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Too Busy to Lead
If you lead a missional community then chances are you are tired. You are doing your best to be a pastor and friend to your community, a missionary in your neighborhood and workplace, lead your family in a steady state of community and mission, and praying your community will grow in their understanding of the Gospel, all while struggling to believe the good news yourself.
While youre at it, don’t forget the never ending task list. I mean, who is gonna bring the main dish and the desert on Wednesday night?”, where are we serving our neighborhood this month?, who is lining up childcare this week?, who is keeping track of the prayer requests? It goes on, and on, and on, and on.
Oh yes, did I mention you probably have a job. In Austin you most likely are holding down a high stress gig putting in about 50 hours a week. Oh wait, you have a family too! That’s right, your son wants a ride to soccer practice and is secretly hoping you volunteer to coach the team. Your daughter would like you to read 15 princess books to her before bedtime, and your wife actually wants to go out to dinner and talk about something other than your ministry. Imagine that!
Reasons We Lead
If you are a leader chances are you do too much. Some of your reasons are good: you love God; you love the church; you’re a natural leader. Leading is a way for you to serve the Body and build the Kingdom. Some of your reasons are not so good: you love being heard, love feeling important, and you’re identity is so wrapped up in what you do as opposed to who you are that you simply cannot stop working and leading. In all of this, we desperately need the Gospel, and the gospel is probably telling us we need to lead less. Lead less for more ministry.
Rethinking Missional Community Leadership
Two years and 8 missional communities since our very first City Group (Core Team), Austin City Life is revamping our City Group leadership structure. Previously, we had a CG leader responsible for the pastoral and missional leadership of the group. We told them to share leadership, get a leader in training for multiplication, and rely on Jesus and the Spirit for strength. Now, we are moving towards appointing 5 leaders, not one. They are:
- CITY GROUP LEADER-facilitates a community that is growing in Gospel, Community, and Mission.
- MISSIONAL LEADER- We serve our neighborhoods together monthly. This leader takes the lead on all the details: the when, where, and how of the monthly service project.
- PRAYER LEADER- This person records all the prayer requests and sends out a weekly update, reminding the community to pray for one another and the city.
- HOST LEADER- This leader opens their home/apartment/dorm room to be an inviting place for the community to share meals, discuss life and truth, and to pray for one another and the city.
- HOSPITALITY LEADER – We eat together. This leader coordinates the meal schedule and the who is bringing what?
Benefits of Shared Leadership
This new model of shared leadership in our missional communities will produce healthier communities and leaders, and ultimately will be good for our church, our city, and the kingdom. How?
- Fewer leaders will become casualties of burnout.
- Five leaders gives your group more people, with more buy in, creating a stronger core.
- New Christians can begin to serve right away. Last I checked, your theology doesn’t have to be nails to be in charge of the meal schedule. New Christians can become involved in leadership early on, and can grow along the way, instead of standing on the sidelines watching all the tired people lead.
- Future City Group leaders emerge as they thrive in their roles leading MISSION and PRAYER.
- We avoid the personality-driven City Group. Gospel Community is center and forefront in our groups, rather than the talent, charisma, and drive of a leader.
Let’s get honest, tired leaders are not attractive. Even the most gifted, charismatic, God and people loving leaders can lose the vision of what it means to lead a missional community under the burden of too many responsibilities and a never ending to do list. Sadly, this leads to duty driven (rather than joy filled) leadership, and when that happens, we are in danger of leading already busy Austinites in more busyness , while creating a new legalism called Missional Community.
More Leaders; Less Work. Share Leadership; Grow in Community. Strengthen Mission; Advance the Gospel.
What do your missional communities do when they aren’t on mission together? What do they discuss? How do you reinforce your values? How do you promote their discipleship alongside mission?
Story of Scripture with Soft Apologetic
When we started our MCs, I wanted our people to become familiar with the big story of Scripture, engage non-Christians, and promote practical discussion, not theological debates or Bible studies. Inspired by The World We All Want, I wrote an 8 week discussion-driven material that begins with New Creation and ends with Mission. I chose to focus on different texts, simplify the approach, and provide a leaders supplement.
The first session starts with a question posed by Chester & Timmis: “If you ruled the world how would it look?” Starting each session with a soft apologetic engaged people across the spectrum of faith, while promoting an understanding of the whole story of Scripture. It keeps the unbeliever in mind while challenging the believer.
Once this foundation was laid, we began discussing sermons. Again, our approach was to keep it simple, discussion driven, gospel-centered, and missionally focused. We sensed a need to gather our church on the same theological and visionary page, to promote true gospel-centered living. So, each City Group leader gets five questions each week that move from a soft opener to the problem of application, to the solution of the gospel. All this after a meal together and lots of talking, laughing and so on.
This has been very successful. Our City Groups are starting to pastor one another by speaking the truth in love. We are experiencing some substantial gospel change, but it takes a while for people to a) Trust one Another b) Confess and Repent c) Counsel one Another d) Understand How the Gospel Applies not just saves.
What have you found helpful in promoting gospel-centeredness, community, discipleship within your missional communities?
New Pilot City Group
We are considering starting a pilot City Group that runs 6-8 weeks for non-Christians to get exposed to Gospel, Community, and Mission. Kind of like a short-term Alpha Course that is missional and apologetic. Anyone else done anything like this?
As the Western church becomes increasingly missional, in the social sense, partnerships with non-profits are increasing. There’s a lot of sense to this. However, we must be leery of thinking that social partnerships with non-profits produces missional churches. In fact, we need to be more thoughtful about the “if”and “when” we partner with non-profits, especially if our churches are driven by missional communities.
Tim Chester’s blog entry on “shifting missional foci” is spot on for determining the focus of missional communities. Austin City Life has discovered that if we lock into a strategic social partnership, without being willing to revisit or review our missional emphasis, we run the risk of not following the Holy Spirit. God could be doing something very significant in an area that we refuse to examine because a MC is already committed in one place. The question that “shifting missional foci” raises, then, is what criteria do you use to evaluate your missional focus? Do you pull out of a long-term partnership? When? Why? How do you do that without offending the non-profit you are working with? These are important questions for both MC leaders and church planters to answer.
To be sure, non-profits often have more wisdom, experience, and legal structures to facilitate effective social mission. However, we have come to the conclusion that working with a non-profit just because you believe in their vision and work isn’t sufficient. For example, if you have to drive 30 minutes to serve you may be neglecting needs in your own community. ACL is in the process of recalibrating our City Group missional foci along increasingly localized lines. By focusing more on “neighborhoods of the city” as opposed to the “city of neighborhoods”, missional communities can more effectively renew the peoples and cultures of your city. For us, this means that we won’t be “non-profit driven”, but will try to follow the Spirit as missionary communities in our own neighborhoods.
So the question is not should we partner with non-profits, but when and where should we partner with them. Sometimes it will be best to not partner and other times it will be best. In all this, I believe the quality of missionaries in our churches needs to go up and default reliance on existing social structures go down. What do you think?