One of my favorite bible verses is Matthew 28:20 where Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and says, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I remember this verse was used all the time to remind us that Jesus is omnipresent, he’s everywhere which means we’re never alone. You’re going through hard time? Jesus is with you. You’re lonely and having a hard time make friends, keeping friends? Jesus is with you! Having a hard time finding a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. Jesus is with you. Facing an impossible challenge? Jesus is with you! You’re not alone. He’s there to be with you, comfort you, and help you through whatever is standing in the way of your happiness, health, or safety. Yet is that the right way to view what Jesus is saying?
A number of years ago I was reading the context of this verse again, Matthew 28:16-20. For some reason I saw what I never saw before.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
His very next words are:
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission! He’s saying, “I’ve defeated sin and death through my death and resurrection on your behalf. I’ve created you, my church, to bring my salvation to all people. Go and make disciples, everywhere in the world, by baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I’ve told you. Oh, Don’t be afraid, go in confidence that I’m now in charge and have all power and I’m going with you. I’m never going to abandon you while you. I’m on this mission with you until it’s completed at the end of the age.”
Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Jesus is only with us if we’re “on mission” seeking the lost and making disciples. There’s other verses in the bible that talk about God being near to all people and actively present in the lives of those who look to him. However, this specific promise in Matthew 28:20 is given in context of mission.
We’ve started a new church in the last couple years, and are coming to the 1st year anniversary of our corporate weekly worship in September. Since God has called me back to faith, I’ve had a passion to see all people come to the God who has loved me and saved me. Yet in the last couple years, as we’ve given ourselves wholeheartedly to, and have reoriented our lives around, God’s mission, we’ve seen God everywhere.
Every day, I wake up or leave my house and it’s like I’m going on a crazy, epic, adventure. I say to God, “How are you going to show up today? What are you going to do to me, for me, through me for the sake of your kingdom?” What’s amazing is that we are seeing God everywhere as we go with his mission in mind. His fingerprints are evident all over the lives of the people we’re running into. It’s almost like we can see his hands bringing our little missionary band into encounters and relationship with the unbelieving, doubting, and hurting at just the right time. Why is this? Because he has all authority and he’s with us always in a special way when we’re seeking to see others know Him and grow up to be His disciples.
Some Christians live their lives thinking that God has privileged them, that the world and our culture should be fit to bless them and so they engage in the culture wars to make this a “Christian” or “Moral” nation. Some even wrongly believe that God simple wants to bless his people by removing their difficulties and pain and by blessings them with all sorts of good health, a beautiful spouse, a great career, etc.
One day the world will be perfect. Jesus will come down and save his people, his church. He’ll give us perfect health and perfect bodies as he takes away all sickness, pain, and death. He will give pleasure, comfort, security, and peace. He will give us the riches of his Father’s kingdom as we live with our Creator and Redeemer face-to-face. We’ll have everything we’ve truly ever desired and dreamed of because we’ll have him. We’ll have the best life that we could ever dream of because we’ll have him. Yet that’s not what we have now.
It’s almost as if our land has been captured by an enemy power. The true king has come out of exile. He’s liberated our town. We’ve seen him again face-to-face. He’s going to fight for us and His victory will be our victory. Yet he can’t stay. His mission doesn’t end with us. There’s others to be liberated but he invites us to take up arms and follow him. He invites us to join his mission. Those who stay in the village might see him from time-to-time when he returns between skirmishes or if the people are in danger again. Yet those who join him in battle get to see him every day. The get to see Him work and fight for them. They get to witness his awesome power as he fights for them and his passionate love and he sets captives free. This is the calling of the church, his people.
The World doesn’t exist for the Church. It will one day. Yet for now, the Church exists for the World. We exist for the mission. When we’re on mission we’ll see Jesus in ways we have never dreamed as we walk beside him and see him work in and through our lives for the sake of bringing the world back to him.
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Labor day is one of those days of rest and rejuvenation. For our Nation its a yearly rhythm of rest that we all enjoy, but can also be leveraged for gospel purposes. Below are 5 ways you can be missional this Labor Day
- Hold a neighborhood barbeque. Invite everyone on the block. If you’ve never done this in your neighborhood, don’t ask them to bring all the food. Partner with a few members of your Missional Community or Small group to pay for the meal. For those who have participated in the past, encourage them to partner with you in bringing a side dish to share.
- If you own a boat or have a place at the lake, Labor Day is a great day for a little cross-pollination. Invite a couple from your Missional Community and invite another couple who are unchurched or dechurched. It’s a great time to introduce friends and build trust between your Christian community and those who don’t yet believe.
- Invite your unchurched friends to join you and another Christian in Something you love. If you love to camp or fish. If you just take the opportunity of Labor Day to hit up a good matinée and some lunch, invite unchurched this is another great opportunity for cross-pollination and trust building.
- Show care to first responders. A lot of people have Labor Day off. Some work it every year. Show love to your first responders. Bring by food or gift packages for your firemen or police officers. Talk to the Fire chief or police chief and see if your Missional Community, Small Group, or church can set up some grills and serve them a meal.
- If school doesn’t start for your community until after Labor Day, serve the underprivileged about to go back to school. Pay a beautician or barber to come in and offer free haircuts. Collect and hand out backpacks and school supplies.
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Picture found here
This is a great (and short) video from Caesar Kalinowski on two ways of viewing mission: Proactive vs. Reactive Mission.
What is your Missional Community’s Proactive Mission?
What reactive Mission opportunities is God revealing to you as well?
Go to the GCM Collective’s website and check out the great illustration that Seth McBee made to illustrate the difference between proactive and reactive mission.
In luke 10, Jesus sends out the Seventy Two into the villages of the surrounding countryside to prepare people to meet Jesus. Before they go, Jesus gives them some instructions on what they should do. Remember how he sent them out? What was his first instruction? He sent them out, two-by-two.
It’s odd that Jesus sent out the Seventy Two in pairs to share the gospel, yet we usually see witnessing and evangelism as a solo experience. We see sharing the faith as our duty or burden that is seems so difficult that we never actually do it, or are not very successful at it. Maybe the reason we aren’t great in witnessing to Christ is that we try to go it alone.
Our Missional Communities are not just support groups for individual missionaries trying to accomplish their individual missions, but they are a group of people who are called to be on mission together. In our MCs, our most successful witnesses are ones that don’t go it alone but invite other Christians on the mission. The sending of the Seventy two shows us that this was Christ’s intention. Now we don’t necessarily need to split into groups of two in order to reach people successfully. But we increase our chances as we reach out in groups.
Some of our members continually try to reach their friends and coworkers and eventually invite them to come to participate in the Story. Yet, they end up not getting very far. I often wonder if it is simply too intimidating to come to a get-together when you only know one or two people who will be there. It gets even more intimidating when you add religion to the evening.
What if we introduced everybody we were trying to reach to other members of our MC and church? Some of our members do this. They invite the people their trying to reach, and another Christian couple from their MC, out to dinner a couple times. Others throw parties regularly and invite their MC members and also the people they are trying to reach so everyone gets to know each other over a number of months. Then when it comes time to invite them to the Story, they already know a number of people there and aren’t afraid of not knowing anyone.
Don’t go it alone. Witness with the help of others.
Consider the following questions and challenges:
- Who have you been trying to reach recently?
- Have you introduced them to other member of your MC?
- Who in your MC would connect well with the person/people you want to reach?
- How can you introduce them? What kind of event, party, dinner, hang out, or entertainment would both parties feel comfortable in?
- Make plans to introduce these two groups in the next 2 weeks?
Picture found here
Above is a picture of a Web of Relationships. Scripture says we’ve all been put in our own web of relationships so that we might win people there for Jesus. The Apostle Paul says in Acts 17:26-27,
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
Paul says that God has placed every person where they are at, and when they would live, so that they might perhaps find the living God and Savior of us all. Paul also says, in Romans 10: 9-17, the only way (outside of supernatural means) that people find God is through others sharing the word of God with them. So then, with these two passages together, I’ve always thought that God has placed each Christian exactly where they are because they have friends, neighbors, coworkers, family, accuatances, etc. that need to know the love of Christ.
Think thorough the following five areas of your life and think of who you introduce to Jesus:
- Vocation – Every Christian is a full time minister. God just route our paychecks through different routes. God has placed you in your job so that you could serve others well through those means, but also so that you might be a witness to others. Who do you know at work that is unchurched? Do you ever get together with them socially? If not, how can you engage them to grow your relationship?
- Location – All of us live in a place surrounded by people,. Even if we live in the country there are people around us. Do you know you’re neighbors? Do you know who are churched or unchurched? If so, who can you start engaging or growing in relationship with? Who can you invite to hang out with other MC members, join you in serving others, or to hear The Story? If you don’t know your neighbors, get to know them. Bring them over some extra soup, invite them to a party, or serve them in some way.
- Recreation – All of us have hobbies that we enjoy. God’s given us all different skills and interests. God has also given us all unique relational connections to others. How can you use your passions and interests to connect with others? Who are you already in relationship with that you can connect to other members of the MC or invite to an event?
- Relations – Who in your family needs to know Jesus? Can you invite them to social gathering of other MC members? Would they enjoy The Story? Would they join us in service projects?
- Frequentation – being a Patron or being a regular somewhere. “Sometimes you want to know where everybody knows your name.” How do people get to know your name, when you take interest in their names and engage in their lives. Where do you frequent? Where are you a regular? Have you stopped to learn the names and stories of the people you see regularly at the park, bank, theatre, market, restaurant, pub, etc? If not, where can you start?
- Walk this week with eyes open to the people in the background of your life. Do you know them?
- Make a commitment to try to meet 3 new people each week and grow in your relationship with one person you have met or already know who is unchurched.
What do you think? Is this list helpful? Why or why not? What do you think of the terms that are used. They’re all real words, yet some, such as frequentation, doesn’t get used all that much these days. I’m interested in your comments and suggestions.
The other night we gathered our two Missional Communities together to do a little training and to celebrate what God has been doing through our Church planting efforts. At the end, I shared this video from Soma communities because I wanted to remind our MCs what they were working towards, why they were reaching out, why they were sharing and stretching their lives.
Spend a few minutes of watching the video below and dream of what church could be:
- Oftentimes there’s a disconnect between what we read about the Church in scriptures and the church as we know it in 21st century America. How does this video challenge you? How does it give you hope?
- It takes time to plant a church and to share life in a missional community. Much of what we do is to invite people to share life with us, by inviting them to join us in what we’re already doing throughout the week. Still, sometimes to add something we need to let go of something. What is keeps you from having time to share life with members of your MC, or the people you’re trying to reach? What do you need to give up to give of yourself to this new life in Christ as His Disciple?
- Think of all the people in your life. Think of the people in this town and region. For whom is God breaking your heart? How can you start inviting them to share life with you?
- Is there someone who has been discontented with the church that you can share this video with and invite them along on the mission?
Within our Missional Communities, you can find a balance of three Core Values: Gospel, Community, and Mission.
The gospel is not just the ticket to salvation; it’s the good news of a restored relationship with God, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This good news renews and transforms our hearts and lives. The Gospel is not only what gives us life when we become a Christian, but it is what sustains, grows, and matures our life and faith. The Gospel is the revelation of God’s love for us, His purpose for us, and He Himself come to live and dwell in us through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to believe, recreates us into His Family, the Church, and enables us to live for Him.
Gospel Activity in an MC is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ revealed through scriptures. Gospel activity includes Bible study, The Story Formed Way, praying for one another, encouraging and admonishing one another by applying the Gospel to one another’s lives.
We were made to live in relationships. Everybody yearns to belong, to be part of a family. Community forms around the world through work, play, interests, geography, family, etc. The Gospel Community is a unique community because it is created by the Gospel. This kind of Community forms because of the common recognition that we’re all beggars, we’re all helpless before God because of sin, yet we’re all loved, accepted, and useful to him because of the work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel can be seen and understood through this community as they live in confession, forgiveness, love, justice, mercy, gratitude and acceptance, as they cross lines of age, sex, wealth, and occupation. The Gospel Community can only be explained because of the Gospel, and therefore leads to an inquiry and explanation of the Gospel as we live the Christian walk in everyday life together.
Community Activity can include Shared meals, meeting new people, introducing new people to members of the MC, learning each other’s stories, celebrations, various social activities, sports, etc.
The Christian community is created by the Gospel to show and the share the Gospel. No healthy Christian Community can be inward focused. Rather it is always seeking to join God’s mission through transforming its community through acts of love and the proclamation of the person and work of Christ. Because the Christian community demonstrates and validates the gospel, mission shouldn’t usually be a lone activity. Wherever possible we want to do mission together and introduce unbelievers to the Christian community.
Mission activity can include service projects, cleaning, fixing, building, painting structures and homes in your neighborhood. They can include, sharing the Story of God, sharing the Gospel, offering prayer, investing in and enriching the lives of others, seeking a relationship with those you don’t know, inviting others into the lives of an MC and the Church.
A healthy MC has a balance of activities shaped by these values. Yet not all MCs start this way. For example, Many Missional Communities will have a greater emphasis on Community early on. For most people, a growing relationship is necessary before they are willing to open up about their faith life, fears, doubts, and hopes . A good relational foundation usually needs to be established before they are willing to trust you enough to be vulnerable in the Gospel or take risks in Mission.
As relationships are built, and trust is earned, it is time to introduce more Gospel and Mission elements. At first, you may have simply had a prayer at the beginning of a social activity and may have demonstrated small acts of kindness and service. Over time, you’ll probably add some sort of short devotional, and find some organized way to serve others in your community.
Your end goal is that you’re spending equal time on Gospel, Community, and Mission oriented activities and events. You’ll be going through the Story-Formed Way, the Gospel-Centred Life, or some other bible Study. You’ll be discipling one another in all three types of activities, and you’ll be regularly and intentionally serve in your neighborhood or community.
Remember that there is a great deal of overlap between each of these values. While everything you can do probably has a dominant GCM value at play, usually one or both of the other values are also present as well.
For more on GCM Values and Missional Communities check out the GCM Collective.
How much does Community matter to our neighborhoods? Watch this short video from Incommon:
None of our current Missional Communities are in “At risk” neighborhoods. While MC West is maybe interacting with people in poverty as they meet in Jackson Park, neither of our initial MCs are really in neighborhoods of poverty. Yet I think that the message in this video can teach us something about community that is pertinent to our mission to bless and the greater community in which we meet and live.
Think through following questions:
- The video said, “People are the foundation on which a strong neighborhood is build.” Do you know the people in your neighborhood? If not, how can you take a step to get to know more of your neighbors?
- How are you investing in the people of your neighborhoods?
- Is there anyone else in your neighborhood already engaged in helping their neighbors and fostering community? If so, how can you partner with them?
Check out Incommon on their work of building Community to lift areas out of poverty.
I found the video on Communities First Association’s blog.
Sometimes a commercial, song, or film can really capture a great idea. Check out this Coke add below.
- What kind of community or gathering does the video depict? Is it small or large? Is it inclusive or exclusive?
- How does the community from the commercial reflect the yearning of the human heart? How close is it to the community of the church?
- How effective would the Christian message be if Christians blessed their neighbors and acquaintances with such a community?
- How often do you gather with the people who you know? Have you held a “Bridging Event,” a community building party for the express purpose of getting to know the friends and acquaintances of your friends?
How can you create this community?
- Consider throwing a party, only don’t invite your closest friends. Instead, invite mainly acquaintances and people you barely know. Maybe ask them to bring someone else. Focus on getting to know everyone better and connecting people together
- Consider working with a few friends or neighbors to throw a party. Have each person invite people they know well and not so well. Ask those people to invite a friend as well. Again, focus on getting to know people and connecting others.
In either case, You’ll be bringing the better wine. You’ll be blessing those around you. This might establish or strengthen relationships. It might prepare the way for later chances to share the gospel.
For my Core Group, for next time read the Gospel-Centred Life Chapter 9, Decisions.
On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, he exorted his followers to live in a community of live. He said,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
We’re called to be a community that is exemplified by love, and that witnesses through that that community to the love of Christ.
Watch this short video about this man’s attempts to reach others:
- What was his big mistake in planning his large event?
- What eventually built relationships that led to sharing the Gospel?
- Where are people already meeting in your community? How can you engage people in those venues for the sake of buidling relationships?
- What is keeping you from going there? How can other Christian help you
- How does working together with other Christians make evangelism and community building easier?
- What are your Christmas plans? Can you help hold a Christmas party for your neighborhood or social group? Are their already Christmas parties going on that you can “bring the better wine” to?
For my Core group, Read the Gospel-Centred Life Chapter 8, Look Forward to Eternity.
Check out this site as a great resource for reaching out to your neighbors