Monday, March 3, 2014

Living Light

September 30, 2013 Leave a Comment

livinglight

How to cultivate missional communities

By Lance Ford

Small group leaders often develop missional communities by organizing group projects and outreach tasks for members to carry out together. For example, leaders may adopt a local park to clean up or take their group to decorate the teacher’s lounge at an elementary school. Collective projects such as these are are useful in calibrating a mission heart in a church body, and they show the kindness of God to the host community. But these types of activities do not form a missional community.

The starting block for missional communities is for everyday Christians to be on everyday mission in their everyday lives. This broadcasts the salt and light throughout a community. Missional living requires us to create time and space to be actively involved in the lives of people we are trying to reach. Think of missional communities as groups of missionaries. Jesus told His followers:
You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Habits of Light

In Missional Essentials Brad Brisco and I drew our cue from this familiar passage and developed a set of practices based on the word light. These five practices can be seen as a set of habits or a rhythm of life for missional communities.

Listen to the Holy Spirit

Commit at least one hour per week to listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit on how you can be missional. You may choose to take a prayer walk or carve out a time of solitude and listening to God. You might segment this hour into daily increments of 10 minutes per day for six days of the week. The point is to have a specific time of listening in silence, not speaking or asking for anything, letting the Lord speak to you.

Invite others to share a meal

Share at least three meals each week with others. Think in terms of people who are part of your faith community and those who are not, as far as you know, Christ followers. Share a meal with someone from each category. The third meal can be with someone from either category.

Give a blessing

Seek to do three acts of blessing every week: one to a member of the Christian community, one to a non-Christian, and one from either category. Blessings can range from a simple email of encouragement to a gift of some sort or an act of service. You are purposely seeking to be a blessing to your faith community and the broader world as well.

Three ways to live on mission with gospel intentionality:

  1. Prayerfully watch and listen to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is already at work in the world around you.
  2. Meet and engage people in the normal rhythms of life.
  3. Look for ways to proclaim the gospel in word and deed.
Hear from the gospels

Commit to read from the Gospels each week in order to specifically learn more about and from Jesus, His ways and means—keeping Jesus central in your mind and actions. It is vital to read from other books of the Bible as part of your spiritual formation, but always include Gospel reading as part of your regular habit.

Take Inventory of the day

Stay mindful of opportunities to engage in mission on your day-to-day journey. At the end of each day, ask yourself how you responded to His promptings and if there were instances or opportunities where you resisted Jesus during the day.

As missional communities meet together—weekly, twice per month, or monthly—the L-I-G-H-T habits serve another purpose. Members have been living by them throughout their day-to-day lives, and now LIGHT becomes the outline for the sharing portion of the group time. We suggest groups gather into smaller sets of three to four people and discuss each of the five practices, sharing personal observations, experiences and lessons from the previous week(s).

One person may share her experience of meditating on a Gospel passage and responding to it later in the week while at the grocery store. The practice of prayerfully listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit has sharpened her ears and heightened her attentiveness to the cues from God. She then tells how she responded by paying for a stranger’s groceries.

L-I-G-H-T habits frequently play out this way. Each habit tends to inform the others, creating a natural lifestyle that becomes a supernatural lightstyle.

Nuts and bolts

Missional living is all about relationships. It’s about getting close enough to people to listen, understand their hopes and dreams, and actually come to like and love them as individuals. That doesn’t happen without living with and among people.

The writer of Hebrews encourages the believing communities to “be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works” (10:24). Missional communities do this very thing.

We are good news people. As sent ones, we need to constantly be asking missionary questions about our communities: Who are the people in my community? What do they value? What are their needs? Who are the poor, marginalized and hurting in my community? How would my community be different if God’s kingdom came here as it is in heaven?

Missional communities can be lights in the midst of darkness if we choose to live sent.

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