Friday, March 8, 2013

Why Are We Not Seeing Greater Impact In This Movement?

We've been living Simple, Organic, Missional life in Christ for awhile now, and frankly there is no other choice for my husband and I.  We are completely convinced this is the way Jesus lived, and that's good enough for us.  We've raised our three children to young adults in this paradigm, and we've seen the fruit of it in their lives, and those who have joined to us along the way in this journey.  I encourage, coach, and mentor all those I can in this paradigm because I am committed to it.  God showed us the potential of the Simple, Organic, Missional paradigm to exhibit His Presence, Power, Purpose and Love to the world through it.

Before I knew anything about S/O/M, I was committed to missions and outreach to those who don't know Christ, because I wanted others to have what I have in Jesus.  It's that simple.  To me, it all boils down to the fact that God sent his Son, so that we might have fellowship with Them, and so He sends us for the same purpose.  It just isn't anymore complicated than that.

 So if this is true, why have we seen such little impact of a movement that has all the elements of going viral because in principle, all the participants are sent on mission?

Because the majority of those who are living Simple and Organic paradigms are not living Missionally.  Sadly, it's just a "buzz" word for most, the latest "cool" thing to talk about, but with very little reality or practice in their lives.

Let's get to it, and those who have ears to hear, let him/her hear.

First of all, let's look at what we're doing pretty well; the First Leg - The Fellowship Leg of The Table vision, has some good stuff happening.  Let's look at some of it:
  • We have various styles and types of Simple and Organic church.
  •  The essence of church as a family is happening. 
  • We are doing a much better job at all of us reading, studying and understanding The Word.
  •  People are exploring, practicing and growing in their gifts with one another.
  • We are getting better at understanding that leadership is more like a mother and father, and less like a CEO.
  • We are enjoying playing, eating, and learning together, making our fellowship experience more like normal life and it's ebbs and flows.
  • We are learning that Christian life and fellowship is not what we "do" but who we "are".
  • We are understanding that there is no "secular" vs "sacred" - but we serve God holistically in all areas of our life.
  • We are understanding there is no laity or clergy, but all of us are called to listen, obey, serve and minister.
  • We are finally learning that the 5-fold gifts of Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist are for the equipping of the saints for the real ministry, and not for platforms of notoriety, fame, power and prestige.
 Okay! That's worth celebrating and thanking God for!  In the advertising slogan of a long ago cigarette commercial; "you've come along way baby!" But, and you knew a but was coming, we have not come far enough.  It is not enough to get better at having Christian fellowship - as good as that is! We have to live missionally to really BE like Jesus.

The truth and reality is that not many of us are truly reaching out to those who don't know Jesus, and living missionally.   Why not?  I've heard such explanations like; we need more intercession, it's not God's timing yet, we need more S/O churches to mother/father all the New Believers that will result, we are not called to mission (because that is "works") but rather to Jesus alone, we need persecution to force us, we live in a different culture, we're too busy to invest the time and commitment it takes.  Heard or said any of them yourself?  Maybe none, some or all of these are true, and I've even said a few myself trying to understand why we are not reaching out in mission.  However, in seeing that the life and vibrancy of the First Leg of The Table vision stemmed from their being connected and invested in the Second Leg of The Table which was made up of those who didn't know Christ, and seeing how the church in the Book of Acts grew, and in places like India, China and Africa is growing today - I don't think those reasons hold much merit.  I think the truth is we are afraid, discouraged with previous attempts, too busy, too self focused, lazy, expect others to do it,  and find excuses for our lack of mission and make it sound spiritual so we can let ourselves off the hook.

Am I being too harsh?  I'm hoping to exhort you to fulfill the whole purposes of God in your life to use you to bring the light, the fragrance, the saltiness of Jesus to those He has destined you to reach.

When I teach about S/O/M church I do the following visual:  I have a few from the group come and stand in a circle, holding hands.  A good and familiar picture of what we do pretty well in our Christian fellowship.  We are together, supporting one another, linked and joined in community.  All good.  Yet we are only looking at, and are focused on each other as we face inward.  No wonder our groups become ingrown, unhealthy, and full of the elements of the flesh we are warned about in Scripture. 

Now, flip everyone around, so that each is facing outward.  Still holding hands in support, linked and joined together, covering each others' backside.  But the difference is that the focus is outward.  Each person is gazing outward from the group at a slightly different angle than those on either side, into a unique and specific journey of mission that the Lord has destined EACH of us to walk in.  The Word says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10).

Living missionally means we are continually sowing Christ into the lives of people all around us.

 In Greenhouse training we learn about the four different types of soils that Jesus teaches us about in Matthew 13. Of the four identified soils, only one of those soils actually produces lasting fruit and real salvation. The problem for us is that we cannot judge by looking at it, which one is the fruitful soil.  Only Jesus and the Father know the soil of a man's heart.  We are called to sow, and sow a lot, leaving the results up to God.  Many times I've sown in soil I judged to be "the good and receptive soil" only to have that person end up just the opposite.  And I also have resisted sowing in some soil I judged to be too hard, rocky and unreceptive, only to have it produce incredible fruits of salvation in the person!  I simply cannot, and neither can you, be accurate in soil evaluations.  Therefore, we have to sow a lot and trust God to do His work, and only His work, in creating a disciple out of the soil of their heart.  I firmly believe that as we are obedient to this, and growing in faithfulness, that we will become more and more like Jesus, who "only did that which He saw the Father do" (John 5:19) Then we will be incredibly effective in our sowing, because we've learned to be great at listening and responding to the Father's voice in obedience.

 What if you asked Jesus to show you three people this week that you could invest in that are not Christians?  Can you commit to living a week of intentional missionality, and see what God might do through you?
Pretend you are just like Jesus, waking up in the morning and turning to The Father and asking; "who do You want me to reach out to today Father?  Who are you working in that I will come in contact with? Let me join you Father, in Your work to reach and save those who are lost, and those sheep without a shepherd."

Then do what Jesus did.  Listen and obey, and see what God will do through you.


    I echo your cries.
    In the world we live in today, conformity to those around us screams so loudly that Christ & His vision are drowned out.
    We say we're "not like the world;" but, that's our walk.
    I wish I had a solution.
    Prayer for boldness is my cry.

    1. Brother Coleman, thanks for your comments in responding to the post! Not only do we need boldness - but I also pray that those of us who have experienced the great mercy, hope, love and grace of God - and all that salvation brings us - would feel COMPELLED to share that with others. Sometimes I wish we could really SEE those around us destined for an eternity away from all that is beautiful, lovely, and all the aspects of God that are taken for granted in this world, that in the next, will be absent if we don't have Him. May God continue to give you strength, wisdom and the favor to change lives, as you walk your journey with Christ! May God fill you to overflowing with Himself as you faithfully serve Him!

  2. Nakul Sharma your experince for oganic movement is god point of views that we need to check our heart and act as we are to impact the community

    1. Thanks Nakul! Keep running strongly your race in India, bringing Christ to those He directs your steps to.

  3. No one really understands the term Missional. People think (mostly because that is how it is presented) that being missional means serving the local community. So they replaced 'serve' with 'missional' in their vocabulary. They may have a passing knowledge but certainly not an understanding of all of its implications. So let's be clearer. The reason we are not growing is we are not intentionally making disciples. We gather and it quickly becomes about us. We must focus on BEING and MAKING followers of Jesus. Intentionality is the missing element. We need to speak about this - possibly at every gathering. Build in an understanding that we need to make new followers of Jesus. Intentional reproduction is missing from our discussions as well as our theology. An easy diagnostic question is: How many people in your group are ready to lead their own group? I mean what would happen if God brought out 1,000 people to your group? Could the group you have become leaders and make more leaders. We must be reproducing who me are or we are failing at our mission. That includes disciples, leaders, coaches, and networks. Keep up the great work!

  4. Absolutely! Great comments! I hear your passion, and may increase your voice and influence!

    Intentionality is quickly becoming the next new "buzz" word - let's not allow its being currently in fashion, to water down the desperate need for it to be foundational in our lives as we walk with Christ and those around us. I love the recent emphasis many are writing about regarding disciple making. May God take it beyond the messengers and into the whole Body of Christ!

    Thanks for sharing and leaving your comments "forevergreenlife"!

  5. hmmm, yup intentionality is a buzz word that can devolve into having a pushy agenda. As you said there is different soil and to take the analogy further different growth rates such that we will sometimes see sudden transformation and other times more gradual.
    Unfortunately much teaching and exhortation has been focused on the push to see sudden salvation and multiplication. Such that we often give up easily.
    We should ask ourselves hard questions like what do we have to offer that people can't find elsewhere.
    Another hard question is, if we aren't sharing and loving spontaneously then perhaps there is something missing in what we're experiencing. It's too easy to lay the bulk of blame on laziness or fear or lack of obedience. Its all connected. I also imagine many people simply do not know how to talk about life in christ without scaring people off :)
    Add to that we should show self compassion because it creates unnecessary pressure to expect exponential growth in certain societies.
    I'm not sure we always need more leaders or even more followers... there is an ocean of people outside churches who want friends and peers, who want to genuinely feel like you are learning as much from them as they are from you. Who want to feel like even if they didn't change one bit you'd be in it for the long run. That they could teach us things about family, community, love and truth... instead of being made to feel like a salvation target.
    There are many preconceived ideas the average nonchristian westerner has, so we need to be quite sensitive especially since we're not trying to get them to join a highly structured religious organisation but rather a new way of being and relating.

  6. Wonderful comments Eli! Thank you for sharing them.
    I especially love your last sentence.

    Once, when we were visiting the home of some friends who were from another country and who were not Christians, they asked where our church was that we attended. I answered "here, with you!" Their eyes became big and a look of shock was on their faces. It gave us a wonderful opportunity to share Jesus and our "being the church vs going to church". They still are asking questions about this a few years later!

    1. yes that's a wonderful way of describing it and opening up fresh dialogue! shalom

  7. This is my first time posting to a blog, and I just wrote this long, newsy response to your article and hit publish and it all disappeared. So I'm trying again, and maybe when I have more time, will try to get involved in the discussion.

    1. "Been there - done that" and know how frustrating that is! Looking forward to hearing those thoughts sometime in the future Prayman!

  8. I may be late in reading about such interesting blog, may the Lord also bring awareness to many followers of Christ about the reality of our being called as the salt, the light of this world.

  9. Never too late Ba'pa! Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. May you continue to be the vessel of His Presence and full of his His Light for those around to you to see and experience!

  10. Good stuff. Really rich and true. I must say that having been in Simple, Organic expression for some ten years, with a Missional core value from the outset, we've stumbled over our shoe laces more than once. We grew together and saw more than a dozen simple births in a short time; some within the Hispanic community, some within the Turkish student community, some within the college crowd and some within suburbia-family folks. What we did so well early on that encouraged all was a deep sense of being "one body, many parts" and the accompanying power of encouragement, diversity,mutual equipping insights,and testimony to help keep us spurred on. We thoroughly enjoyed being a network, relational and sharing gifts and local mercy projects. We gathered together often (every 6 weeks or so) as a network for dinner together, sharing, community worship and joined prayer. We gathered 2-3 times per year for workshops and greenhouses and even traveling to other training opportunities together. My wife and I were 'sent' into Africa to launch a 'simple missions for normal Christians/discipleship school', where we worked for five years. All of which is to say.... it is hard to stay, we found it hard to remain 'burning' and 'missionally edgy" and still relationally healthy without a sense of being part of others bonded within your community. Without that relation-based encouragement (cannot overstate the power of the testimony), "missional" easily becomes "project/goal driven" and the simplicity and mercy and love can become 'works driven'.
    Eventually, like rabbits, our little network's life passed on. Not what we wanted, but it is still encouraging to see some of the disciples-making-disciplemaking disciples carrying healthy Kingdom DNA after a decade.
    I hope this rambling is germane to your discussion. You are really talking to the core of the core of the great challenge to discipleship; the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge to simple church.
    We wrestle with this daily... esp as we (our little missional non-profit community development ministry) looks to launch a missional lifestyle discipleship training program in the mountains of North Carolina this summer. Blessings, Scott L @MeniscusInc @ScottLycan,