Tag Archives: Community

Why Missional Communities Suffer Without Life Transformation Groups

This is part of a series of posts on what a missional community is – check out the others and let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.

Missional Communities are the people of God living out the life of Jesus Christ together. This involves seeking God in prayer and devotion, loving and meeting one another’s needs, and extending the grace and mercy of the gospel of Jesus Christ to others.

But missional communities aren’t a silver bullet for making disciples. They are the essential piece of a larger puzzle. If they do not have Life Transformation Groups they will falter and fail to maintain the healthy church family that is needed for a healthy mission for God.

What We Learned

You can learn much from failing and falling short. Our Community Groups jumped on the vision of extending the gospel of Jesus Christ to one another and others. As they did, the holes in the missional communities became more and more prevalent. (I wrote about those here).

The beauty of the body of Christ is the diversity of gifts that come out in times and areas of need. In our community, we had gifted teachers and those who are more prophetic recognize how our Community Groups lacked a space for deep bible study and a context for confession and accountability.

We learned from their leadership about the value and need for Life Transformation Groups and even the need for further equipping outside of the context of missional communities altogether.

Over the last few years we have seen Life Transformation Groups (LTGs – because if it’s truly Christian it needs an acronym) begin and assist communities thrive in ways they haven’t before. A brief definition of LTGs can be found at the bottom of this post.

5 Reasons Why You Need It

1) Best Place for Deeper Study and Questions

When people read the Bible for the first time, they have difficult questions and very personal questions. A smaller community of 2-4 provides a better context than 12-25 to allow people to ask these questions. Most of the time these questions will never be asked and it’s these questions alongside the scriptural answers that provide an understanding that transforms people’s lives.

If people don’t grasp the Bible, they won’t understand our God the Bible speaks about and lack of understanding is the greatest cause of not loving God and looking like Jesus.

2)   Confession is Necessary for Christ-like Living

When I imagine confession, I picture a booth where I hide away and don’t even see the person who hears my confession. This has no power to free people from bad patterns and sin that plagues them. It also has no power to develop deep and trusting relationships that we need to change and be like Jesus.

The scriptures invite us to confess in order to be freed from lies we believe, freed from pretending to be righteous, and freed from the bad patterns that we have become dependent on. We need to confess and a smaller group of 2-4 people of the same gender like an LTG creates the space for this to happen naturally.

3)   Change through Tough Questions in Accountability

We’ve all made New Year resolutions or resolved to change a part of our lives. If we are left alone to accomplish these, they likely fail. Lasting change that we all seek in different areas of our lives is way easier and more effective when we have people who join us in the journey.

LTGs create the regular space where questions about our desire to change and our effectiveness can be asked. The good LTGs don’t focus only on the change though and that’s what is tricky about accountability. They focus on the vision for the change, Jesus Christ, and becoming like Him by pursuing and enjoying Him.

If they focus only on the change, again, they likely fail.

4)   Regular Prayer

Prayer in community deserves its own series of posts, but here I want to mention how amazing it is to pray with people who you trust and have grown to know you intimately. Who else can pray for you so specifically that it feels as though you are interceding for yourself.

The scriptures are filled with the belief that prayer causes more change in the lives of others than even our corrective words. What joy to see change through prayer.

5)   Community Rhythms

The last thing I’ll mention is that I’ve seen this push people into a rhythm of life of community as opposed to event-based mindset toward the church community. You begin to experience Community Groups as more than a once a week reality and cultivate the relationships that allow for community to happen throughout the week and month, not merely on Sundays and Tuesday nights.

So How Do You Start?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Tomorrow I’ll share how your first Life Transformation Group will probably suck and then they will get better. In addition, I’ll describe how we’ve seen them get started and be sustained in healthy ways. Friday, I’ll highlight 3 ways I’ve seen Missional Communities thrive as a result of Life Transformation Groups.

For now, you have to recognize that Missional Communities will suffer and eventually die without an environment where people are transformed and challenged consistently to be like Jesus. Life Transformation Groups provide the space and environment for most effectively pursuing this life.

This is one of the easiest ways to move the missional community from a mere social gathering to a transformative life.

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Filed under Community Groups, Missional Communities, Small Groups

Good & Bad Messiness in Missional Communities

Every community faces messy seasons where things are not perfect in the community. This is true in group therapy, where they call this the storming phase of group development, and this is true of every small group in the church. This is an important phase for a community and especially for a missional community in the church.

For the church, when messiness arises in the missional community, there needs to be an assessment of whether this is the result of good or bad messiness. Identifying the reasons for messiness guides the response, whether celebrating messiness for good reasons or seeking to change things for bad reasons.

Below are 3 good reasons and 3 bad reasons for messiness in missional communities.

The Good, Gospel-Centered Reasons

Gospel-Centered Confession & Transformation

Yesterday, I outlined the majority of this idea. When a community is centered on and celebrating the gospel of Jesus Christ, people bring out past hurts, current sins, and struggles to the community to seek transformation and change. This is to be celebrated, but can be difficult to recognize as good because of a false understanding that morality equals spirituality.

Raw Questions from Exploring & Potential Believers

Another good reason for messiness comes from people exploring Christianity, either new to the faith or exploring it for the first time. This typically leads to raw questions that are unfortunately uncommon in church settings, but must be dealt with as people explore how Christianity truly affects life. These questions can cause messiness because they confront people’s beliefs, their values, and way of life.

This is what missional communities are intended to be. The best place to explore Christianity amongst people that love God and seek to live for Him. One thing we encourage our leaders to be aware of is the desire to always have the “right” answer. We encourage our leaders to be comfortable in saying “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.” It’s better to seek out the gospel-centered scriptural truth, than feel pressured to share personal advice. Missional communities have the best opportunity to cultivate this type of messiness as people from all walks of life are invited to explore Christianity.

Inter-Generational & Racially Diverse Convergence

This has been common since the establishment of the church as you see this type of convergence in the book of Acts and later Paul explains to the Ephesians church the benefit of racial diversity as a celebration of the gospel. This type of messiness results from misunderstandings and pretenses that can arise from interactions between different races and generations.

It can get messy as pride, ignorance, and poor understanding come to light that most of us can be unaware of. The gospel of Jesus Christ invites us to put down our preferences (conscious or subconscious) to value everyone based on God’s value of them, not their contributions, life stage, or race. Paul celebrates this in the church at Ephesus that their unity is based on faith and not racial preferences or similarities. It’s a mark of the gospel because the greatest treasure in a community.

The Bad, Avoidable Messiness

Undefined And/Or Unshared Leadership

Missional communities demand that shared leadership and defined leadership exist. A community needs multiple voices to guide the aspects of their community to insure that the community is cared for and the gospel is extended. It cannot be on one or even two people to accomplish all that a missional community is made to do.

When there is unclear leadership, things get messy. Despite some people’s ideas of organic-everyone-lead missional community life, a community naturally recognizes who is the leader over time and needs direction to be centered on the gospel. When leadership is not shared, it gets messy because it can feel as though the leader is simply inviting people to accomplish their ideas, instead of the community forming around a collective vision.

Unclear Vision & Direction

Another bad reason for messiness comes from a missional community that has not set the direction or vision. For some communities, this is about setting the aim for honoring God as Christ followers through the lifestyles that we choose to live while others involves setting the direction in extending the gospel so that the community is on mission together rather than a collection of individual missionaries.

Lack of Mission & New People

The last, but certainly not final, reason I want to highlight for bad messiness occurs from a lack of new people and mission. This typically results in a inward focus, trying to perfect the community, and eventually plays out in cattiness between people in the community. When new people come into a community, they can break up some norms that result from dysfunctional relationships that have formed.

Often people are nervous about including new people that come with new ideas and questions, but these new people often bring the community into a healthier life stage. Lacking mission will eventually be the death of the gospel-centered community because the gospel was intended to move outward to the rest of the world. It was not intended to be hidden and much frustration can result from a lack of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

What does a missional community do with all this messiness?

These are simply a few of the reasons messiness exists within missional community and each community could likely expand on these and tell specific stories. As each community faces this type of messiness, they must return to the gospel of Jesus Christ to explore how to respond.

On Thursday, I’ll take a look at how I have and would recommend missional communities respond to messiness.

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Summertime for Missional Communities

We are in the midst of the summer here in NYC, as evidenced by the inescapable heat. Summer starts a little later in NYC than other areas of the country due to a school end date in late June. Similarly, our city has a summer rhythm of life that slows down just a little and enjoys the season immensely.

Churches in the summertime typically mirror this summer rhythm of slowing down, enjoying summer fun, and being less programmed as many people in the church take vacations. While missional communities are not a church program, each church must consider how they encourage and lead their communities or small groups to approach the summer.

How should missional communities function in the summer?

Finding Rest through More Fun & Less Formal Activity

I’ve known many churches who take a break from small groups during the summer, but that communicates that community and mission are seasonal activities and goes against the grain of scriptures description of Christian community. The break has good intentions to provide rest, but it does not help the community develop ongoing healthy rhythms of rest that can be woven into their community during the summer season.

Summer provides time to be less formal in our interaction and participate in the relaxed activities that function naturally as community creators and opportunities for extending the gospel of Jesus Christ. Encouraging communities to view this summer with the intent of finding rest while not sacrificing gospel activity will help them become a community on mission in the everyday.

Approaching the summer with the hope of extending the gospel can also be a way to experience rest. Throughout the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, the Sabbath (day of rest) often plays a predominant role in Jesus’ healing and teaching activities. On the day of rest, Jesus found rest through extending the peace of His love and establishing rest for others.

We encourage our community group leaders to invite others to plan fun activities and social events from their communities so they can take a break from being the initiators of their community. This becomes an invitation to shared leadership amongst the community, inviting all to be contributors to the health of the community.

Summer is a time for more fun and this can teach us that missional communities were intended to also be fun communities.

Finding Mission in Natural Ways

I mentioned this above, that the summer provides some natural activities that can be infused with the mission of extending the grace and love of Christ. Our communities need to approach their summer fun with an eye toward including neighbors, family, and co-workers, instead of just fellow Christians, to learn that mission can happen on the beach, at the pool, and around the grill just as much as on a short-term mission trip.

Here in New York, I watch missionary teams come from all over the country with similarly colored t-shirts and a catchy bible verse on the back to hang out tracks, host camps, and do other “missionary” activity. While these could be good ways to make people aware of Jesus, they are not natural. It’s not natural to spend hundreds of dollars, look awkward, and do abnormal things in a city that is not your home.

When the gospel of Jesus Christ shapes the way we approach life, it can be normal to talk about your regular life (now shaped by your faith) over a meal, at the pool, and while hosting a backyard BBQ. Missional communities can enter into the rhythm of their city during the summer, participate in the neighborhood’s activities and find themselves cultivating friendships where life and the worldview that shapes it can be discussed.

The hope for missional communities in the church is for the community of Christ followers to be living this way throughout the year and the summer provides an easy learning ground to teach us outside of a classroom.

Finding Vision for a Fall Re-Launch

The summer season also provides a time to celebrate what God has done in the community over the past year. I find these is so much to celebrate in all the community groups at our church over this past year and unfortunately it usually takes times of slowing down to reflect and recognize all that has happened. The summer is a season of celebration that can provide great excitement for future motivation.

As each Community Group pursues the gospel shaping their summer fun, they are inadvertently preparing their community for a fall re-launch. Cultivating a community that enjoys one another and has a view towards welcoming others into it.

The summer is meant for us to be refreshed by having fun, but it can teach us to make this type of fun activity a community rhythm even when the formal schedules of school, busy season at work, and a busier church calendar begin to vie for our time in the fall. Of course, you could also use it to take a break from doing anything and you may find rest, but you might also cultivate a lifestyle where rest means escaping and disengaging. I’m not suggesting that you never simply stop, there needs to be time where things merely lie dormant. At the same time, rest was intended to be implemented into a weekly rhythm and not just a yearly break.

Missional communities need to enjoy their summer and find rest, but rest does not always have to be absent from the family of God or the mission of God (not that they should be separated).

Enjoy your summer, it’s the only way to find rest.

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Reading the Bible with People who Don’t Believe it

I didn’t grow up going to church and when I finally did, I started reading the bible on my own. I started reading from Genesis hoping I would end in Revelation and after 5 and ½ years I did. But even reading it on my own, there was much confusion and many questions. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that someone invited me to read the bible with them, answer my questions, and challenge my worldview.

I started to be confronted with a theology I had built of God based on my experiences rather than what God says about who He is in the bible.

Five years later, I was challenged to be on the other end of that equation, to invite people to read the bible with me who didn’t believe it. I was challenged to extend an invitation to people that might be curious about Christianity or understanding who Jesus is, what He did, and why He is so important. I remember thinking, “Why would anyone who doesn’t believe it, want to read it with me?” all while forgetting the affect reading scripture had on my own life.

Since then, I’ve read through the gospel account with a number of people who do not believe it, have no faith or have a faith that is dramatically different than mine. I have found these interactions to be the most amazing, joy-filled and impactful times in my life. As I’ve started to do this again with some friends of mine recently and I began thinking about what I’ve learned in the process of inviting people who don’t believe it to read the bible with me.

Bad religious experiences define understanding of Jesus

Most people have a view of God that is based on poor religious experiences with flawed Christian churches rather than on seeking to understand Jesus Christ in the Bible. I’ve heard so many stories of not wanting to associate with Christ because of experiencing judgment and hypocrisy from those claiming to be Christians and from church experiences.

It’s important to recognize that all Christians and churches are flawed, which is why the gospel of Jesus Christ exists. This gives us the freedom to apologize for the sins of others who claim Christ, our own sins and build bridges of imperfection in people that lead to a perfect Christ.

Listening to them tell their story of their interactions with Christianity will be a great way to connect their current theology to their religious experience. Reading the bible together allows the scriptures to explain Jesus and Christianity better than our experiences.

Explore Jesus & Christianity, not Church

There’s no reason to discuss joining a church if people are just beginning to explore Christianity. I’ve learned to distinguish reading the bible from joining a church, not to neglect the church community, but to remove any obstacles to truly exploring Jesus.

Relationship & Gospel Receptivity is Essential

Evangelicalism can put such an emphasis on knowledge that it neglects the relational aspect of life. When it comes to sharing our faith with others, we can easily forget that our lives testify to the truth of our words. Authenticity is the expression of our faith through everyday life.

Only if people are somewhat receptive to the gospel will they be receptive to reading the bible that explains the gospel. I’ve learned to only extend this kind of invitation to people who express a desire to learn about God, God’s grace, Jesus or the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is because I know the bible is better at explaining these things than my words.

Explain the story & content of scripture

If you are familiar with scripture, you will easily forget how much you assume in regards to other people’s knowledge of the bible. Explain the story of God as laid out in the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Skipping straight to the gospel story misses the explanation of why a Savior is needed.

Additionally, it will be helpful to explain the Old & New Testament and the gospel accounts, since they have 4 different writers with 4 different perspectives. Similarly, you and I tell a story differently, the story has similarities, but key differences. Preparing people who are reading a book they don’t understand communicates concern for them and is essential to making the Bible more tangible for reading.

Listen, Answer Questions, & Learn

I usually recommend going through the gospel of John. This is partly because I love it, but also because it spells out clearly who Jesus is and what His purposes are. We usually read 2 chapters together and I encourage them to ask any and every question possible.

It’s amazing how much I learn when people who have fresh eyes on the reading point out things I easily skip. I don’t always know the answers, but then get to pursue the answers and follow up.

We also aim to share what we think these chapters are challenging us to do and how we are responding to the challenge.

Uncomfortable but Enjoyable

There have been times that I have done this and it’s been a complete train-wreck, and it is no doubt uncomfortable at first, but it really is incredibly enjoyable. Pushing past the initial awkwardness creates an opportunity to learn more about Jesus and more about one another.

Reading the bible with someone who doesn’t believe it lets the scriptures explain clearly who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us in His life, death, and resurrection.

Much will be made of Easter Sunday this week, which can be one powerful day, but inviting people to read the scriptures for themselves moves beyond passive learning to active exploration.

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Missional Community Fail: When Community Takes Center Stage

So I have told you that I used to hate missional communities and that a church community that puts mission at the center leads people to burnout, kills community, and puts the Great Commission over the greatest commandments. These are things I’ve watched in communities, experienced in my own life, and try to my best to prevent as I seek to pastor 30+ communities in New York City.

The more subtle danger for missional communities is to make the community the central focus. It’s natural for us to care for those we already know and we know God calls us to care for and love people that share our faith. It’s subtle because we can use all of our energy and fill our schedule with church activities without realizing we have stopped giving time and love to those who do not share our faith.

It’s dangerous because the intent is to develop the community, but it ultimately stifles and kills the community.

3 Major Failures when Community takes on the central focus

1. Community turns Inward

When a community turns inward, eliminating the opportunity for people outside the community to participate, the goal becomes creating a community of perfection. We cannot neglect caring for one another and helping people become like Christ, but the goal is not to be perfect people, but to know our perfect Savior.

Eventually the community will consume itself. It won’t happen immediately, but eventually the community will become stagnant, no longer becoming like Christ because they are not welcoming to those outside of the community.

Have you ever seen a church split over a seemingly foolish issue? It happened because the community turned inward, began arguing toward perfection on secondary issues and drawing lines in the sand that everyone must follow. The gospel no longer became the only close-handed issue that couldn’t be compromised. It became a Christ+ community. You have to not only follow Christ, but you have to act in a very specific way like the community. Christ + specific belief/way of life is now the measure of your belonging.

2. Community becomes savior

Eventually the community becomes your savior. You can’t imagine living without the community and even the idea of creating a new community for new people is seen as evil and destructive to the community.

Yes, the Christian faith is a community faith. It is not simply a me and my God, but a us and our God faith, but an overdependence on the community for our spiritual relationship will kill the community. The Christian community was not intended to be Jesus, but to point us to Jesus.

When this happens our identity, the guiding reality of our life, shifts from being a son or daughter of God to the community identity. If this is our life-stage, job, or mission, we take on this secondary identity as primary. So when someone from a different life-stage, job, or outside the mission comes along, we don’t welcome that and actually reject them to maintain our community.

The gospel community maintains Jesus as the goal and maintains our identity in Christ. This frees us from clutching onto community to make it welcoming to others and even leave it when the opportunity to glorify God elsewhere presents itself.

3.    The community bears no fruit indicating death

Throughout the scriptures and very pointedly in John 15, Jesus describes those who depend on God as people who “bear fruit”. They display by their character, convictions, and actions a Christ-likeness with joy, patience, love, self-control, faithfulness, and peace. In addition a community of Christ followers is to grow and expand to include more Christ followers.

This faithfulness to God in lifestyle and mission is what God asks of Christians. He will take care of the results of seeing people come to a saving faith in the loving work of Jesus Christ on the cross and in the resurrection.

If something is intended to bear fruit but does not, it is dead. An inward facing community is typically unwelcoming and tends to be judgmental. No one who does not share that attitude wants to be around people who are judgmental. A judgmental community conveys a solely judgmental God. We serve a God who is just and will judge everyone, but extends a gracious opportunity to avoid judgment through faith in Jesus Christ.

Gospel-Led Community Enhanced by Healthy Mission

A community that embraces Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior should become the most welcoming community. The results of the gospel taking root is freedom to love anyone and everyone.

A gospel-led community grows and is made healthy by mission. We’ve seen this repeatedly in our communities. When we extend hospitality and love to those we disagree with, to those who don’t live “just like us” or believe differently, we get to experience how Christ lived on earth.

The judgmental community of Christ’s day and culture, the Pharisees, were shocked that Jesus welcomed people who disagreed with him, who weren’t righteous like them. The scriptures show that Christ was quick to extend grace to anyone who needed to be welcomed and loved.

The gospel-led community does not sacrifice community on the altar of mission, but it also does not exalt community to replace Jesus. Starting with the gospel leads to a community that loves Jesus, loves one another, and loves anyone outside the community.

This is what I have seen in the past and at times currently. It has shaped my approach to missional communities which I hope to elaborate on in the weeks to come.

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15 Lessons in 15 Months in NYC: 5-1

The end of the year is always a time to reflect over what went on and what you’ve learned from the past year. For me, this is an opportunity to reflect over the last 15 months of being in New York. These are lessons we have learned personally and from watching and interacting with others in the city. I posted lessons 15-11 on Monday and lessons 10-6 on Wednesday, and here are lessons 5-1.

5. To be “For the City” you must be “For Your Neighborhood”
The good news is that most churches have recaptured an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ that leads to a huge concern for and move to act on behalf of the poor and marginalized. As a result there are many churches that are seeking the physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare of their city. They are being “For the City” by advocating for the human flourishing of every person in the city.

This is the vision of a church truly being Jesus to their city, but practically this must be worked out in neighborhoods. In Manhattan, it seems that every 10 blocks is telling its own story, presenting a message of its worldview that is different from the surrounding area. It’s no different in the suburbs as subdivisions present a fairly consistent message about what is important.

Each neighborhood has beauty to it and each neighborhood has brokenness. To seek the human flourishing of a city, you must start next door or down the block. Begin by answering the questions “What do I love about my neighborhood?” and “What is the one thing I would like to see improved that would heal the brokenness of my neighborhood?”

Our city is 8.5 million people with the matching problems. Until “the city” becomes smaller and more tangible through our neighborhood, the task of seeking human flourishing is too daunting, but a community of people working together on the issues of their neighbors can see beautiful change.

4. To be “For Your Neighborhood” you must enjoy your neighborhood
The unfortunate side of recapturing a gospel vision to care for the poor is the ability of the human heart to make a good cause a duty to perform. A duty attitude prevents you from investing in your neighborhood the same way you would if you enjoyed it.

We only live for and give ourselves fully to things that we enjoy. So what do you enjoy about your neighborhood? What do you enjoy about your neighbors? If you spend all of your time commuting to another part of town, why don’t you move there?

I’ve seen this attitude change our way of life and the way of life of others in our community. In New York, you can live your whole life within a 10 block radius, it is built to be a walkable and enjoyable community, but if you only see the brokenness and never look for the beauty to enjoy, you will despise your neighborhood and never care for it in a way that could improve it.

3. Community is part of the mission
I am a huge advocate for missional communities, the idea of a community of Christ followers extending the message and mercy of Christ together. Unfortunately, the pendulum seems to have shifted to only beating the drum of mission at the neglect of community. It has become more about “being missional” than being a community…on mission.

Building a healthy community is just as much a part of the mission as reaching and caring for new people. Sacrificing community for the sake of mission will lead to burnout, bitterness, hurt and sin that goes unaddressed and never gets healed.

The communities I’ve seen that flourish on mission usually flourish as a family caring for one another. The habit of loving others becomes so ingrained in the community it naturally overflows to those outside of the community.

You don’t JUST aim for community or JUST aim for mission, you aim for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which invites people into a loving family and sends that family on mission to care for others and invites others into that family.

2. Community takes 6-9 months to establish, another 3-6 is a lot of fun & then it gets messy

We left a lot of great friends and family when we moved. Initially, we were wondering who might replace them, but you don’t replace old friends, you make new ones. It’s “not the same” as it was and it shouldn’t be. There’s no need to replace, there’s need to establish new relationships.

It takes a while, usually 6-9 months, then you have fun for a while, but then it gets messy. It seems like we have been taught that messiness should never happen in friendships, but you handle the messiness (the somewhat annoying habits, the differences of opinions, the correction conversations) and work through the messiness, the relationships are better on the other end.

Community takes time, sometimes it’s awkward, messy, and not always fun, but eventually becomes a joy to those who pursue it and commit to it.

1. Despite all the challenges it’s worth it

The last 15 months have been amazing, but they have also been incredibly challenging, and at times painful. We left behind friends, family, and what seemed like the American dream with a house on a cul-de-sac, but it’s been worth it. It can be challenging to be a family in the city, there are plenty of shocking looks and comments about having such a huge family, but it’s worth it.

We are incredibly thankful that we have been able to grow as a family while being a part of a church that cares for one another like a family, but also seeks to care for the neighborhoods of this city as is they are our family as well.

Jesus died on a cross and promised His followers a joyful life, but also that it would involve sacrifices and those would at times be painful. Saying goodbye and missing friends and family has been painful, but there has been a greater understanding of the Christian faith and a greater opportunity to share our faith because of the sacrifices we have felt God has called us to.

There are many more lessons that I have learned and surely many more that I will learn. I hope you have enjoyed my processing of the last year plus and would encourage you to do the same.

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Bless your pastor with your home

Last I week, I posted a blog titled “Want to bless your pastor?” and listed 4 practical ways you could do that and this week I’m hoping to expand on each of those 4 practical ways. The 4 ways I listed (obviously not comprehensive) were 1) Treat your home as a mini-church, 2) Go to work as a missionary, 3) Wrestle with and Embrace your pastor’s vision, 4) Humbly submit to serve in their ministry.

My hope is to provide practical advice on how to accomplish them and also how it can bless your pastor and your church.

Treat Your Home as a Mini-Church

Christian culture has centered itself around a Sunday gathering for centuries and somewhere along the way we began compartmentalizing our Christian lives by making Sunday really special, the only place where worship occurs, even utilizing at as THE ONE place of learning from the Bible through listening to a sermon.

This has resulted in the hypocritical living Christianity has grown to be known by in the world. That we love to look good on a Sunday, but don’t enjoy living it out Monday thru Saturday. Jesus and the scriptures clearly taught an entire way of life centered and ordered around faith lived out through love and obedience, but the question is how can this really be lived out if we’re only being spiritual for 2-3 hours on a Sunday or 30-minute at the drive thru church in Waco…

I believe the answer is transforming our home into a mini-church. A place where worship, living in the community of fellow believers, learning from the Word of God, prayer, and welcoming those who don’t believe that same things as you occur regularly.  When Paul writes to Timothy he says only choose leaders who can lead their families as a mini-church well to lead the larger church (1 Timothy 3). It seems our home-life is the primary indicator of how well we are truly believing the gospel and faithfully obeying it.

Our home is where we spend most of our week, but it is often the place where we are laziest and most selfish. It becomes a retreat from the world into our own pleasures instead of a place where the gospel can be clearly lived out.

So what are the things we enjoy about a Sunday and how can they be brought into our mini-church?

1.       Worship thru song and prayer – Every church you go to spends at least half the time singing and songs tend to be a great expression of our thoughts, prayers, and emotions toward God. They don’t have to be left at church, as anyone with a CD player, DVD player, computer or iPod/iPhone can listen to the music at their home. Maybe instead of the TV being on 24/7 you let your house be filled with worship music and if you’re really crazy you can sing along…

What about prayer? Is prayer something that only occurs at meals? You can set aside specific times and topics to pray for by developing a prayer calendar. Sometimes a little planning is all it takes to transform your home into a church.

Sidenote: If you have kids, learn from the kid’s ministry at your church. Let worship be fun with motions and dancing, read your kids stories at mealtime, and let them see your spiritual life.

2.       Living in Community with Believers – One of my favorite aspects of church is seeing fellow believers who I love and have become my family, but why wait until Sunday? Everyone eats dinner, so why not invite your fellow believers into your meal times and let your home and dinner table become a place of meaningful conversation over the meaning of a passage of scripture, over the joys and sorrows of life, and simply enjoying each other’s companies.

We have a group that meets each week at our home and we eat dinner together.  It’s some of the sweetest times in our weeks as we catch up, debate and discuss the meanings of scripture and learn from each other. I love it and it helps me to believe in Jesus and live for Him.

This can also be a time where communion can be taken together as a family of faith (obviously my Catholic friends would disagree, but that’s a whole other discussion for another day).

3.       Welcoming people of other or no faith – For too long, Christians have viewed a Sunday service as the place where missions happens, but when you bring someone who believes differently from you to church you have to convert them twice. Once to Christianity and then once to your church’s style. And besides, this only gives you one chance a week to explain Christianity to someone. It’s incredibly difficult for someone to comprehend an entire belief system in 3 hours.

Your home is better than a church since it can be a more welcoming and open environment to make friends with your neighbors and anyone who doesn’t believe as you do. Again, everyone eats so why not invite your neighbors into a meal and let them into your life and discuss the same things with them as you would with believers.

How will this bless your pastor?

Removing Undue Burden – When we view Sunday as our primary means of spiritual activity, we put undue burden on our pastors by relying on them for our spiritual lives. We then have the tendency to become dependent on the pastor’s spiritual life rather than on Jesus and the bible.  They have been tasked with equipping us for ministry, but often we just ask them to DO ministry to and for us on a Sunday.

Partnering Gives Them Joy – If our homes were mini-churches, we would bless them by reducing undue burden, but also by giving them joy as we partner with them for the mission of Jesus and the church to each other and the world.

What else have you done to help your home become a mini-church? How else do you think this blesses your pastor?

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