Monday, July 30, 2012

Common Questions I'm Asked About Simple, Organic, Missional Life and Fellowship

I am repeatedly asked many of the same questions by those who are interested in Simple, Organic, Missional church.  These questions come up inevitably over phone calls, at coffee shops, at a CMA Resources Greenhouse training event I am doing, or while mentoring and coaching someone in this paradigm.  Here are some of these common questions, and my responses to them.

Maybe these are questions you have, or you have a response to share.  Feel free to add your own questions, experiences and/or responses in the comments section below.

  • How do you build an effective outreach dimension to our existing house group? 
What is primary to any gathering of believers in Christ, is that those believers see themselves and others as church planters and missionaries into their own unique realm of relationships and communities to which they belong.  If you look at the explosion of the church in the book of Acts, and now in such places as China, India and Africa, you see that the average Christian is sharing their own testimony of Christ with those they have access to, and relationship with.   My friend Neil Cole likes to say, "the gospel is to be spread on the wings of relationships". Every person has a network of relationships that they engage with, unless they live alone on a desert island!  
When we come to Christ initially, most of us are eager and unabashed about telling everyone around us how great Jesus is, because our life has dramatically changed!  Sadly, most of us lose that natural initiative to reach out to others with The Good News, because we lose our passion, substitute "meetings" for mission, and we "give that job" to someone else.
    God has placed within each person who is in Christ, the Holy Spirit and the power to be effective witness's to Himself.  Each person! In the past, we have looked to specific positions and leaders to do this.  However, Ephesians tells us that leaders are there to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry" - not DO all the ministry.  When only a few do ministry, or what we perceive as valuable ministry, we inadvertently hobble the majority of saints in their power and purpose.  In contrast, when we see each person working in their individual and God given purposes to advance the Kingdom, we see a TEAM come together, a BODY working, and Christ is revealed into ALL communities in UNIQUE manner.

 The key is uncovering, unlocking, igniting and encouraging each member to step out into what intrinsically motivates them.  God has purposed each Christian to be His "fellow workers" and He has put a unique enthusiasm within them to fulfill it.

Does someone have a heart for the homeless or poor?  Maybe young parents?  Possibly the refugees and immigrants in your city?  There might be a guy who just wants to help widows, single moms, and those without much income, keep their car in working order. Or someone who wants to visit and transport the elderly who are home-bound and lonely. Does someone has a heart to start a community garden and interact with the community through it?  The possibilities are as numerous as the issues of life that come to all of us.  God has placed within each Christian a strategic empowerment to reach into all the normal realms of life, so that He Himself, can be revealed through the average Christian.
Take the time to discover and learn what each person has inside them that has been dormant, discouraged, disillusioned, or held quietly, in regards to what they are passionate about.  Pray, encourage, empower, come alongside each other in mission and outreach - big or small.  Get excited about what God has placed within each person as a unique extension of Himself to reach out to others!  Each person is an "Esther" for "such a time as this" to bring the realities of Christ to those around them.

When I share this, I like to give people a visual picture of a group (like a simple church) all holding hands in a circle, except as you would expect - your NOT all facing inward, but instead your facing outward with your backs to the center of the circle.  This is a great picture of each person supporting one another by holding hands and covering/protecting the vulnerable "back" of each other, and yet facing OUTWARD. 

What wonderful missional adventure awaits you as you look outward for it?

  • How do I sow Jesus into people's lives who don't know him?
Since most of us have put "doing church" into a slot of Christian activity a few times (at best) each week, we easily forget that we ARE the church every minute of every day - whether for good or not, we are the representatives of Jesus on this earth.  Most of us settle into having only Christian relationships, and I know some people who would be hard-pressed to name a handful of people they invest time in that are not Christians!   The fact is, we have people around us everyday who don't know Jesus, but we just "go blind" to seeing them.  Each day, all of us have opportunities to be the fragrance of Christ to those around us.  Like any perfume - some like the smell, and other people don't, but we are supposed to SMELL, and hopefully your walking in a way that your smelling good and full of Jesus!  The Bible says that we are like salt, and if salt loses it's saltiness, it is worthless even for manure.  We are called to illicit some flavor to those around us so they are curious and want more information about why we "seem different". Salt is enticing, and causes us to crave more.
We are to be a Jesus fragrance to the stink of the world (not always smelling each others fragrance in our Christian fellowships), and to add the enticing salty flavor to those needing salt  -what good is salt if it stays altogether in the salt jar?
 Have relationships with no agendas other than to simply "smell like Christ", add some salt, and be ready to have an answer if they want more information.  If they don't ask - that's okay!  Your still carrying around the Presence of Christ and your sowing may result in someone else reaping.  People are not projects for whom we have an agenda, but rather opportunities to drop a little of Jesus in their path.  Why not see people as relationships that for whatever season, venue, or time you have with them, you have a window of opportunity to be a fragrance and salt that they might see something appealing and different in you, and want more!  Jesus is the One who " draws men to Himself" - we are called to have relationships that allow people get a whiff or taste of Him.

 Here are some tangible things from my own life for those of you who want more practical, rather than conceptual help.  Remember - these are NOT things to do with those in your Christian circles of relationships, (of course you can, but then your not sowing) but rather with those who don't know Christ. 

  • Weed, mow their lawn, shovel their snow, plant a garden, give some flowers/vegetables to your neighbor/s, offer to take care of things when they leave for a vacation, help them with a home building project or car/motorcycle maintenance
  • Have a baby shower, welcome to the neighborhood BBQ, a children's backyard party for those in your neighborhood, sprinkler/water balloon battle with kids/parents in the neighborhood, ice cream cones party for everyone, multifamily garage sale, neighborhood events of all sorts!
  • Encourage, engage, pray for, talk with, and regularly visit the same store clerks/gas station attendant, coffee barristers, etc. building rapport and relationship
  • Take neighbors, co-workers, etc. to doctor appointments when they need someone to drive them or support them
  • Go out to movies, dinners, parties, game night, Farmer' Market's, rodeos, motorcycle events, car races, Pow Wow's, cultural celebrations,  Zumba, and other events with people who DON'T know Jesus
  • Go on vacation, camping, weekend "get-a-way's" with people (again - who DON'T know Jesus) and even offer to pay for some or all of it if they couldn't go otherwise
  • Go to a sports event together (don't just give away your ticket), go to their child's game in support, walk your dogs together, go shopping together, canoe, picnic, or hike, take a motorcycle/bicycle ride together
  • Help tutor adults or children with a need, offer help with finding doctors/dentists etc. in the area, help with find a job, resume upgrades, practice interviewing, help with doing taxes
  • Offer to help with child care (one night or as needed), help the children with homework, food for when someone is sick or after a death, cook a meal together sharing recipes/skills
  • Clean their home for them as a gift, buy them groceries if they would need them, pay a bill for them in a tight month, buy the kids "back to school" stuff, or a new outfit for a job interview

I could continue - but hopefully you'll see something in there that will stimulate you to "love and good deeds" and will help you see the daily opportunities around you to sow the fragrance and  saltiness of Jesus into the people who are living right around you, in your own unique way.

More questions in the next blog post....................................