Tag Archives: #verge12

My Verge Breakout Notes

I had the privilege of participating in the For The City Pre-Conference at the Verge Conference. I led a breakout session titled “How to get the people who care about you to care about your mission.” Below is an overview of my notes. I hope they are helpful, but I publish them to invite dialogue, pushback, and additions to my ideas. If you want the full version of the notes you can email me.

The idea was to assist people who are passionate about a certain mission to be able to articulate and spread their passion.

Where are we going?

  1. You need more people than yourself to accomplish the dream
  2. Community accomplishes mission
  3. Shepherd them into the mission

Biblical Basis for a Community-Driven Mission

Main principles:

Jesus Himself gathers a community to His mission and when He sends, He always sends a community on mission, not a lone ranger.

-       Matthew 10, Luke 10:1-12

-       Matthew 28:18-20 – Great Commission

-       Acts 2 – Community, Acts 4 community, Acts 13 – community

-       St. Patrick – Evangelizing Ireland through a movement of communities

The goal is to meet people where they are and guide them toward a greater mission.

To get people to care about and partner with your mission you must move them from prayer to ownership of the mission. I would encourage you follow the following path.

Prayer –> Understanding –> Educate –> Vision –> Engagement –> Ownership

Prayer – Matthew 9:35-39

Jesus had a clear goal and His first word toward His disciples was…PRAY

Matt. 9:36 – The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, therefore…pray earnestly!

If passion for mission is lacking, prayer is lacking. Prayer is God’s means of aligning our hearts to His, of us declaring our dependence on Him, and requesting an action greater than we can create ourselves. We don’t ask of God because we aren’t typically doing anything beyond our own means.

We want to exhaust all of our options first and then go to God for help. Jesus shows us the opposite. We see someone faithful to being with God, asking Him for people.

Prayer continues throughout the process, but it must be a foundation. What do I need to be praying for? Who do I need to be praying for?

From there, we move from prayer to understanding.

Understand The Other Person or Community

If you are ever going to get people to the point where they care about your mission, you must first discover where they are at in regards to your mission. This comes from asking questions and listening with a filter.

-       Listening for what they value

  • What do they say? What do they do?
  • What are they most passionate about?

-       Ask good open-ended questions

  • Have you ever thought about…?

-       Are they receptive and interested in your idea?

Their values display their worldview and meeting people where they are means understanding and connecting the mission to their worldview.

Educating

Know the Issue.

Knowledge Communicates Competency & provides confidence worth following.

Read Multiple Approaches

Tim Keller’s thoughts on preaching

“When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.”

Whatever your issue, you must become the pseudo-expert. In our age of information, we have no excuse for pursuing knowledge and gaining information on all sides of the issue.

Informing on the Issue

-       How much do they know?

-       What do they need to know? How easy can you tell it and they repeat it?

-       What stories can you tell them?

Visioning

From there, Jesus had a Clear, Repeatable Vision & Values.

Jesus’ vision: “Go & Make Disciples”

Jesus’ values: “Love God. Love one another. Love your neighbor.”

Our vision and values are based on the aims of our mission. The ultimate goals of the challenges we face. Vision is the mission statement and values summarize the direction our actions must take.

Ways to Assess: How repeatable is your vision?

Harvard Business Review Quote:

“Companies with Great Repeatable Models℠ translate their strategy into a few simple values and prescriptions that people throughout the organization can understand and use to shape actions and decisions.”

Engaging

Let the Values Guide Engagement & Ownership

Engagement is how they start to serve in your mission.

This happens by letting your practice flow out of your values. This is how values become repeatable. They connect with how people learn and retain (head, heart, hands).

Develop a Pathway for Engagement

Exposure à Investment à Commitment

Exposure – 1 time serving

Investment – Consistent Serving

Commitment – Main Service Outlet

Owning

Empower People to Own The Mission

You know you have accomplished this when the people that are a part of your mission are the ones guiding people through this same process. That’s the aim, to transfer the passion for your mission to the people who join you.

Most people stop at engagement, but we must move to ownership for this process to become transferable.

Conclusion

A Mission is Sustained by the Gospel

Lastly, I want to make a comment about sustainability for you and your community on the mission. We must be careful to not focus so much on the mission we neglect the proper motivation and ultimate purpose, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel leads us to make cherishing Jesus the ultimate mark of success rather than mission success (Luke 10:17-20) and then to care for those who are a part of the mission as well as our own souls.

Dialogue, Pushback, And Additions

What do you think? How have you been able to get people to care about your mission? I welcome additional thoughts, disagreements or additions to help me and other continue to learn in this process.

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3 things that set #Verge12 apart

I attended the Verge Conference last week which was more of an experience than a conference. It was the best conference I’ve ever been to and I’m still processing the abundance of God-centered teaching that came our way. As I’ve thought about the conference and compared it to others that I’ve attended, I just keep asking myself, what sets the Verge Conference apart from the rest? What makes Verge so much better than Passion, Exponential, or The Elephant Room?

I’ve landed on 3 things because I didn’t want to write a book about a conference.

1. Kingdom-Focused

There was a whole day of breakout sessions for Missional Communities, for mercy & justice, and for global missions. In the middle there were 2 full days of main sessions structured like TED talks.

There was a ton of information, but it never felt disconnected because of one main stream of thought toward the Kingdom of God and the reign of Christ breaking into our lives, our churches, and the world.

Jesus was lifted high from start to finish and ministry strategy or methods or celebrity pastorism ever took precedence over knowing and obeying God. I never felt like someone was shamelessly plugging himself or herself or that it was an emotional experience lacking practical steps to obedience.

The idea that Jesus came to end brokenness, sickness, and disconnection through His death and resurrection to become the gracious and reigning king and now empowers people to extend His kingdom (not our own) was the consistent and primary theme of Verge 2012

2. Kingdom Effectiveness over Dogmatic Debate

If you were to do a theological survey of the speakers, undoubtedly you would find that they differ, but the God-centeredness of each of their time trumped their theological differences.

This may have rubbed some people the wrong way, but the condensed structure of the talks placed the priority on equipping people for kingdom-effectiveness over defending their theology.

This wasn’t an Elephant Room type controversy where there were obvious Trinity & gospel of Jesus Christ differences; these differences lie in secondary issues while all affirm and lift high God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The primary aim of every talk was not to push a specific strategy or way, but to inspire people to participating in bring the gracious reign of Christ into the world.

3. Equipping All for Kingdom Ministry

Lastly, this wasn’t just a pastor’s conference. It was structure to allow people to take a day off work and be equipped through breakouts in their primary ministry area. It wasn’t focused on building a mega-church or the pastor’s heart. The aim of Verge was to equip all the saints, every Christian, for the work of extending the message and mercy of Jesus Christ.

This came about through the diversity of the speakers, but also through a unique twist they called the unConference which I had never seen before. A large portion of each day was given to allow anyone to dictate the topic. Anyone could approach the 2 large whiteboards, write down the topic, location and time to process, share, and encourage one another.

This provided learning for every church leader, from volunteer to lead pastor.

I enjoyed attending Verge 2012 after being there in 2010. In 2010 it seemed that a lot of the leaders of this idea were meeting and getting to know one another. Two years later it feels more like a movement that collaborates and celebrates the ideas of all that are involved. I’m looking forward to getting all the Verge content in a few weeks.

This is only a reality where kingdom-focus trumps celebrity pastor, method propagation, and dogmatic debate.

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Verge Day 2 Recap

Wow, there is so much to process through after day 2. With all of these amazing speakers, it made me thankful for going to the Verge Pre-Conference and especially the For The City Pre-Conference.

Day 2 started with Stew setting the tone and fixing our purpose on the right thing, knowing, delighting in, and loving Jesus and His gospel above the ministry strategies and methods we would be hearing.

Following worship, Stew warned us that we would be drinking from a firehose, but challenged us to think through the lens of 2 major questions. He said these questions are prevalent wherever there is a major movement of disciple-making disciples.

The 2 questions: What is God telling you? What are you going to do about it?

The Format

For those of you who have never been to Verge or did not watch it on the simulcast, the format is different from many of the conferences I have been to because the main sessions are tied to a major idea and then 3-6 presenters are given the opportunity to teach, equip, and inspire us on these main ideas over the course of an hour.

This format requires that you process this information in some way and preferably with another person so it was really great for Stew to frame the content through the lens of these questions and then call us back to these questions following each session.

The danger of conferences is never processing what God is telling you and challenging YOU to do in your context because if you do not do this, you jump at adopting ideas and practices without yourself ever being changed in the process. If you are not changed you will never lead change in other people.

Main Session 1: For The City

Rudy Carrasco, Bob Lupton, John Sowers, & Dr. John Perkins

Main session 1 was truly amazing. Rudy Carrasco led off by challenging us to affirm that business is an outstanding Christian calling that we must honor and encourage in our congregations. If we only affirm business for the money it can provide, we completely miss the opportunity for people to use their business to create jobs and opportunities for our city. The greatest way we could enable people to be for the city is to affirm that their skills, talents, and ethic in their work can create jobs and equip people to create new companies and enterprises in poor areas of your city.

Having listened to Bob Lupton & Dr. Perkins yesterday, I loved hearing Rudy cast the vision for unleashing the workforce in your church from feeling guilty for being successful in the “secular” world and affirming the absolutely necessary skills and talents they have for restoring the brokenness of neighborhood.

Lupton and Dr. Perkins are always a highlight. Knowing how much they love one another and have been so influential in each other’s lives over the last 30+ years made it all the more special to see them share the stage at different times in the morning.

It is always amazing to listen to Dr. Perkins. Justin Lopez of the For The City Network did an amazing job of interviewing Perkins by not pushing any agenda and letting Dr. Perkins expound on all that God has taught him. One of the more interesting parts was his conversation about parachurches and churches. He discussed a need to repent for creating a parachurch rather than affirming and building up a church. It was beautiful to watch an 82-year old man affirm that God continues to teach us and work on us for our whole lives.

Main Session 2: Incarnational Mission

Mike Breen, Leonce Crump, Hugh Halter, Dave Ferguson, Alan Hirsch, Jon Tyson, Todd Engstrom, Jen Hatmaker & Jeff Vanderstelt

Yes, those were all of the speakers. Drinking from a firehose doesn’t begin to describe it. I’ll try best to summarize the highlights.

Alan Hirsch led us off by defining Incarnational Mission. Again, Alan is way smarter than me and seems even smarter than that with his accent, but setting the focus on following Christ and embodying Christ (incarnational) made it impossible to seek to adopt a ministry strategy and led us to focus on following Christ.

Dave Ferguson shared his personal story of how God has been changing him, a mega-church pastor, into someone who seeks to love his neighborhood. The transformation came as a result of focusing on being a blessing to his neighborhood rather than trying to convert it.

Hugh Halter placed our focus on 1 John 2:6 “whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way that Christ did” and then contrasted a religion focused life with how Christ confronted his culture on their abuse of the scriptures, the Sabbath, and discipleship. It is definitely interesting how we need to be challenged in our approach to all 3 in our current day in the church just like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

Jon Tyson was the highlight for me. He discussed how faulty our typical ways of sustaining mission are and then laid out the only way to sustain mission. “Love is the only thing that can sustain incarnational mission.” His reasons were that love leads us to identify with people rather than our brand, project, or mission and identifying with people leads us to agony for their needs. Only in agonizing in their need will we follow Christ’s love for the world and extend Christ’s love to the world. Passion for God, compassion for people.

Todd Engstrom of the Austin Stone did a great job of challenging us with a very practical training tool they use to equip their leaders. It contrasted the church’s typical approach to community with how the rest of the world approaches community. This contrast forces you to ask what is going to change about how we seek to develop community with the rest of the world. Very helpful and you could see a lot of light bulbs go off in the room.

Admittedly, I missed Mike Breen and Jeff Vanderstelt, both guys I respect and love their content, but I wanted to see my former co-workers since I was in downtown Austin again. It was great to connect with them and share with them what God is doing in our lives in New York.

Jen Hatmaker put our focus on the scripture “Follow me as I follow Christ” and then asked us “If people are following you are they becoming more like Christ? Or are they spending their week writing a sermon or participating in bible study?” The challenge was a great one. Am I using my time too much for ministry work without developing people and challenging them toward the way Christ lived.

Unconference and Main Session 3: For the Gospel

This was followed by 4 hours for what they call Unconference. This was the more organic portion of the conference where you could dictate the topic and the location and discuss with others at the conference what you were processing.

It provides a great opportunity to get even more practical with those who are processing some of the same issues. A very different idea for a conference that I continue to think is the best.

I also skipped the night sessions for a family dinner. From what I heard, Jeff Vanderstelt challenged us all through the Story of the Prodigal Son to focus on the gospel implications that drive us to worship God more. Matt Carter reminded us that activity is worthless without knowing and loving Jesus. This was followed by an amazing time of worship.

My day ended with grabbing drinks with guys who do my job way better than I do my job. Thankful to Todd Engstrom to organizing these men and getting us together. It was refreshing, I learned a lot and felt more equipped to serve Apostles Church when I return. It was a great time.

Conferences as Seminaries?

One of the more interesting thoughts was shared over twitter by Jon Tyson with an observation that conferences have become the new seminaries.

I completely agree with him and think this is a great opportunity. There’s more collaboration, there’s more practical handles and tools for people to begin to actually accomplish the ideas and it’s more refreshing.

On to day 3…

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Verge Day 1 Recap

The Verge Conference started today and it was amazing. I said it was the only conference that I feel like was worth attending for its theology and its practice.

It did not disappoint at all. I really love the way it is arranged this year with Pre-Conference Breakout Sessions for Missional Communities & Mercy/Justice all on one day. This provides a great opportunity for any church member to take a day off and attend so that it’s not just a pastor’s conference.

Today, I spent half the day at the Missional Community Pre-Conference & half the day at the For The City (Mercy & Justice) Pre-Conference. I’m so thankful to have been at both.

Missional Community Pre-Conference

I missed the first panel discussion thanks to Austin traffic and fog, but I made it to Brandon Hatmaker’s breakout session, Serving Through Missional Communities: Seven Steps to Moving Beyond the Event. It was very helpful and practical for how the gospel of Jesus Christ develops a community to be merciful and compassionate. It was also helpful in leveraging service events to be more than a social justice activity to become an opportunity for Christians and those outside of the church to be educated on the full meaning of the gospel.

One of the more impacting parts was the idea of letting go of the return on investment we get from serving. Brandon told the story of feeding the homeless and the homeless consistently asking about when the church was and how he began to understand that was their way of paying him for his service. They had nothing to offer him, but the hope that they might come to his church. This is important because churches can often use social justice to get people to come rather than to extend the love of Christ without expectation of anything in return.

It challenges us to check our motives and come to serving others and meeting needs with no expectations but to extend the love of Christ.

It was really refreshing to hear how God is using Brandon and his church to display the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wrote a book if you want to learn more: The Barefoot Church (Primer)

For The City Pre-Conference

As much as I enjoy missional communities, I could not have been more thankful to be a part of the For The City Pre-Conference.

I think it could potentially be the best part of Verge for me this year. Time will tell.

I arrived right before Bob Lupton spoke and it was absolutely amazing. I’m sure much of it is in his book Toxic Charity, but to hear someone who has empowered the poor rather than kept them dependent on handouts was challenging and so encouraging.

Some quotes that challenged me:

“The poor can pay a heavy price for our goodness.” – Talking about how our handouts create dependency which continues the cycle of poverty.

“One way giving keeps the needy in the needy role and the giver in the giving role. It diminishes relationships.” – This was incredibly challenging in regards to how the giver can often relish their position and never relinquish it to those they give to. We can participate in giving olds clothes and gifts in a way that removes the dignity of the poor and disempowers them. So challenging.

I also got to lead my first breakout session at a conference. How to get those who care about you to care about your mission. It was fun to share what I’ve learned (and continue to learn) about meeting people where they are, helping them understand the mission God has called you to, and how you invite them to participate and engage needs with you.

But nothing really compared to listen to Dr. John Perkins. I was able to meet him and just thank him for his life, his love for Jesus, and his faithfulness in ministering for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has been a slave, fought for civil rights, created the Christian Community Development Association, and participated in discipling and creating many leaders to continue the work of restoring broken communities.

Some quotes from Dr. Perkins:

“We have deified capitalism to the point that the church is unable to speak prophetically into the system.” – He was discussed how capitalism is the best system in the world, but making it a god makes us slaves to a system that was meant to serve us. For the church, we are unable to talk about the brokenness of America’s abuse of capitalism because Christians have replaced Jesus with the system as well. A challenging thought for sure.

Listening to him talk about 50+ years of knowing and serving Jesus was such a powerful testimony to the worth of giving your life to serve Jesus and display Him through restoring brokenness in neighborhoods as well as systemic brokenness.

In the middle of Bob Lupton’s talk, I asked one of our church staff to buy the digital access for the Verge content because I know I wanted to hear it again. It’s worth it.

I ended the night with dinner and beverages with great missional community thinkers that challenged and encouraged me tremendously. It was a great day 1.

Tomorrow starts the Main Conference sessions that you can watch on simulcast if you want. It will be well worth your time.

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Missional Community: Rhythms over Events

At Apostles Church, we are defined by 3 core values, Gospel Enjoyment, Intentional Community, and Prayerful Mission and our Community Groups aim to contextualize these values in their neighborhood. They are often guided by 3 convictions that we believe assist them in being a gospel community on mission. Those 3 convictions are proximity over affinity, rhythms over events, and integrating children.

A large shift in my understanding of church was moving from events to rhythms. Church has become a place to attend, an event to experience, rather than a people to partner with, a lifestyle of mission. Small groups aim to provide that expression of church, but can easily become another church event. So now church becomes Sunday & Tuesday night, but no community is actually built.

Let the Community happen all week

If a community forms a rhythm of life where interaction happens more often than once a week, then there is less pressure to accomplish so much in the formal group time. We try to cram prayer, bible discussion, mission discussion, accountability, confession into this time and it’s impossible. We then define success by whether we covered all portions of these or if the conversation was good. But the success of Christian community is so much more than great discussion, it’s the gospel applied to our everyday mundane lives and the gospel extended to our neighbors.

The challenge is to view yourself as part of a community that forms rhythms and patterns rather than a member of event that happens once a week. We all currently have rhythms of life for meals, work, rest and recreation. We must filter these through our faith and believe that the gospel informs and transforms our rhythms. We may need to transform our old rhythms and incorporate new rhythms.

Let the Community speak into your life

This type of Christian community only occurs when we reorient our lives with the community of God for the mission of God. Letting the community challenge the way we spend our time, letting them challenge our idols so we seek to build the kingdom of Christ rather than our own kingdom.

Jeff Vandersteldt describes mission as doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. So it’s looking at current rhythms (when we eat, work, play) and asking how these can be shifted to incorporate our community and our neighbors so they become focused on the gospel. The kitchen table can be your greatest place of mission if you expand the reach of the meal you are already eating.

We may have to reorient our work schedules or be more purposeful with the little time we have. When I worked as a civil engineer, there were regular happy hours on Thursday & Friday evenings that I would typically miss to be home with my family. I discussed this with my wife and she encouraged me to go to these happy hours occasionally and I invited a guy from our community to join me. It was a great opportunity to develop relationships that led to great gospel conversations at and away from work. It only happened because I worked with my wife to reorient our schedules for the mission of God. Gospel enjoyment is so key here. We only change our lives so we can enjoy the things we love.

Practical Steps

One of the most helpful things we have done as leaders was to identify the circles of people they current exist in. The people we interact with who do not know Jesus in our neighborhood, our workplace, our friends, and our hobbies. I encourage you to do this with the other believers in your community and identify where God has provided open doors for mission to your people group.

Then we brainstormed ways we can invite these people into our community and ways we can participate in their community. In the gospels we see Jesus enter the lives and homes of non-believers, then invite people to follow and participate in His life. It’s not just about asking them to come into our world, but it’s about going to their world, their turf and believing the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

Asking questions of your neighborhood

What are the rhythms of your neighborhood? When are they outside enjoying the neighborhood? When do they eat dinner? What type of cultural destinations do they participate in, what is the predominant religious makeup of your neighborhood? These are all essential questions to ask in order for your community group to form rhythms that naturally interact with the people group you are hoping to reach. God has sent you as a missionary to these people groups.

How does your Community Group need to change for each other and the mission of God? For some of your Community Groups, there needs to be a new rhythm for gospel confession and accountability, the creation of a time where each of them are challenged to make Jesus their greatest delight and then address their sin. Sin can be one of the greatest hindrance to the mission of God.

For others it is creating a rhythm where non-believers are regularly incorporated into the community. It could be a weekly pot luck dinner, participating in local concerts or events, or joining sports leagues with gospel intentionality.

Approaching the gospel for holistic transformation in every aspect of life, moves us from events to a comprehensive rhythm of life in the community of God for the mission of God.

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Valuing Intentional Community

This past Sunday, we had our 2nd of 3 equipping classes focused on our core values of Gospel Enjoyment, Intentional Community & Prayerful Mission. We focused this past week on Intentional Community Our aim in this core value was to take two Christian buzzwords and slam them together (not really).

The fact is we all want to be known by other people. We all desire to have people concerned with us, caring for us, and to be a part of a group making a difference.

Though this is a desire, it does not happen unless it is pursued and you have to be intentional to pursue anything well. Community is a Christian buzzword, usually meaning a group of Christ followers that care for one another, but the scriptures expand on this definition to cast a vision for community that can truly change the world.

Intentional Community for our gospel communities on mission is defined as a shared rhythm of life by the Spirit of God for the mission of God.

Christian community is supposed to function as a healthy family that uses each person’s unique gifts, talents, and resources for the benefit of the whole community. But this healthy family doesn’t just function well for one another; they are consistently extending this love for one another to those outside of the community. In essence, the world should look at the way a Christian community loves one another and their neighbors and say, “If this community is anything like Jesus, I want to know Jesus.”

Shared Rhytm

For a Christian community to truly embody Jesus, they must get out of the event-Christianity mindset that reserves faith for Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. For too long we have tried to cram all of our Christian fellowship, prayer, learning about God, and extending this love and message to others into a span of 3 hours.

At Apostles, we encourage our community to form a pattern of life together, to establish community rhythms.

Community Rhythms

When we discuss community rhythms, we start by challenging each other to adopt a spirit of invitation in everything we do. Christ has given an open invitation to anyone who would accept it to join the community that God has had since the foundation of the world. Christ repeatedly expresses His desire that we know the love and joy that God the Father and Jesus share in the Trinity with the Holy Spirit. A community that embodies the gospel cultivates an open invitation to others to be a part of the community’s life.

This usually takes on the form of meals, serving together, recreational fun, coffee, and the generic chill time that we all have. This happens by acknowledging the normal things you do everyday and leveraging your regular life for the gospel in community and on mission.

By The Spirit of God

The scriptures indicate that God initiates this community by the Holy Spirit compelling people to love one another and extend this love to others. This happens through the spiritual gifts that exist within every believer.

Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are essential to every Christian community because they are the unique expressions of Jesus that every Christian has been given to use for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12 lists a number of spiritual gifts, beyond the church’s usual obsession and comfort with preaching & teaching as the best gifts, to elevate the importance of every Christian using their unique passions, gifts, and natural talents to build up the community.

In equipping people, we don’t use spiritual gift tests or personality assessments because those usually eliminate people’s openness to the uncomfortable gifts (healing, prophecy, even tongues). We encourage people that the best way to identify your gifts is to be open to being used by God for others and begin practicing them. See what builds up the community and begin to embrace those gifts.

Gospel Counseling

We also equip our people to counsel one another with the gospel. Counseling is usually seen as a last ditch effort to save a terrible situation, but we seek to embrace the gospel as the definer of all spheres of life. Since this is true, we seek to address every challenge with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We encourage our leaders to start by asking about the challenges that people face, discussing their goals in the challenge, and helping them to develop a gospel-centered mindset and steps to achieve this goal. I completely stole this method from Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas.

For the Mission of God

We end by discussing how all of this is not merely to create a focus on the community, but to create a community that embodies Jesus in order to invite those outside of the community into a welcoming, gospel-humbled environment.

We have the opportunity to use our spiritual gifts and our lives defined by the gospel to extend the message and mercy of Jesus Christ. We have the great opportunity to be an alternative community not by creating our own subculture, but by embodying Jesus to our culture.

“The world will know you are my disciples if you love one another…”

These are the words of Jesus as a challenge us to value Christian community and we live in a city that is in need of entire community of Christ followers to display Jesus’ love and His mission to heal the brokenness and restore hope.

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Missional Community Fail: When Mission takes Center Stage

Yesterday I remembered when I hated missional communities and how that changed over time. As I’ve watched a number of missional communities, I’ve seen two major ways they end up failing as a gospel-centered community on mission. These failures both result from making something other than the gospel the motivation for the group of Christ followers.

I watched multiple missional community groups fail when mission takes center stage. When the motivation for gathering is solely and primarily about a specific people, service project and success is only seeing those people know and love Jesus Christ. Today I will elaborate on this danger for missional communities and tomorrow I will elaborate on the danger of community taking center stage over the gospel.

3 Major Failures Resulting when mission takes center stage

1. Great Commission Trumps the Greatest Commandments

The church overall has lacked in extending the love and grace of Jesus Christ, whether that’s to their neighbor, co-worker or even close friends. In response to this, many church leaders have over-emphasized the Great Commission (Go and Make Disciples) to the point that it has trumped the Greatest Commandments (Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself) for the Christian.

The Great Commission flows out of the Greatest Commandments. You only talk about, proclaim, or extend what you love and enjoy. If that’s football, the latest fashion trend, or your faith in Jesus, you will naturally share it with others. The church’s lack of mission is a gospel issue, not understanding that they have been given salvation in Christ, provided reconciliation with God, to bring reconciliation with God to the world. It’s not merely that they haven’t been challenged to go and make disciples.

We can’t trade loving God for duty to God and expect making disciples to be sustainable. A community only emphasizing the mission is very active and looks like they are accomplishing much, but often turns people into projects to fulfill their duty rather than to extend the love of God.

2. Your value is based on your contribution

When mission becomes center, your value to the community is becomes based on your production for the mission. How much have you been evangelizing? How active have you been in building relationships? How many of the service projects have you been to? Are you accomplishing the mission of the community or not? You become an impersonal cog in a mission machine.

The scriptures describe each Christian as valuable to any Christian community because they are sons or daughters of God, saved by Christ and equipped by the Holy Spirit to use their gifts for the common good. When your value is not based on the gospel but on your contribution, you are only cared for and celebrated when you tell stories of mission. Your exalted for the evangelistic or justice work you have done, while your personal holiness and love for God becomes of no concern.

This leads to burnout, a lack of desire for anything to do with God, and when you stop contributing you don’t want to be a part of the community anymore. You realize you are not valued or cared for unless you have proven your successful mission.

3. Community Dies

There is a saying that goes “If you aim for community, you never get mission, but if you aim for mission you always get community.” It’s false. It sounds like a great tweet that would be retweeted across the twittersphere, but it lacks sustained results.

It is true that mission enhances a gospel-centered community, but mission alone is not the answer. Jesus is the solution, not just His mission.

When mission becomes center, people aren’t cared for well and then there is no loving community to invite someone into that is exploring faith. Jesus said they would know we are His disciples by the way we love one another. If we show our love for one another only by celebrating successful mission that proclaims a gospel that Jesus loves you only when you do great things for Him.

What type of community are you inviting people into?

The Gospel at Center

A community that desires to see mission flourish must lift the gospel of Jesus Christ high as the most valuable definer and sustainer of the community. Jesus was sent into the world, God’s best missionary, invested in community, led them on mission to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the world, died for them and for us, and then sent them on mission as a community.

A gospel-centered community remembers the invitation of God into His family, into the community of faith to be a contributor to the growing love of that community. The community defines the value of each individual as God does, valuable because God has declared them valuable in Jesus Christ.

The gospel-centered community doesn’t stop at merely enjoying the benefits of the loving community, but remembers that as God sent Christ into the world, so Christ has sent His community of follows to extend His message and mercy.

For a missional community to see community and mission flourish, the gospel needs to take and remain the center stage.

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