Please Make Missional Simple. What do we do?

Please Make Missional Simple.  What do we DO?

In practice, Missional Church must be kept super-simple,  or at least as simple as possible.  One of its goals is always multiplication of mission –  disciples becoming disciples who make disciples who make disciples.  Complex things don’t multiply.  There is no one right way to do this, but what I am posting below has worked for us time and time again.  Importantly, it has also transformed our “mother-ship” church to a large degree.  It will never be perfect, but there has been tremendous movement both in the mission field and in the church.  There is a whole bucket-load of theology behind the steps below, but people don’t ask me for the theology as much as for the way to get moving.  So here’s an algorithm, a set of steps to take and make your own.  My sincere suggestion is that you try to learn the steps first, then innovate.  But then, that’s up to you.  So here you go.  12 simple steps.  If you want to know the theological “why?”, I would be happy to have that conversation on here.  So feel free to comment away.  Have fun!

1)      Pray. Fast. Pray. Get a couple of Christ-followers with the spiritual gift of prayer, and walk through your mission field and pray for houses and families and people and alleys and street corners. Then pray some more.

2)      Get at least one Christ-follower from your church to go with you in the mission. If you don’t go to church, get a Christ-follower from whatever Christ-following group you hang out with.

3)      Find the “Person-on-the-Ground” who will tell you what is needed in that mission field, where to find the people in need, and when to find them. That person is out there.  The Holy Spirit put them out there to help you get started. Get them to agree to help you launch the mission.  Ask them where to meet her/him and when.  Don’t be disappointed if he/she no-shows.  They have already done what the Holy Spirit put them there to do.

4)      Get at least two people who are not Christ-followers and who do not go to church to agree to go with you into the mission.  Tell them, “I need your help to do some good for these people.”  Do not mention Jesus at this point.  Just invite them to help you do some good. Then let them help you do what you do better.  Let them have genuine impact.

5)      Go to your church and see what resources they are willing to invest in your mission.  Invite anyone in the church to help you.  Get your non-believers to go back to their tribes and nations to do the same.

6)      Gather your people at the mission site.  Tell a Bible story that relates to your mission.  Don’t READ a Bible story, tell it from memory.  Ask the people to look for that story as they serve in the mission.  Have a prayer for protection and for those who serve and are served. Set them loose to be subject and object.

7)      Launch.  Hand out the food or clothing or blankets.  Learn the names of those you serve and call them by name.  Have a conversation with anyone who will have a conversation with you.  A NORMAL conversation.  Ask them if there’s anything they need prayer for in their life.  If they say, “No”, ask them to include you in their prayers when they pray (be specific in your request if you can).  If they say, “Yes”, then offer to pray for them right then.  Tell everyone to invite their friends in need next time.

8)      Anyone that you pray with, ask to stay and help you.  If they can’t, ask them to come and help the next time.  Some of them will. Let them make genuine impact on what you do and how you do it.  Let them make your mission better. Invite them to pray with people.  Many of them will.

9)      At the end, re-gather your team and those who stayed to help.  Ask them to say something about how their experience impacted them.  What did they see that changed the way they think about something? Whose names did they learn? What touched their heart?  How do they feel?  Then connect their responses back to the story you told at the beginning.

10)   Ask all your helpers to come back the next time and to bring a friend with them.  Ask them to bring whatever resources they can get their hands on.

11)   Your team is now part of your congregation AND part of the mission.  So minister to them.  And become friends with them.  ALL of them. Live your life with them.  Invite them into your life.  Do this for no other reason than that you need friends. Kingdom conversations will begin to happen on their own, but feel free to smuggle the Kingdom into everything.

12)   Begin to look for adjacent mission fields (Other needs near your mission site, or other needs of the people you are serving).  Begin to apprentice your replacement at the mission site right away.  As soon as possible, give that mission away to your apprentice and take two of those people and start something new in one of the adjacent mission fields.

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4 Comments »

  1. BTW – we don’t yet have fourth generation multiplication, but we have several second generation examples that are beginning to replicate themselves.

  2. Lara Said:

    I’m wondering what your theology is behind not reading stories from the Bible, but telling them from memory (step 6). I have found a lot of Biblical ignorance and illiteracy in my experience, and I am very much in favor of memorizing and telling Biblical stories, knowing them so well that we don’t have to have a script in front of us. But I have found a lot of Biblical ignorance and illiteracy in my experience, and it leads me to want to lean very heavily on the Biblical text, to make sure that the teller and the hearers all truly know the scriptures in their original meaning and intent. When we read from the Bible, and when we keep scriptures front and center in whatever we do, including mission, we are constantly reminded of the reason and the truth behind what we are doing. Just curious to know what your reasoning is.

    • Lara, that’s an awesome question! I think that the first part of my answer has to do with making sure that we aren’t putting stumbling blocks between Jesus and someone Jesus is trying to reach. In our environment, we work really hard to scrub all of our language of any Christianese or churchese. It’s not Jesus that people are turned off to. It’s the fact that so many people have been exposed to well-meaning but misguided Christians who have tried to shove church culture down people’s throats while telling them that it’s Jesus. We believe that Jesus is real and the he doesn’t need a salesperson. Our goal is to put people into living contact with the Holy Spirit and to then serve the Spirit as it reaches out to people. Too many people to name who we have seen come into the Kingdom of God have told us that if someone had whipped out a Bible and read it to them, they would have been out of there and would not have looked back. It’s not what’s in the Bible. It’s the actual book and their past experience of it being used as a bludgeon. We’ve found that if just get the book out of the encounter, we can tell the stories and people are not threatened. Strange. But also true. So at least a part of the theology is in taking great care to heed Jesus’ warning, “It would be better to have a stone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause one of the ‘young’ ones to stumble.” We’re not trying to introduce people to a book. We’re trying to introduce people to Jesus…the Word of God.

      But we could accomplish the same thing (and we have) by simply having people read the story off of a sheet of paper. It’s just that there’s more to it than that. Everything we do is about being both the subject and the object of the mission. We are inviting pre-conversion folks to grow in their connection to Christ, but we are also inviting our missionaries to grow in their connection to Christ. In order to tell the story, you have to really know the story. It has to be written on your heart. We have always been a story-telling people. People told the stories of the Old Testament word for word for thousands of years before they were ever written down. New Testament communities didn’t have printing presses. They had to know the stories from their hearts. For at least two hundred years, New Testament communities may have only had one Gospel to work out of, and there may have only been one copy of it. And lived out of those stories. They were dangerous stories. They told the truth about life on this side of the river, but they also gave hope to people because God was by no means through with this world yet. Our leaders are changed by being able to tell these stories from their hearts. Hours of exegesis go into it, so that they can help people hearing it to be able to understand it in a modern context. The teller has to be able to help people understand what a tax collector or a Samaritan was then, and what one would be now. That’s what happens every Sunday in pulpits around the world. We just get rid of the Christianese, the pulpits, and the soapboxes.

      Telling the story also allows the teller to really engage with the hearer. It’s more than just reading with inflection. It’s eye contact. It’s body language. It comes alive when it’s told instead of read. It’s all about relationship and trust and open engagement. So, we really encourage people to know the story well-enough to be a story-teller…a dangerous-story-teller…instead of a Bible reader. These aren’t dead texts. They are the living Word. We actually hope someone asks questions. It leads to a deeper relationship. We love it when someone says, “That’s not the way that I heard that in church.” That opens the door for our missionaries to then say, “Hmm. How about we get a burger and kick it around some, and get a Bible out to see what it actually says.” Now, THEY are into the Bible because they want to be – they’re interested in what it actually says. And that’s the point.

      The Great Commission doesn’t say that we are to go and teach doctrine and content. It says we are to teach people to OBEY all that Jesus commanded us. There’s no way that we have time to cover everything that Jesus commands in any kind of depth or thickness. So our goal is to get people in the Word alone and in groups. We teach them to read the Bible more than teaching them what’s in the Bible. More correctly, we are trying with all our hearts to reorient their hearts to WANT TO read the Bible. We teach them that Jesus is the teacher. But instead of saying that, we just say, “Let no one call you Father, and let no one call you teacher, because we all have one Father and we all have one teacher.” And we let the Holy Spirit fill in the gaps. The tragedy is that pulling out the book has become a stumbling block for people. If we don’t figure out a way to get people in the Word without the threatening presence of the book itself, they never may never get into the Word that’s in the words of that book. So we had to be creative and find another way, and this is our way. We think that Holy Spirit can work with this. It has borne a lot of fruit.
      We could speak some about Bibles themselves…versions of the Bible. The fact is that we don’t have any original texts. None. All of them are translations of translations. Many of the most effective translations aren’t really translations at all, but are paraphrases (The Message, for example). I’ve listened to people argue over which text is the real text for hours, and then they end up never going out on the streets and never do anything to reach anyone. They just get mad. Every Sunday, pastors wrestle with the text to try to find the best way to get at the meaning or intent of the writer. We all work hard at it, and we all fall short sometimes. And still, miraculously, the Word is preached and the word is heard every Sunday. In the mission field, we don’t preach. We don’t tell people how to interpret the story. We just tell the story in an engaging way and ask people to reflect on it in light of their experience of the mission. To my reading, God has been working with really broken human stuff since creation. So, we give it our best shot and pray with all our hearts that the Holy Spirit can work with it to reach people. I think that was called the Doctrine of Condescension at one time or another.

  3. Jeff Said:

    that is very close to the model a group I am involved with has followed. We prepare and pass out around 50-80 meals once a month and looking to do more. Two of the people who were served meals (and still are) come regularly to help cook and pass out. We have two main sites where we pass out the meal and a third that it is hit or miss. Gramma is our boots on the ground at an income based apartment building and John is our boots at a hotel for transients. John is a tremendous help to us and I warned him that next month I am going to stop by before hand and give him a lift to the kitchen to help cook. Should have seen him light up when I threatened him with that. It was like noone had ever trusted him to do anything before or at least not for a long time. One thing we fall short on though is follow up afterward. Anyone who wants to stay is invited back to a house where another meal is prepared and supper is shared. Not everyone goes to this meal and I will try to ask some of the follow-up questions before we part next time. I will also try to tie in a bible study.


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