by Laura Hairston
About 4 years ago, my husband, Ryan and I heard the term ‘missional’ for the first time. For us, it was a completely new concept learning to live as missionaries in the places God had already placed us. Also, hearing of the 60% who would never walk through the doors of the church on our best Sunday where we were on staff. And, hey, I grew up a southern Baptist girl in Texas - all of this rocked my world, as I am sure you can imagine.
So, we made a huge paradigm shift and life change. We are forever grateful God opened our eyes to the amazing neighbors, now great friends, around us and the value they have brought to our lives. Many great stories have birthed and God is helping transform our neighborhood into more of what the kingdom is about. Truly living out our faith has brought so much life to us. We are not just taking in material and sitting on our butts, but, we are actively engaged in making disciples of Jesus and that is an exciting journey.
But, I would say we have definitely learned some things along the way, and are continuing to do so.
1. Build relationships not projects.
At times in our efforts to start living missionally in our neighborhoods, the first step is often meeting our neighbors, but, I have heard people talk as if ‘checked that off the list’ instead of wanting to build genuine relationships. Be willing to learn something from someone that may not be a Christ follower. Just because they are not church attendees or followers of Jesus does not mean they don’t have value to offer you. Be a learner and a friend. Build relationships not projects.
2. Be authentic.
As Christ followers, we are in the process daily of hopefully becoming more like Jesus, but there is a reality – we are human and imperfect people. Just because we choose to follow Jesus does not mean we immediately stop sinning! On the contrary, it almost becomes harder because of the desire to live one-way but our flesh does the other (something Paul knew a lot about!).
A TED talk I heard by Dr. Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability completely turned me upside down. We need to learn the art of vulnerability. After six years of stories, interviews and focus groups, here is what she found:
These folks (whole-hearted people) had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.
Is that not how we want people to feel when they come in contact with us? If we want friends to walk in authenticity with us, then we must be willing to do the same. Jesus came and died so that we did not have to live under the bondage of perfection. Walk in his grace and allow others to do the same. Be authentic.
3. Know when to stop.
Do you ever feel the need to be all things to all people for the sake of the gospel? Do you feel that their wholeness is dependent upon you? If so, stop it! I have heard that referred to as a savior complex. Remember, Jesus is the saving one and through him is ultimate hope, healing and restoration. Now, I believe we are to serve, love and walk alongside the least of these, but with a healthy reality that God is in control; we are his hands and feet. We have to know when to release what is not ours to own.
Also, learn to set rhythms of rest for your family and yourself to be renewed, re-energized and to reflect on what God has done and allow him to prepare you for the future. Know when to stop.
4. Don’t judge too quickly.
The past few years, I have noticed judgment on the established churches from different organizations and/or individuals. Now, I’m not saying prophets and others are not to speak into the system, but let us remember we were all their at one point, going through the motions and becoming wrapped up only in what happens on Sunday morning, all the while forgetting our city and neighborhood. In their book, Sentness, Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw say,
At Forge, we want to hold the hand of the local church as well as the mom, mechanic, artist, accountant and those on the fringes because we believe all are important in the kingdom of God, and we want to celebrate where change is taking place. If you have friends attending a local church and their minds cannot even fathom what missional or incarnational looks like, then disciple them too. Bring them alongside you in the journey. I heard Alan Hirsch once say, “Let the critique of the old, be the practice or fruit of the better.” If you want to speak into the church consumerism and lack of disciple making, then live it out and have stories to inspire and encourage others to do the same.
Take some time this week to mull over some of these questions.
- Am I building genuine friendships with those who are not yet Christ followers? Do I humbly want to learn from them or are they a means to an end (be honest)?
- Am I being authentic with others and myself about my weaknesses? Am I allowing others to do the same?
- Am I taking adequate times of rest? Is my family taking time to rest?
- Am I helping those who have not yet identified themselves as sent ones live out their true calling or am I judging them because they are not?