living intentionally for mission

wow, there is an overwhelming amount of material in the “blogosphere” about intentionally missional churches!  since an initial google search last week, i probably came across at least one hundred blogs dedicated to this.  interestingly, a lot of these bloggers kind of strike me as very similar– progressive white guys educated at places like fuller.  i really appreciate the time they took to document their experiences; some of the recent ones can be found here, here, here, and here.  many of the discussions i came across seemed to reinforce the modern-western concept of “church”, or an organization dependent upon a full-time pastor and a traditional leadership structure, which makes sense if all these guys went to grad school to become pastors.

i have come across almost no information about what an intentionally-missional “small group” would look like, which is what i’m essentially interested in.  i don’t even know how living in an intentional community would be possible in a traditional “church” setting unless that “church” essentially started out like an independent small group.  i love my church and its dedication to the great commission, but churches are not going to be spontaneously planted out of small groups that ostensibly revolve around “fellowship”.

i think i’m attracted to the idea of “missions” because of its seeming radical commitment to the gospel in a perpetual season where the “workers are few”.  from my years of being an “overseas missionary” on full-support, i found that our “ministry” was in many ways a glorified and complicated version of what a good christian life should look like in the states:

  1. be actively present in the local culture through tentmaking or going places where people are
  2. actively pursue friendships and relationships
  3. share christ whenever appropriate and possible
  4. disciple those who come to faith
  5. repeat cycle with new believers

and yet i hesitate to do the above here in LA, at least actively and intentionally, because i do not like relationships driven by agendas or view people like projects.  i like things to be “organic” and “relevant” and yet find it difficult to reconcile this with being “intentional” and “missional”.  i’ve shared and lived the gospel in multiple ways with my non-christian friends.  they get it, they don’t want it, and i can’t force them.  i’m still, of course, friends with them, because i need them as much as i need my christian friends.  i also have little energy to go out and make “new” friendships.

over the last five years, we’ve tried different things: international student ministry, starting a ministry with homeless families, and leading a life group.  they were all great experiences but we still feel like we’re searching for a ministry model that fits.

we are starting to think about what it would look like to be part of a church-sponsored life group that is committed to an intentionally missional lifestyle.  such an endeavor would likely require a high degree of collective commitment and even require some major life changes, like moving to the same neighborhood. it would basically be similar to an overseas or urban ministry team-based model, except that everyone would be bivocational– meaning nobody would be on support and everyone would view this ministry as like a second job and not one of many commitments.  like parachurch missions ministries, it would probably involve  a “memorandum of understanding” where individuals would commit to certain guidelines and principles.  it would be highly-structured even though these sorts of undertakings usually attract non-structured people.

i’ve been thinking more about this since having a conversation with a friend from life group.  she and her husband are planning to serve in the middle east next year and, as our life group leaders, have been thinking about “multiplying” our life group since it doubled in size to over 20 people in the last few months.  “multiplication”, at our church, is designed to happen as a result of life groups growing from new believers, not because of a revolving door of christians, which has been the case for most of our groups.  for example, most of the members who were part of the life group bry and i led a few years all moved to a santa monica megachurch once we decided to “close” the group since we were moving to pasadena (after failing to raise up new leaders).

i plan on praying through this more intentionally this year and hope that God provides an opportunity to see this in action– even if it remains in “dialogue” mode for awhile.  one MAJOR lesson bry and i learned as leaders is the importance of your “team” having similar levels of personal and relational commitment and conviction.  everyone loves the idea of doing awesome things for the kingdom but few are ready to make the necessary sacrifices.  as bry and i were talking about this last night, we agreed that something like this would likely precede with at least 6 months of “preparation” of major prayer, intense bible study, disagreements and reconciliations.


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