Tag: missional community

Missional Communities in Suburbs?

If you are doing missional communities in a suburban context, I’d love get get some feedback from you.

  1. How would you describe a missional community?
  2. Some argue that MCs are only effective in an urban context. Would you agree or disagree?
  3. Have your missional communities grown by adding non-Christians?
  4. What are your top three best practices for your MCs?
  5. What has been your biggest struggle in creating MCs?

Thank you for sharing your insights and time. This reserach will be used for my breakout session on Missional Communities at the Acts 29 ENDURE Bootcamp.

8 Ways to be Missional (without overloading your schedule)

Missional is not an event we tack onto our already busy lives. It is our life. Mission should be the way we live, not something we add onto life: “As you go, make disciples….”; “Walk wisely towards outsiders”; “Let your speech always be seasoned with salt”; “be prepared to give a defense for your hope”. We can be missional in everyday ways without even overloading our schedules. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Eat with Non-Christians. We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal, invite a non-Christian friend. Or take your family to family-style restaurants where you can sit at the table with strangers and strike up conversations (Mighty Fine Burgers, Buca di Peppo, The Blue Dahlia, etc). Have cookouts and invite Christians and non-Christians. Flee the Christian subculture.
  2. Walk, Don’t Drive. If you live in a walkable area, make a practice of getting out and walking around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or campus. Instead of driving to the mailbox, convenience store, or apartment office, walk to get mail, groceries, and stuff. Be deliberate in your walk. Say hello to people you don’t know. Strike up conversations. Attract attention by walking the dog, taking a 6-pack (and share), bringing the kids. Make friends. Get out of your house! Last night I spend an hour outside gardening with my family. We had good conversations with 3-4 neighbors. Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions. Engage. Pray as you go. Save some gas, the planet.
  3. Be a Regular. Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, eating out, and coffee, go to the same places. Get to know the staff. Go to the same places at the same times. Smile. Ask questions. Be a regular. I have friends at coffee shops all over the city. My friends at Starbucks donate a ton of left over pastries to our church 2-3 times a week. We use for church gatherings and occasionally give to the homeless. Build relationships. Be a Regular.
  4. Hobby with Non-Christians. Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try City League sports. Local rowing and cycling teams. Share your hobby by teaching lessons. Teach sewing lessons, piano lessons, violin, guitar, knitting, tennis lessons. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun. Be yourself.
  5. Talk to Your Co-workers. How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or task force after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form mom’s groups in your neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively non-Christian. Schedule play dates with the neighbors’ kids. Work on mission.
  6. Volunteer with Non-Profits. Find a non-profit in your part of the city and take Saturday a month to serve your city. Bring your neighbors, your friends, or your small group. Spend time with your church serving your city. Once a month. You can do it!
  7. Participate in City Events. Instead of playing X-Box, watching TV, or surfing the net, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, clean-ups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city. Participate with the city.
  8. Serve your Neighbors. Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, building a cabinet, fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local Police and Fire Stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative. Just serve!

Don’t make the mistake of making “missional” another thing to add to your schedule. Instead, make your existing schedule missional. Check out this related article on integrating Gospel, Community and Mission into everyday life.

My New Article: Community and the Cubicle

By 2000, forty million American white-collar employees were using the cubicle. What began as a customizable work environment eventually turned into an urban dungeon. Cutting us off from contact with the real world, the cubicle is scorned for suffocating productivity and community. Attempts to correct these individualistic work environments, such as co-working or collaborative workspace, have met with little to moderate success. Does work have to be so isolating?

Tobacco and Community

In a thoughtful essay on tobacco production from Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community, Wendell Berry lists the benefits of tobacco work. (The morality of tobacco work is another issue altogether.)  Among them is the practice of “swapping work.”  Tobacco, Berry points out, is a very “sociable crop,” one that calls upon the entire community for help in the setting, cutting, stripping, and harvesting of tobacco. He comments:

At these times, neighbors helped each other in order to bring together the many hands that lightened work. Thus, these times of hardest work were also times of big meals and much talk, storytelling and laughter.

I suppose that tobacco farmers could have insisted on doing the work alone, but it wouldn’t have been near as fun or efficient as swapping work. But there’s more merit to work swapping than efficiency. Berry’s reflections reverberate with community. Words like: neighbor, each other, together, many hands, big meals, storytelling, and laughter seem foreign to the professional workplace, even to contemporary expressions of church. Yet, many of these words and concepts occur frequently in New Testament descriptions of the Early Church.

Early Church Community

For example, Acts consistently describes a church that experienced a steady state of Christian community, not just meeting one another on weekends. They devoted themselves to sharing meals, sharing needs, sharing possessions, and sharing a mission (Acts 2:42-47). This radical community was in response to the gospel of Christ, a community-cultivating message that enriched the surrounding social fabric of Jerusalem (Acts 4:32-37). The gospel promoted community in private and in public, through the ministry of reconciliation. They sought God-centered reconciliation (Acts 2,7,17), ethnic reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10,15), and social reconciliation of the poor, sick, and lame (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12-16). The gospel of reconciliation brought very different people together publicly and privately, renewing Jerusalem socially and spiritually.

Gospel, Community, & Work

What would it look like to extend the community-cultivating power of the gospel into our cities, into our workplaces, into our churches? How would the workplace change? In the city, when our workload increases, community often declines. We buckle into the cubicle for days, only to emerge a worn-out mess. Berry recounts an increase in community when hard work sets in—more laughter, more meals, and more hands. On the contrary, urban work deadlines often bring about despair, fewer meals, less sleep, and less time at home with the family. Far from enriching community, office work can isolate individuals from coworkers and families. Ironically, Tom Rath has demonstrated that community can increase productivity. In his book, Vital Friends, Rath points out that people with best friends at work are proven to be seven times more engaged in their job!

It would appear that the city has much to learn from the country. Although some vocations are not as sociable as others, the gospel compels us to work for community and reconciliation. To honor, serve, and love those that are different from us, even the employees that get on our nerves. What if you became an agent of reconciliation and community in your workplace? Company morale and output would likely increase, and so would the glory of God in your life. Perhaps some repentance from go-it-alone work is in order. The rural wisdom of “work swapping” could take us a long way in cultivating better work, better relationships, and better communities. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians led the way?

Originally published at The High Calling