Tag Archives: missional community

How to Make Attending the Verge Conference a Waste of Time

There are many conferences, but Verge is the only conference that I think is worth attending. That’s a bold statement, but I’ve yet to find another conference that focuses on loving God, shaping a community by the gospel and moving entire churches on mission together.

Verge is not perfect, it has its holes and lacks certain aspects of church ministry that are important, but few conferences seek to impart great theology AND great practices. Most conferences focus only on one or the other.

Conferences are miniature versions of seminary packed into 3 days. It is amazing, yet incredibly challenging to drink from a firehouse for a few days then try and implement anything you learned. You leave inspired, tired, feeling like you need to change everything, but with no idea how to do it.

Attending Verge or any conference becomes a waste of time when you do the following. If you’re not attending Verge, you can watch the Free Webcast.

Critique and Bash Everything Your Church is Doing Now

At Verge, you will hear from all the “experts” who have 12 minutes to share their best stories and material. The temptation is to focus on all that your church is doing wrong and how the church leadership just doesn’t get it. You move away from loving your church to critiquing your church and you no longer are a blessing because your heart is far from love.

What you miss is the struggle behind the story and 12 minute message. There were failures, setbacks, disappointments, and frustrations with beautiful results.

Be open to learning and dreaming about what your church could become for God’s glory, allow for conviction, but hesitate when you find yourself angry and disappointed. Check your heart, pray for your church, and see how you can humbly love and serve your church.

Copy and Paste the Methods You Hear

You will hear the best practices and think there’s one method for missional communities that you can copy and paste their methods to achieve the same stories!! If you do this, you’re missing the beautiful diversity of the gospel of Jesus Christ, missional communities, and even Verge.

There are 4 gospels and Paul wrote letters to different context with different challenges. Focus on the truths of the gospel guiding the mission and the principles, but don’t be lazy in your thinking.

Set aside time throughout the day at Verge, at the end of the day and a whole day when you get back just to process what you are learning, assess what is transferable, and question whether what you’ve heard applies to you and your church.

Worship the Mission and not the Messiah

It can also be tempting to worship the mission over Jesus the Messiah. We’re hungry to see people explore Jesus and the gospel and to be a part of community that loves and serves their neighbors.

This hunger can unfortunately drive us to be more obsessed with missional living than with love for Jesus. What mission is there if we lose our love for Jesus?

Enjoy Verge, learn from it, but enjoy and worship Jesus most. Mission is a terrible God, but Jesus is a beautiful Lord.

What if I want to Implement this and Don’t Know How?

There are so many mechanisms to learn how to implement what you will learn at Verge. Verge must be the beginning of the learning and exploring process.

There are seminars, workshops, collectives, and coaching that will be the best way for you to implement it. Missional communities sound amazing until you start doing it and find it challenging along with facing objections from your church community.

Only these ongoing learning environments or coaching will allow you to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ along the way while you transition your church or plant through missional communities.

I’m looking forward to Verge and learning from others on missional communities, but mostly looking forward to worshipping our missional Jesus.

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Filed under Community Groups, Missional Communities, Small Groups, Verge

Your First Life Transformation Group Will Probably Suck

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.

Yesterday, I shared how Missional Communities suffer without Life Transformation Groups, but it’s also true the Life Transformation Groups suffer without Missional Communities.

Life Transformation Groups provide the best context for questions about the Bible and personally applying them to your life. Life Transformation Groups are small enough and their nature as gender-specific create a space for vulnerability to admit what you don’t know about God’s Word or admit the parts of God’s Word you don’t actually live.

Community Groups, or Missional Communities, serve as a family forum of sorts dialoguing about a community’s understating and application of the Bible, while LTGs create the space for a more personal dialogue, challenge, and application.

Life Transformation Groups have a self-explained role in their title, seeing people changed. The major question is how. They agree to read and study a portion of scripture together, then come together to discuss not just what they’ve learned, but how God challenged them in reading it. The dialogue usually cuts to the heart of the issue and then moves to what change must happen to follow God and love others well. Lastly, the aim is to pray for each other’s needs and each other’s friends.

While these groups are amazing, your first experience will probably suck.

Your First LTG will Probably Suck

We had agreed to read the gospel of Luke together, but every time we met one of us hadn’t read it. This was new to us and we had a suitcase full of excuses around busyness or life that we could get out of it. But we still tried the confession aspect and honestly that was painful.

Initially it was good to confess things I hadn’t shared with people, freeing even, but when the confession time kept being a repeat of the week before it reminded me of ineffective accountability groups.

We also weren’t connected to a missional community, so we lacked a broader accountability and space to pursue relationships and the life of Christ outside of studying and talking about it. It didn’t last more than a month.

But since then I’ve seen them get better. Here’s how…

Jesus as the Aim

We have shifted the questions from the list of what you did/didn’t do to being all about Jesus and your pursuit of Him. The scriptures continually push us to focus on Jesus and His gospel as the means by which we are transformed. The actions we have done or didn’t do are merely a reflection of our lack of loving Jesus most.

So the questions push us beyond behavior and into joy. Confession and forgiveness is easier when we are reminded of Jesus first.

Smaller Chunks of Scripture Deeper

The original Life Transformation Group encouragement is to study large chunks of scriptures, but there is so much depth in every passage. Slowing down the study and conversation allows us to deal with the impacts of the truth more clearly.

More than LTGs with Mission

Life Transformation Groups connected to Missional Communities create the space for extending the gospel of Jesus Christ to others outside the community. When this happens, it provides a broader community that is after the same aims with the members of the LTG and also moves the LTG to prayer for those they love.

Life Transformation Groups get better as they focus on living the full life of Christ moving beyond bible study and confession into mission with a broader community.

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Filed under Community Groups, Missional Communities, Small Groups

How My Faith Grows in Missional Communities

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.

Yesterday I wrote about how I respond when asked how “mature Christians” can be fed in a Community Group. Today I wanted to share how missional communities have impacted and increased my faith.

(It is ironic that I started blogging again about missional communities and then we had to miss our community group gathering last night for health reasons. Kind of like rain on your wedding day or a free ride when you’ve already paid. Alanis Morissette anyone?!?)

As I thought through it, the growth of my faith falls into a few categories and then I thought I’d provide some additional practicals.

Watching Awe and Delight Causes Awe and Delight

As I’ve reflected on how the communities that I have been in have shaped and expanded my faith, it reminded me that Jesus enjoyed watching faith happen and people express their faith in Him. In the gospels, seeing faith seemed to be the area that caused Him the greatest joy and delight.

A centurion soldier believes Jesus can just speak the words and his servant will be healed, a Canaanite woman humbles herself in belief that Jesus can heal her daughter, men break someone’s roof open to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus and Jesus marveled, was in awe, and enjoyed it.

I am pretty far from being anything like Jesus, but I do see my faith increase, my awe grow, and my delight in Jesus and His gospel expand as I watch people enjoy and believe in God. This has been one of the most amazing things for my faith to see people wrestle with their own beliefs, express delight in God and be amazed at His goodness. I love it.

Faith that Transforms Pushes my Faith

Similarly, I watch those in our missional community talk about how their faith is changing their lives and it reminds me, pushes me, and exhorts me to do the same.

They speak of how they are seeking for their faith in Christ to guide them in caring for their co-workers, praying for their family and friends in need, and even convicting them to stop the bad habits of their lives. There is great power in this vulnerability and it cultivates in me a greater dependence on God.

It also reminds me that faith in Jesus transforms, it doesn’t just educate. Knowledge without obedience cultivates pride, but knowing your lack of obedience and need for Christ cultivates humility. This blesses me tremendously.

Learning from a Diversity of Perspectives

I’ve been in missional communities with people who are wealthy and with the formerly homeless, with families, newlyweds, singles, and divorced. The journey of life creates an experience of God that I would never receive by spending time with people just like me and in my life stage or demographic.

There have been people who have never been to church, some just exploring it, some hating it, and some who have been in church their whole lives. Hearing them express their thoughts on God, dialogue about them with others, and even learn from one another teaches me. In my missional community I’m not just learning the Greek meaning for the word in this text (not that there’s anything wrong with that disclaimer), but I’m watching truth change lives and even change mine.

It makes me a better follower of Christ.

Being under Leadership

I don’t lead our missional community and I haven’t led one in a while. I love it and not merely because I don’t have the responsibility – it’s quite the opposite. I think I have more responsibility in following than in leading. The scriptures call us all to submit to God, but also to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Lacking any authority in your life is a dangerous reality and learning to be led by others only makes you a better leader.

My faith grows as I trust God under other people’s leadership and watch them grow and flourish in that leadership. I’m reminded that God the Holy Spirit empowers all of the people of God to participate in the entire mission of God and it makes me extremely thankful to God for this reality. More pastors should enjoy being led in a missional community. It’s good for the soul.

Some Additional Practicals

In addition, I thought I would list some things about my approach or that I also participate in as a part of our missional community that has increased my faith.

  • I pray for my Community Group often, especially before we gather and my heart is changed through my consideration of their needs over my own.
  • I don’t approach missional community looking to be served or taught, but as a time to pursue and explore God with our church family and those new to God. The results are usually that I learn, I’m encouraged, and I’m more joyful afterwards.
  • We have served the neighborhood together and that is a great way to demonstrate faith.
  • I engage in a Life Transformation Group with a guy in our Community Group. I’ll write more about LTGs, but it’s a good space to engage the scriptures outside of our community gathering.
  • I expect equipping in knowledge and theology to happen outside of Community Group as well. More to come on this.

The Christian faith is so much more than ascent to knowledge; it uniquely affects the heart, mind, soul, and actions. Missional Community has increased, revived, and expanded my faith in tremendous ways. I’m so thankful for my community.

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Filed under Community Groups, Missional Communities, Small Groups, Verge

Entering into Missional Community Messiness

Last week I intended to complete this small series on missional community messiness that every community will face. Last Tuesday, I focused on the 3 bad and 3 good reasons missional communities get messy and today will be about engaging this messiness.

Engaging vs. Ending the Missional Community

Many people would prefer to simply end the missional community and then move on to the next one when messiness arises. While that seems like an easy solution, it doesn’t address the root issues that will eventually repeat themselves and it doesn’t model the gospel of Jesus Christ at all.

The gospel of Jesus Christ informs us that Christ came to us specifically because we were a mess and his love for us compelled Him to enter into our world. He then took our mess on Himself on the cross, enduring the punishment our mess caused so that we wouldn’t have to face it. In His resurrection, we have hope that our mess can be addressed and transformed. God did not end the world, but sought to redeem it through Jesus.

This gives us hope when we find that our missional communities are messy and dealing with challenges.

Engaging the Bad Messiness Through a Missional Reset

Bad messiness in missional communities is the result of undefined or unshared leadership which usually leads to unclear vision and direction so the community lacks mission and is no longer seeing new people added to their community.

The best way to address these issues is to have a missional community reset. Take a few consecutive weeks to redefine the intent and direction as a community. This involves the leaders developing their general vision and then inviting the community to speak into the overall direction. (I plan on elaborating on developing a collective vision in the coming weeks.) Spend time as a community bringing to light the dysfunction. This freedom to face dysfunction comes from the gospel because we don’t have to pretend perfection; the gospel shows us our imperfection. This allows us to embrace our weaknesses, bring them to the community and address them collectively.

There may be natural times to do this like the beginning of a new season of community groups or it may need to be done in the middle of the season so the messiness won’t continue. The aim of the community to embody Jesus in His holy life and compassionate action needs to be clear or the community will sacrifice one while embracing the other which is unsustainable.

This missional community reset provides the arena for the community to share their desires for change and invite full engagement in the future direction together. Despite this messiness being a result of bad leadership, it is easier and quicker to address than the good messiness.

The Good Messiness Requires the Long-Suffering Love of God

Confession & Transformation

When the gospel sinks deep into the lives of people in community, they begin to share long-term struggles they wish would go away. These can often be tremendously challenging and habitual issues that require long-term care from the community. If we are honest with ourselves, we’d prefer not to long-suffer with people when there is no end in sight, but nothing can convey the love of God like long-suffering with others for transformation.

Jesus redeems us from our sin by faith (theology term: justification), but also promises to make us more like Him over the course of our lives (sanctification) until death when we fully become like Jesus in the life everlasting (glorification). That’s a long process, but God chooses to use His people to help us through that and the community that assists one another through trials, struggles, tragedies, and transformation from sin will know a depth of the gospel love of God that others don’t. Throughout this process they will also proclaim to the world that the power and love of God is greater than the mess of this life.

Raw Questions from Exploring & Potential Believers

A community that can endure the raw and messy details of life will likely find themselves faced with people exploring Christianity or new believers who have genuine questions about how faith shapes the world that will be incredibly challenging. We all want easy black and white questions and answers, but most raw questions deal with questions about Christianity’s encounter with our current culture.

This is when issues of sexuality, work and faith, theological convictions that separate faiths, and Christian values conflict with the norms of culture. In some cases, the missional community leader won’t know the answer and that’s ok, as long as they join the community in seeking the answer together. In other cases, the answer will confront the norms of the lives in the community that are shaped by the culture instead of Christ.

We’re not comfortable with this type of confrontational grace (though some are too comfortable with confrontational culture wars) that extends love by way of truth presented with gentleness.  I recently had a conversation where “all the cards were put on the table” and the disagreement was clear, but the result was not separation and end of friendship. The result was a continued commitment to explore these ideas together. I was very encouraged by that and I have seen the same thing occur in a number of our communities.

Each missional community can create a gospel-centered culture where rawness is embraced over always being right. It’s challenging, but it reflects the work of Jesus in our own lives, as God peels back layers little by little to reveal His desires for our lives over our own.

Inter-Generational & Racially Diverse Convergence

The church community can unfortunately be more segregated than the rest of the world. It was not supposed to be as evidenced by the scriptures speaking of a gospel that reconciles beyond age and race. For the missional community to seek to be gospel-centered in a way that embraces diversity, the community must be aware that diversity brings its own challenges. Our unspoken preferences can often be shaped by our culture, race, and age in ways that we have not confronted or acknowledged.

Living with a community of people dissimilar to you in life circumstances, but similar because of Jesus will bring these things to light. Embracing diversity allows us to see the beautiful design of God in culture, age, and race that fully magnify Him with their uniqueness over sameness. There may be times when conflicts arise, but letting the grace of God that is extended to us in Jesus guide our response will lead to a healthier community. The wisdom and strength of a diverse community speaks powerfully of the gospel of Jesus Christ to move beyond preferences and maintain God’s glory as the goal.

Every Missional Community will face messy seasons, but the gospel of Jesus Christ defines our response so that our community can continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the world.

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Filed under Community Groups, Gospel Enjoyment, Missional Communities, Small Groups

Your Missional Community Will Get Messy

Every gospel-centered missional community goes through a life cycle of forming and then having a time period of fun as they seek to enjoy and extend the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Eventually, the community will find themselves in a period of messiness. Every leader I have known and I myself have felt like a failure when the messiness comes into the community. When I speak of messiness, I mean the difficulties in the lives of people who are a part of the community coming to light.

Most missional community leaders think of the ideal community as strong people on a powerful mission affecting the lives of others. We have a tendency to paint this picture in the stories we tell about the communities we hope will exist. The problem is that the gospel of Jesus Christ explains to us that we are a broken people extending a perfect gospel to other broken people. None of us are perfect and our perfection is not our qualifier for being on mission, though too often we think our moral record justifies us before God and other people.

So when the ideal community we hope for ends up being people with past hurts or filled with people struggling to move away from habitually destructive behavior in their relationships or private lives, as leaders we think the community should end.  Leaders tend to see this as failure, but the messiness reveals the exact opposite.

The Gospel Freedom to Share Flaws

A gospel-centered community is a group of people built upon the belief that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and affects the rest of our lives. It is believing that Christ chose to die for our imperfect lives and give us His perfect record so that we could know God and live for Him.

While it can be easy for all of us to see the flaws of others, we also see the flaws of the person in the mirror every day. We do our best to hide those flaws from the world as a result of believing the world’s acceptance is contingent upon our perfection. Maintaining a perfect reputation eventually becomes exhausting because the effort is too much, depressing because we can’t attain it and leaves us longing to bring down the façade. We are looking for acceptance from imperfect people by presenting a perfect self.

A gospel-centered community establishes the environment where people feel most comfortable sharing these flaws. The gospel of Jesus Christ frees us from this pursuit of perfection acceptance from others because we have more acceptance than we can imagine in the perfect God of the universe through the gospel. Not only this, but God promises acceptance as you are and assistance in processing and overcoming your flaws and sins over time.

Eventually, the people in your missional community begin to take this truth seriously, believing that change is possible they confront and share their flaws. The gospel freedom to do this inside of a community is part of the aim of the missional community in making disciples. Disciples of Jesus Christ continually experience freedom in sharing their weaknesses, temptations, and failures in sin and by confession seek forgiveness and strength to overcome the power these things hold on our lives.

It’s Messy & It’s Good

The freedom side of this idea sounds amazing, but the initial stage of revealing hurt, pain, mistakes, and errors make things a little bit messy. The messiness is good for all of us because it becomes the path to be empowered by the gospel. When we let the truths of God established through Jesus Christ transform us within a community, the community celebrates the gospel of Jesus Christ by extending it to others.

Gospel transformation leads to mission because experiencing joy from freedom in Jesus overflows in telling others of that in which you have found joy. When the gospel is applied to our communities and it sinks in deep, sin is confessed and brought out in the open ruining any power it has in hiding. This causes delight in Christ for those revealing their mess, but also for the community that walks through the mess with them.

This can be such a good and unique time for the community to value and treasure Christ most because they are not merely enjoying each other for the fun and ease of social events and bible discussion. They are caring for one another to see God bring hope, joy, and love to an area of life where none has existed. It solidifies the love of God in a community and the love of God naturally finds expression in loving others.

Bad Messiness & What to Do When it Gets Messy

This type of messiness for a community can be really healthy as it expresses a depth of the gospel, but there is other messiness that can be bad for the community. Whether a community finds themselves in good or bad messy seasons, they also need to know how to move forward together.

In lights of this my hope is to discuss the good and bad messy areas for a community tomorrow and then write about how to address the messiness in missional communities on Thursday.

Check back then and feel free to add feedback, questions, or your own experience below.


Filed under Gospel Enjoyment, Missional Communities

To Lead Well, Align Well

As my wife and I were preparing to have our first son, Eli, we had to make decisions about our vehicles. The plan was to sell the ’96 red Ford Mustang she had purchased in high school and to purchase a mom-mobile sedan and keep the Xterra I had been driving since college. Unfortunately, the Xterra was totaled when a racing vehicle on the highway that eventually fled the scene hit us. We were fine, but the Xterra was done and we replaced it with the mom-mobile sedan.

This meant that I inherited the ’96 Ford Mustang, every young professional’s dream. Unfortunately the Mustang wasn’t in the best shape being as old as it was. The tires consistently wore out quickly and had to be replaced, the battery connections rendered multiple batteries useless, the radiator tapped out over time, and the odometer stopped working at 95,789 miles.

One of the major problems it had was an alignment problem. When I would take my hands off the wheel it would veer away from the direction I was traveling. This started off as a small issue, I only had to overcorrect on the wheel slightly, but it kept getting worse. This not only affected driving straight, it caused the tires to wear out even quicker and became a costly repair.

I’ve seen this same type of alignment issues and affects inside communities that I’ve led and I’ve seen others lead. The leader may have a clear direction of where the community or small group is supposed to go, but if the entire community is not aligned it could eventually be a costly fix to re-align.

Leading well in missional communities, community groups, or whatever you term small groups, requires that there is clear alignment and direction through the life of the community.

Align at the Start through Vision Casting & Collaboration
Every Ford Mustang was supposed to built with accurate alignment to drive straight when the wheel was straight and to adjust as the wheel directed. There can always be a design or direction for anything at the start. If there is no vision or direction in a Community Group, it will falter from the beginning since it lacks a purpose.

For every new leader, we ask them to think through how their community will embody our core values of Gospel Enjoyment, Intentional Community and Prayerful Mission. Their first official meeting as a community is centered on casting this vision and forming it with the rest of the group.

The unique nature of a missional community that seeks to share leadership is that the leader both casts vision and collaborates on vision.

The leader spends time considering their neighborhood and the people in the community to see how this group will truly embody the core values. This allows the leader to cast vision for what they sense needs to happen as a community. As they cast the vision to the community, they seek input from the rest of the group in order to solidify the vision.

This type of collaboration enables every person in the community to take ownership as they form a unified vision. The leader casts the vision based on the community values and the community forms the vision into practicals that shape how the community will function in seeking to accomplish the vision.

Alignment is most easily set at the beginning, as this enables you to identify when things are in need of realignment. When the community is drifting away from the aims that have been set. Realignment assumes there has been initial direction and alignment.

Maintaining Alignment
Just as every car has regular check-ups to make sure it is functioning appropriately and that includes the car alignment, each community will need regular alignment checks. A leader has the responsibility to assess each new idea or activity to see if it is in line with the direction set by the community.

A community group will certainly evolve over time, but the principle aims for the a gospel-centered community on mission do not shift much. The practicals can either reinforce the alignment or begin to take the community off course.

I had a meal recently with leaders who were discussing the future of their community and identifying the current state of their community. The leaders recognized the health of the community in their care for one another, but also saw the need for the future to be more about extending their gracious community to other people. It was so encouraging to hear these leaders recognize their long-term aims, to celebrate where the community was meeting them, but also to humbly recognize and hopefully seek the change the group needed.

This type of reflection is essential for leaders in maintaining alignment.

Realignment Conversations
In a functioning community, there will be some level of disagreement along the way. Some people in the group will only be around for aspects of the community life, but will avoid others. There will be some people who completely disagree and don’t like the community’s direction.

As beautiful as it would be for the dissident to come and discuss their disagreements, in nearly every circumstance it is up to the leader to initiate these conversations. The leader has the responsibility to pursue those in the community who only participate partially and to pursue those in obvious disagreement.

Leadership cannot be passive because the gospel of Jesus Christ is not passive. God is actively seeking and pursuing people to align with His ways. A leader impacted and guided by the gospel moves toward those in need of realignment, they do not simply tolerate them.

These conversations need to happen privately with the aim of winning the person and not the argument. This requires a leader that loves well by listening. This could be a huge opportunity for the community to change and the person in disagreement may have specific gifts that reveal where the community is lacking a full gospel understanding.

When it’s time to sell the car
Over the life cycle of a missional community, it may grow to a point where there are significant differences in alignment throughout the group. It may mean realignment is needed or it may be time to move on altogether. A leader will need to discern if the community is developing multiple directions that would lead to a healthy and beneficial multiplication.

In these instances attempting to maintain alignment will actually be destructive and hinder the mission of God through your community. A handful of the community could develop a passion to display the gospel through mission in a different way that isn’t a complete departure from the aims, but will be expressed differently. Multiplying the community into new expressions will be the best way to start over with new alignment and direction to pursue a healthy community on a healthy mission for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Aligning well as a leader is not an easy task, but leading well requires that every lead identify and seek to maintain the direction and vision of the community. The best leaders won’t simply have the best vision, but will have the clearest community vision. This vision is based on the direction of God from His scriptures to embody the gospel through a loving community faced outward to the world. This gospel-centered vision is worth the effort to seek collective alignment to join in God’s loving mission.

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Filed under Community Groups, Leadership, Missional Communities, Small Groups, To Lead Well

To Lead Well, Share Well

I was meeting with a leader of one of our Community Groups who was exhausted. He was ready to give up, discouraged by the lack of participation from the rest of the community and felt like he was doing too much. He thought the best answer was to quit leading and end the Community Group. After a good conversation over lunch, it became clear that one of the biggest issues facing the Community Group was that he was trying to lead everything. This seemed counterintuitive to him and to most of us. “If I’m the leader, shouldn’t I be leading everything?”

The biggest issue I see in leadership is hoarding responsibility. It comes from a great place, but does not serve the leader, nor does it serve those being led. It burns out leaders, frustrates those being led and rarely mobilizes or develops other leaders.

This is a major issue for gospel-centered communities on mission. To lead well, leaders must share well. Leadership is not about doing everything, being the superhero who plans every event, meets with every person, or finds every opportunity for mission for the community.

Leading like Christ leads us takes an empowering approach, especially to a community. This kind of leadership reflects the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ requires people to believe that we have flaws and only Christ was truly perfect in every way and sphere of life. A leader who is a follower of Christ does not assume that they can do everything the community or group needs accomplished.

Missional communities desperately need leaders who humbly seek to share responsibility for leading the community. The question we need to answer is why do we typically hoard leadership?

We View it as Scriptural Expectation

For many of us, we view this type of leadership as very scriptural. Aren’t we supposed to lead like Christ? Doesn’t this mean we sacrifice most and take on most responsibility, not demanding from others? This is a view of leadership doesn’t think a leader is ever supposed to share responsibility.

The good news for every leader: they are not Jesus Christ. Christ alone could fully embody every perfect gift and bear the burden of us all. The scriptures that follow Christ’s life, death, and resurrection point the need for communal leadership that seeks to empower every Christ follower for the work of ministry.

This is the point of passages in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 that speak to the reality we see everyday. We are all gifted uniquely, which leads us to need one another to accomplish the mission that God has placed in front of us. We cannot do this alone and the community can lead through individuals taking leadership in a variety of ways.

This how the scriptures speak of leadership and how it is demonstrated for us in the stories of the Bible. A community led by a community of people.

We Fear Losing Control

For some of us, if we’re honest, we fear losing control of the outcome. This could be born out of fearing that quality will suffer or that it won’t get done or done perfectly.

The gospel of Jesus Christ can free us from this. Christ’s gospel reminds us that we couldn’t accomplish salvation on our own and we were in need of Jesus to do it right for us. It frees us from thinking so highly of ourselves that we think we need to do everything or it won’t be done well.

Quality tends to suffer most when people hoard leadership most. Sharing leadership may result in a dip in quality, but part of good leadership is coaching and empowering those you share with to better than you were.

This sounds that a nice ideal, but it may actually be what is preventing us from sharing leadership in the first place.

We Fear Others Being Better Than Us

There are some leaders who don’t share responsibility and if they were really honest, would admit that some of it has to do with fear of others doing it better than them.

When we look at Jesus and His leadership, once again we are encouraged to move beyond this fear and make it a hope. Jesus says that His disciples will do greater things than what they saw Him do. He didn’t have a fear that they would accomplish more and do greater things, it was His hope and plan! Isn’t that amazing?

We see this same mentality in Barnabas in the book of Acts. If you follow the story of Barnabas, you see that he was the one who took a risk on Paul and discipled him. Over time Acts tells the story of how the discipler (Barnabas) takes a back seat to the disciple (Paul).

Great leaders don’t fear others being better than them, they aim for it. Sharing leadership can be the best way to empower and develop leaders that will take the community to greater places. It will redefine success for leaders who tend towards wanting credit and seeking glory, to wanting the same for others.

Leader who seek the glory can tend towards using people to get their own ends, instead of being for people, wanting greatness for those they lead.

We Don’t Know How

For others, and specifically for the Community Group leader I had lunch with, they don’t know how to share leadership.

Over lunch, we discuss the various aspects of his Community Group. They were seeking to be a healthy missional community. A community that prayed and discussed the scriptures together, ate meals together, served together, had accountability and incorporate non-Christ followers into the community. The main problem was that he was the only one initiating all of these things.

After discussing the people in his community and what they are passionate about in the community or naturally gifted in, it became apparent that the next step in his leadership development was to help them and given them ownership.

The first step in sharing leadership is personal invitation as opposed to mass messages of requesting help. This means identifying the potential gifts of those in the community, encouraging them in those gifts and personally asking them to use their gifts for the benefit of the community.

I encouraged the leader to work with them to get started and follow up with them after they began leading, but then to give them the freedom to lead. Eventually, a leader has to move from directing to coaching to fully trusting those with whom they share leadership.

The biggest transformation that takes place through shared leadership is the death of a consumer community and the birth of a contributing community. An entire community that seeks to contribute to the overall health of the missional community based on the gifts God has given them.

Only when this happens can the community truly display Jesus to one another and their neighborhood.

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To Lead Well, Pray Well

Continuing what has become a series of posts on leading missional communities, those who lead well also pray well. While this is primarily about missional communities, I see this in my own life when it comes to my marriage, family, work, or anything I’m in charge of, the more I consider these things in prayer and declare my dependence on God in prayer, the better leader I am for those things.

A praying leader builds a prayerful community. Jesus’ instructions to His disciples when He had compassion the crowds and saw their needs, was to pray. The typical thought of the leader of a missional community is to rush hard into meeting needs, but Jesus’ call to us is to pray, seeking God who has the power to change the world.

As I consider prayer’s affect on leadership, I see its influence in 2 predominant ways.

 1.    Prayer Changes The Leader Who Prays Often

The Pattern of Praying Leaders in Scripture

In the story of Daniel in the Old Testament, we find a leader who is under authority that does not honor God. He faithfully serves the country and his authority, but also faithfully prays. Daily he seeks God and it becomes such a pattern that when his heart is burdened by needs as it is in Daniel 9, his first impulse is to pray and God responds.

You see the same reality in the story of Nehemiah. A leader who is burdened for those he loves and his first response is prayer. In the midst of his daily work, you see this leader pray and God provide for him in prayer.

It’s no surprise then that Christ follows the same pattern of seeking God privately and also publicly in the midst of everyday life. Prayer is not something only reserved for the closet and is not something only reserved for the midst of everyday life. The apostles and Paul in his letters continue to pray for those they lead.

It transforms them as leaders, bringing them in line with God’s heart for others and bringing them in dependence on the power of God, not their own strength.

To Be a Praying Leader, Pray for Others

All of these mentioned spend much of their time praying for other people. It’s fascinating to look at the prayers recorded in scripture, to see many of them follow a similar pattern of thankfulness to the character of God and asking for God’s work in others.

Leaders who pray selflessly, fixed on God providing for others become the selfless leader the community needs. Daniel & Nehemiah pray for the restoration of the nation of Israel, Jesus prays for his disciples and those who believe in Him. Paul prays for the churches he helped start. These men all have personal needs, found them met in God and spent their prayers asking for God to meet the needs of others.

Not surprisingly, they become the best models for leadership because they sacrificially serve those they lead. This is the result of praying well.

2.    Prayer Invites God to Change Those You Lead

The content of the prayers recorded in scripture show the belief of the leader in the power of God to change any situation and any person.

Daniel believed in the power of God to change an entire nation to return to following God. Nehemiah believed in the power of God to restore the city where God’s people lived. Jesus knew the power of God to establish His followers in His ways and His joy. Paul believed in the power of God to reveal His goodness to His people and to move them to know and follow Him with their lives.

Leaders can easily become prideful thinking they are the ones with the power. This is usually quickly dispelled by their inability to change people or situations on their own. The counter to the prideful leader is the dependent leader, who trusts not in their own power, but entrusts their efforts to God through prayer.

God has recorded many prayers for us in the Bible that teach us how to pray. As leaders, we must recognize that God has given us direction in prayer, it is not focused inward, it is focused upward in praise to God and outward in requesting great things for others from God.

A prayerful community can change the world because it is a community dependent on the power of God to change the world. Their prayers change them into selfless people seeking the welfare of those around them and not seeking the provision of their wish list.

Leaders have the opportunity to join in God’s efforts, to develop God’s heart, and to see God answer our prayers. The great leaders are the ones who seek God in prayer.

This is a challenging reality. It has changed the way I walk to work, spending less time trying to be updated on the world news and spending more time asking God for great things for the people I love and have been asked to lead. It has changed the way I go home, praying for my family as I seek to enter the home to love my family and not just seek rest. It has changed the way I go about work and conversations, making me more willing to stop and pray in the moment as opposed to promising to pray later.

The strange thing about prayer is you never feel like you can do it enough. This can be a cause for guilt and a joyful invitation to find more time to be with God. I recommend the latter for leaders, so we remember it is a joyful and a joy-filling opportunity to talk with God and pray for others.

Pray well, lead well.

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To Lead Well, Love Well

Last week, I wrote about leading well by being faithful after I read a Michael Hyatt article that got me thinking. As I continued to think about the leaders in our church and the expectations we place on them, I couldn’t help but consider writing about other aspects of leading well.

I’m blessed to watch 60+ leaders care for and model Christ to their community groups at Apostles. The consistent thing I see for these leaders who lead well is that they love well.

I’ve seen many people shy away from leadership, describe is as a daunting task and excuse themselves as not the leadership type. Many of those people I see taking the initiative to cook for someone in need, bless someone on a random day, and pursue people out of the blue simply because they care. The most amazing missional community leaders I’ve seen are the ones that love people well by modeling the love of God to them.

This is just another reason why it is so essential for every leader to be rooted in the never-stopping, never-giving up, unconditional, and consistent love of God for them in Jesus Christ. Our love can either be hindered or enhanced depending on our grasp of the love of God towards us.

Love Pursues People

One of the primary reasons this is so key in leading is because love causes leaders to pursue people in their community and those outside their community. This is how God loves us. He pursues us, not because we deserve being pursued or we have made ourselves interesting to Him, but because He loves us. He even pursues when we do everything in our power to run away from him.

For leaders, entering into a community aiming to love people tends to result in them pursuing those people to join and contribute to the community. There will also be times when people who have been a part of the community tend to drift away, but love pursues, not demanding they stay, but communicating their value and extending the invite back into the community.

If leadership isn’t based on love, but on creating a great mission, there’s no reason to pursue people that “aren’t on board” since they left, but thankfully the love of God transforms our whimsical ways. To lead well, pursue the people in your missional community well.

Love Rejoices & Grieves Alongside People

One of my favorite verses recently is Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” There  are few things as powerful in leading than celebrating with those in your community who are celebrating and hurting with those who are hurting.

This is the result of loving someone like Christ loves you. Their joys become exciting for you and there sorrows become sad for you. Community brings us out of ourselves to focus on others and this is only possible through love. No quality leader lacks this kind of love. Every quality missional community displays this kind of love, this kind of gospel-centered love.

It’s been amazing to watch different community groups celebrate together each other’s successes. At times it is even more inspiring and moving to watch a community grieve with one another, tears that display a joining together to endure the worst and seek healing together. It’s a beautiful display of God’s design for community.

Love Enjoys People

The last part of this that I will focus on is the simple reality that when you seek to love someone, you enjoy who they are in all their quirks and personality. Lacking love can cause a leader to identify their favorites in the community and become annoyed with others. This type of leadership does not enjoy people based on their gospel identity of being a part of a Christ-centered community, but on what their contributions are to the community.

To lead well, love like Christ has loved us, enjoying our presence because He chose to and because He embodied love. Enjoy the people you find yourself with, not matter how different, or in your mind challenging, they can be. You’re (translate: I’m) just as challenging to others in the community.

Every one of us longs to be in friendship, relationship with a group of people who knows us and still values us after knowing us. We long for every relationship to be as if it were Christ. Someone that loves us because they choose to and even endures with us our quirks, flaws, and failings.

A gospel-centered community on mission like this is possible, but it desperately needs leaders who have been loved well by God to love their community well.

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Missional Community Crossroad Moments

I intended to go deeper into the Missional Community life cycle this week, but I realized that my posts from Tuesday & Wednesday assumed progress in knowing God, loving one another and loving the world. But what happens when a missional community starts to face the reality that they are struggling in those areas?

The community comes to a crossroads moment. Will the missional community end or change to avoid continuing in decline towards ultimately ending?

Before discussing these crossroad moments, a brief review of the intent of missional community. Missional Communities are a collection of people who have partnered together on the same mission. The name spells it out, but doesn’t necessarily explain it comprehensively. For the church, these communities are formed based on their gospel identity. They understand the need to cultivate a healthy community and that mission ultimately requires a healthy community. These communities see their role as forming Christ-loving disciples who embody the gospel through making other Christ-loving and following disciples.

This requires that they grow in their love for and obedience to God (we call this Gospel Enjoyment), that they grow in their care for and investment in one another (Intentional Community) and they grow in extending the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed (Prayerful Mission). This is progression in the gospel and its implications as a community on mission.

Missional communities face crossroad moments when progression in the gospel slows or stops. Then the community must discuss changing or ending.

Changing for Healthy Community

There can be moments when a missional community is to heavy on mission to the detriment of loving God and loving one another. The results are the community demanding reports of missional engagement and the value for each member becomes their contribution to mission not their value in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This crossroad moment allows the community to remember Christ as their first love and focus and return to the gospel as center of the community. This may mean increasing time together as community to have fun. It may mean to come together for more prayer or simply take the time to express concern and work through some of the struggles of people in the community. When a community stops bearing one another’s burdens, struggles, or even sins, their mission will ultimately suffer.

Changing for Healthy Mission

Many small groups that have transitioned to missional communities will face the opposite crossroad moment. Even among many missional communities, the tendency to turn inward and only show concern for one another is strong and can lead to the absence of mission altogether.

This crossroad moment forces the community to come to terms with their error of sacrificing the call of Christ to extend His message to all. The way out may mean ending the bible study focus for a while, choosing local restaurants, concerts, or events that provide more natural avenues to connect with people who believe differently than them. Their will need to be a season of correction while avoid overcorrection towards the error of sacrificing community.

One of the best ways to move forward from this crossroad is to pursue serving the poor and marginalized in the area. Engaging the brokenness of our local neighborhoods brings us back to the heartbeat of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It reminds us that Jesus came down out of heaven, a perfect situation, and entered into one of the most broken earthly situations being born to a outcast virgin in a barn. Christ did this to stop the mess in our lives and to begin fixing it.

This good news propels us toward mercy when we remember it, but we are propelled towards hiding from brokenness when we forget the gospel and seek to protect ourselves and the community from the brokenness around us.

Some Missional Communities Should End

Ending the missional community must also be an option during these crossroad moments.

I mentioned in the original post that all missional communities centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ face a time of messiness that is healthy, so I’m not referencing those situations. There are times when the messiness only gets worse and multiplies in the community. This happens when the messiness or community errors are not processed through the gospel as a community. In these situations, it’s best for the community to end and transition to other missional communities or new missional communities to disrupt the cycle of messiness.

In other cases, I’ve seen some missional communities end where there was a lack of shared leadership and the leader was burned out. A missional community dependent on one or even two leaders who do everything will suffer and hurt from lacking the contributions of all. The spiritual health of the leaders is essential to the health of the community.

For those that end, it’s not simply a failure, but acknowledging the reality that God is trying to do something different and following Him will require sacrifice of some kind. Sometimes this sacrifice is ending the current missional community in hopes of pursing gospel-centered community on mission in another community.

The Majority Should Simply Change

Most missional communities in crossroads moments benefit best from changing and adjusting through seeking God and processing the implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Seeing these crossroad moments and moving beyond them transform a missional community to a new level of healthy community and healthy mission. This is similar to when we each individually face challenges in our lives. We come out on the other end with more wisdom, and often unknowingly, a quality character that has been developed through the challenges.

Every missional community will face these crossroad moments along their life cycle that could lead to a greater understanding of and celebration of the gospel. It’s a beautiful moment for a community to evaluate themselves in light of the gospel implications and transform to become more like God’s desire for a community.

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