious
Jamie been a Christian for about 5 years now. She was out with her friends last night. They don’t live like she wants to, but she stays in their lives because she wants to witness. Yet she’s always afraid to bring up anything about Christ. At around 11pm, Jamie told them she had to get going so that she could get up for church the next morning. Yet they convinced her to stay ’til the bar closed down. Jamie ended up drinking more than she wanted to. She said some things she regretted, and was too tired to go to church the next morning. She’s been kicking herself all day because she was influenced away from Christ rather than towards him.
Jamie needs to remember that “God is Glorious so that she doesn’t have to fear others.” God is the all-powerful creator of everything. He dwells in unapproachable light. The mere presence of His angels cause men to fall to their knees in terror. Those who enter his presence fall on their faces and expect death because of God’s Holiness. The earth trembles at his voice. His Justice is perfect. His Grace is all extending. He is merciful and forgiving. He clothes himself in splendor and is the desire of all human hearts.
Chester suggests that when you fear someone and seek their approval over God’s, “Imagine God next to him or her. Which of them is more glorious, majestic, holy, beautiful, threatening, and loving? Whose approval really matters to you?” All should fear God because he has the power over your life and the power to give you paradise or hell. Yet as Christians, the fear should really be expressed as awe, because God has given us assurance in life because of Christ. He could bring us to justice, but he took our judgment upon himself, so that we’re now given mercy. CHrist is more glorious. His opinion of us should matter more than anyone’s.
God is Good
Robert has been failing sexually. It seems like all of his Christians friends are happily married and are allowed to have sex. Robert on the other hand is still waiting and wonders if God will ever give him a wife. His other friends don’t care at all about what God says and seem to be enjoying one sexcapade after another. They keep telling him that what he does with his body doesn’t matter, that God would want him to be happy, that he’s missing all his opportunities. Robert’s stumbled onto pornography sites at times. He choses to watch questionable movies, hoping to stumble upon some vivid sex scene or nudity. Almost every girl he knows has had sex and seem to even expect in relationships. He’s starting to think that he should be willing to have sex to keep the girl he’s been dating.
Robert needs to remember that “God is Good so we don’t have to look elsewhere”. In our day-to-day moments, we call fall under the illusion that we need to get the most joy out of the time we have. Waiting in abstinence for a husband or wife seems far crueler than enjoying the high and pleasure of casual sex. We forget the promises and love that is intended in a life long monogamous marriage. We know how God says we ought to live, be we lose sight of the blessings of living in his ways now, and the never-ending joys of eternity, and so we indulge in sinful pleasures acting as if they are our only chance at happiness. We need to remember that God is Good. He has our best good in mind. He is better than any fleeting pleasure in this life. In his presence there is fullness of joy forevermore. God is Good, so we don’t have to look elsewhere.
God is Gracious
Angie has spent her life trying to be the best, trying to succeed….and she usually does. Yet as she’s gotten older, she just doesn’t have the energy. She can’t be the most productive at work and the most attentive Mom at home. The cracks are starting to show in her perfect life. She’s starting to feel incompetent, the very fear that drove her all her life. Her boss has had to go to other people because he’s noticed the strain she’s under. Suddenly, she doesn’t sense his approval. Suddenly, because she doesn’t feel the approval of the people around her, she starts wondering if she has God’s approval as well.
Angie, and we, need to remember that we have God’s approval already. His approval is not even something that we’ve earned. In fact, what we have earned is death with our lives. Yet God gives us life freely. We have his approval already because of Christ. At Christ’s baptism God speaks over Jesus, “This is my Son, with whom I’m well please.” Because of Christ, God speaks those same words over us. You are His son or daughter, with whom God is well pleased because of Christ. We dont’ have to perform. “God is Gracious so we don’t have to prove ourselves.” We can rest in God’s grace.
These 4 Gs can be uses to preach the gospel to yourself but also to others. They help us find the lie beneath the sin and confront it with the truth of the Gospel. Ideally, all Christians in your MC or church will learn how to use these 4 Gs so that we have a common language to use in addressing each other’s lives and encouraging eachother in the faith.
Here are some Questions to ponder:
- Where do you tend to not beleive the Gospel?
- What “G” speaks most into your life? How is it freeing you?
- What truth do the Christians around you need the most?
- Who can can you walk closely with that can use the 4 Gs to Gospel you?
Here is a link to the Sermon I preached on the 4 Gs entitled, How to Kill Sin.
Soma School covers the 4 Gs pretty extensively. Here is a link to the Audio of their training as well as the material they hand out.
Chester’s book, You Can Change, is a must read on the topic.