So last week I vented about our seemingly incessant demanding that people come to us and into our environments to experience our version of missional. I promised more to come … and somewhat of a solution … at least one that makes me feel better.
It seems to me that there are two layers to this … there is the idea of a missional church, which I’ve already addressed numerous times in this blog. That being the ability of the church to go “into” its location and influence it through loving, serving, and just general participation in the well being of the neighborhood. Obviously, by last weeks rant, you probably know how I feel this layer is working out. Fortunately there is another layer which I actually think has a better chance of living on mission … if the Church could actually come to the point of encouraging it and then getting out of the way. I’m speaking of the individual layer … the Jesus modeling, taking on flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood layer.
The model for this is Jesus with additional encouragement from Paul in Colossians 4 “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity”. My highly personal translation is very simply three steps:
#1 Don’t be an ass
#2 Join (enter) into the life of your community, neighborhood, city, town, apartment complex … don’t simply be a consumer
#3 When the opportunity arises (or in Paul’s verbiage “a door for our message”) enter in to it
The only real caveat to this is that they should be taken in the order as written … until you have #1 down, don’t you dare move on to #2 … and when you have those two in hand, #3 will naturally begin to take place.
So here are some practical thoughts on how each of these might look. I would hope that #1 would be self explanatory but I’ve been practicing the pastoral arts long enough to know this is not the case. In a thought, just consider this:
- when I interact with those in my place, are the lives of those I interact with better for my having been there?
- Did I bring encouragement? Did I convey value?
- Did I contribute something worthwhile to the environment, activity, business?
Somehow we have made #2 far too difficult. It’s actually not difficult at all. All it takes is a shift from consumer to neighbor … it’s the difference between living in and living “into” your place
- Frequent local businesses.
- learn the names of those who own it, those who work there, those who are regulars.
- Find out what they value and support their efforts (community involvement, benevolence, arts, etc) Look on their bulletin boards, websites, or social media posts to discover these … join their social media community
- Join a local organization … civic, arts, volunteer group, task force
- Sync your calendar to the community calendar and show up at their stuff
- discover or initiate gatherings, block parties, cleanup efforts
I have found that when the first two are faithfully in place, then #3 is a natural result. People will feel loved and valued and in turn, often times (but not always) will love and value you. Most importantly they will give you space to share your life. People will want to know your motivation… why are you here, why do you contribute to the life and well being of this place and these people? Check your motivation ahead of time because if its about “witnessing” or getting them to check out your church, you need to go back to #1 until it becomes simply to love people as God loves them. You will get to give testimony to your life, your faith, your hope and the cool thing is you won’t need to be worried you don’t know enough to “witness” to them. When your life and presence are speaking for you, there is no need to worry about failure … unless of course you haven’t figured out #1 yet.