My wife loves to tell the soccer ball story. We both remember being around Christian communities growing up and in college that were really intense. They were intense because of a view that Christianity was about being serious because there was a mission at hand and if we “wasted time” having fun, we would miss the mission of God.
One of the men we knew in these communities would pray for countless hours, read his bible as often as he could and sought to evangelize as much as possible. These are things that are honorable and can truly demonstrate God, but he also refused to have fun, there was too much to do and he was serious about making sure he avoided wasting time. This prevented him from engaging with people as friends, extending his life to them along with his doctrine.
On one of his prayer walks there was a soccer ball and he haphazardly kicked it and in kicking it he remembered how much fun and joy he had while playing soccer with friends. It was a liberating moment for him because he realized that joy in soccer was not incompatible with joy in God. He could participate in activities that weren’t designated as Christian and still enjoy God and extend his joy of God to others.
I watched many of these people grow weary from this duty based and serious-all-the-time focus on living the Christian life. By no means am I saying that Christians shouldn’t take God and His mission seriously, but a joyless, duty-based Christianity is not the picture of Jesus or the Christian faith the scriptures present.
In fact, it could be argued that missional communities should have the most fun. They should be communities that enjoy life to its fullest because they can enjoy life as it was intended to be enjoyed.
A Fun Community Displays Jesus Best
Jesus described salvation as the place of greatest joy. He used parables to describe how people would be willing to sell everything to experience the joy of knowing God. Jesus Himself feasted and attended parties while he was on earth, even blessing a wedding with his first miracle of turning water into wine.
A community full of Christ followers will truly display Christ when they have fun and enjoy one another. This is the freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus saving us into a community that places value on each other not based on personality types, myers-briggs tests, wealth or lack thereof, or even life stage. Our value is based on the dignity and love bestowed on us from God that is proclaimed through the perfect life, forgiving death, and life-giving resurrection of Jesus.
A missional community should throw the best parties and be the ones that every party wants to invite. This is the freedom of the gospel, that it shapes Christ followers to be a blessing in every situation, as opposed to a killjoy. This is how Jesus is described and seen through the gospel accounts that follow his life. He breathes life into every community because He isn’t concerned with himself, but concerned with loving others.
A missional community shaped by the gospel should be the most hospitable because they have received hospitality from Jesus, being invited to His table of salvation and they hope to experience his great hospitality in heaven. Christ followers did not receive a pre-requisite list from Jesus in order to be accepted and we have no need to make a list of our own in welcoming people into our homes and to our celebrations. We don’t often think this way, but the grace of Christ in the gospel confronts our false ideas and invites us into a new way of life.
Why can’t Mission be Fun?
When we think of fun events in our lives, the nostalgia alone can bring us joy because the moments themselves were so joyful. If the measure of fun is joy, then mission itself can be fun. The word mission often brings to mind a duty and activity that requires focus, but to view the mission of God like this would be to highjack God’s desires.
Jesus healed, fed thousands, ate with many, and taught challenging and beautiful truths. All of these were the mission of God and you never get the sense that he was a joyless individual going through the motions.
A missional community can enjoy the recreations of this life and have fun in them, but they also find great joy on the everyday mission of God.
Making Your Missional Community Fun
A missional community that displays the joy of knowing God through enjoying creation, one another, and God’s mission happens over time. It’s part of the life cycle of a missional community and then becomes a regular rhythm of the community.
This is the result of finding joy in God first, seeing gospel enjoyment become rooted in the community frees them from depending on joy in one another. A missional community can cultivate a joyful community by directing most of the attention finding joy in God.
Beyond that, as much as we’d like a missional community to be fun organically, there must be an intention to display the joy of God through planned and unplanned meals, recreation, and random get togethers. A leader of a missional community can create this environment by initiating this culture through inviting people into their life and pursuing others in the community.
Over time there will be people in the community that stand out as a core committed to building the relationships of the community through social events. The leader of the missional community can empower these people while also directing the community towards extending the gospel outside of one another in order prevent become inward focused.
A kingdom demonstrated through joy
Jesus often described His people as a new kingdom not marked by borders, but by lifestyle. When God’s people form a missional community that displays Jesus through enjoying God’s creation and recreation while also participating in God’s mission, we display the kingdom of the most joyful King. This is also the greatest invitation into our joyful salvation, to experience the community set free by Jesus to enjoy life as God intended.