Archives For mc-values

I recently received a very encouraging email from a missional community leader that perfectly encapsulates doing mission (declaration and demonstration) in the context of a community.  I hope this encourages and edifies you, as it did me!

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Tonight I met up with my writers’ group. There are three of us: two believers, Christina and me, and one non–believer, Jenny. We have openly shared the gospel with Jenny before. She’s listened respectfully to what we believe but didn’t bring up specifics again.

At the end of the night, Christina pulled out her phone and texted someone. I asked if everything was okay. Christina went on to say that there’s this guy in her community who’s going through a really rough time. He lost his job and has some health issues, so he’s dealing with depression and insomnia. Their community has gathered around to fight for him. Someone from the community calls him every night at 10:00 to check up on him and make sure he goes to bed. Tonight, Christina was just responding to his text that said he was heading to bed.

I could tell Jenny was taken aback by Christina’s story. She said, “I’ve never (emphasizing the never) had friends like your friends.”

I realize now – in retrospect – that this would have been a perfect time to segue into “We only love that like because Christ loved us first.” Unfortunately, neither Christina nor I said that. I said something about that’s what community does; it fights for you when you can’t fight for yourself. And eventually the conversation headed another direction.

I’m praying the Holy Spirit continues to work on Jenny’s heart and draw the three of us closer and into more gospel conversations!

I’m sending this to you so you know that non-believers are noticing. They are saying things like “I’ve never had that.” They are being dumbfounded by the testimony of missional community, a testimony of the church as it should be. It’s a small story. But as I sat down to respond to someone else’s email, it just sort of poured out. So I thought I should send it.

Thank you for your endurance to the work God has called you in leading the charge for missional communities. Praise God for all He’s doing!

This series will explore the values that shape missional communities at The Austin Stone.  These values are rooted in the gospel and driven by our motivations to love God and love people.  In this series, I will explore:

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Declaring the Gospel

The idea of “preach the gospel, and use words if necessary” is certainly a sentiment I understand, but it misses the point of Scripture.  Just read the book of Acts.  A missional community understands and values the creative declaration of the gospel of Jesus, because that is both the foundation for our life together, and the fuel that sustains us in this life together!

We absolutely need to serve our neighbors, but the most loving thing we can possibly do is share the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, that there is a hope for salvation for those who would believe, and that there is a great joy and freedom to be found in life with God!

Before we start talking about sharing the good news of the gospel with our neighbors though, I think it’s important to point out that the gospel must become good news to our community first.  In my experience, most communities move very quickly away from talking about the person and work of Jesus. We talk about ourselves and our sin, or we talk about how great our community is, or we talk about what we need to do on mission, but it’s often awkward to just talk about how great Jesus really is.

The best practice for evangelism is regularly talking about the gospel story and its application to our lives together.  This is why we work hard to embed gospel fluency in our Life Transformation Groups…we want to continue to enjoy the good news with one another!

We don’t just talk about Jesus with one another though.  Part of being a community on mission is actually consistently, faithfully declaring the story of the gospel into the story of peoples individual lives together. In my missional community, my Christian friends know my neighbors well, and over time we are sharing different aspects of how the gospel and the word of God change us.  My neighbors hear the gospel in different ways, applied in different stories, and they hear it over time from different people.  That’s what declaring the gospel as a community is all about.

A missional community values declaring the gospel because it’s the best news in all of human history, and puts that value into practice by sharing it with anyone who will listen!

This series will explore the values that shape missional communities at The Austin Stone.  These values are rooted in the gospel and driven by our motivations to love God and love people.  In this series, I will explore:

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Demonstrating the Kingdom

We’ve covered the why we have values, and a missional community valuing the Word and Prayer together.  These values are primarily focused on how we love God (one of the motivations produced by the gospel). Today we turn our attention to values that are oriented around loving people and participating in God’s mission in the world.

Part of having a compelling community that puts into practice the community apologetic is demonstrating the kingdom through obedience to the word of God. Part of me wants to go on a long diatribe on the gospel of Jesus and the gospel of the kingdom, but ink has already sufficiently been spilt on this topic by men far smarter than me (click here for an intro).

But no one argues that Christians – those who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, adopted into God’s family, and given a new mission to proclaim the good news – should live life differently.  The implications of the gospel in our church families submitted to God’s reign is that we live differently than the world.  Together, we image the kingly rule of God…we demonstrate the kingdom!

The kingdom is demonstrated tangibly in missional communities in two ways – how the community of Christians tangibly loves one another, and how the community of Christians serves their neighbors through acts of love.

We show the world what the kingdom of God is like when we love one another, serve one another, forgive one another, and care for one another in ways that are fundamentally different than the world.  When a member of your community loses a job, you provide for the needs of their family together, you help that person find new work.  When someone in your community has a baby, you make sure every need they have is covered for months.  When you celebrate birthdays, the whole community joins in the fun and celebrates the faithfulness of God for another year.

In most small group/community circles, the “One Anothers” of Scripture are often referenced as the standard for how we are to do life together.  In my community, those who don’t know Jesus are often most confused and compelled by the kinds of relationships that we have.  It’s a compelling validation of the gospel message when your community is distinctly different in how they love one another.

Another part of demonstrating the kingdom is tangible acts of service and love, both to your cities and your neighbors.  If you’re trying to share the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection with a pocket of people, then we need to understand and address how we can serve them well. We certainly need to engage parts of the city where poverty is overt, brokenness is visible, and pain and suffering are evident (and we do that through the For the City Network).  But we also need to think on a distinctly local level – what does it look like to serve my neighborhood?

For my neighborhood, it means coaching soccer, serving on the PTA, and also caring for my neighbors when they are in need.  We babysit kids so couples can have a date night, we watch pets when people are out of town.  In general, we’re just trying to be good neighbors who meet needs that people have!

When the church of God loves one another and their neighbor well, the kingdom becomes tangible, and the message of the gospel is validated!

This series will explore the values that shape missional communities at The Austin Stone.  These values are rooted in the gospel and driven by our motivations to love God and love people.  In this series, I will explore:

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Prayer

As I discussed in the first post in this series, our values flow from our motivations and drive us to common practices. Prayer again is a seemingly obvious value for an evangelical church, yet I have found few churches who believe they have a strong culture of prayer.

Why is it that almost every church knows we should pray, but struggles to establish it in the rhythms of their life together?  I could answer this in a myriad of ways, but here are a few reasons I think we struggle:

  • Prayer is an act of intimate communion, and isn’t easily quantifiable.  Without a metric of success in our culture, it is difficult to feel like we’re measuring up.
  • Prayer is often talked about, but rarely modeled in corporate church life.
  • Intercessory prayer is often highly individualistic, unguided and unaccountable.
  • Prayer is often seen as “dessert” in community life, rather than the main course. Prayer often gets pushed to the margins and given leftover time.

Prayer is our communion with the triune God.  Through the act of prayer, we as God’s children recognize God’s authority and holiness, plead for his will to be accomplished, and express our dependence upon him for salvation, provision, sustenance. We value prayer in missional community life because it is the expression of our love for and dependence upon God.

Prayer then, is not just something we do, it’s rooted in who we are.  It’s not an event we attend, but it’s a regular rhythm of life, which means prayer needs to be weaved throughout our life together, not simply an added on component to a list of things we must do.

Practically speaking we embed prayer in our life together in a few ways.  First, in the Life Transformation Group, we are interceding for one another and those who don’t know Jesus.  During our Family Meal, we regularly try to practice communion and prayer together.  We also want to share stories of ways in which God has answered prayer through assessments and other settings.  Finally, we cultivate corporate prayer gatherings monthly where our sole objective is to intercede together corporately for different things that the Lord has placed before us.

I’d say that we struggle as much as any other evangelical church with cultivating life of prayer, but by the grace of God are seeking to establish a culture in missional community life that values prayer and has practices consistent with those values.

What have you found to be helpful in cultivating a life of prayer together as a community?

This series will explore the values that shape missional communities at The Austin Stone.  These values are rooted in the gospel and driven by our motivations to love God and love people.  In this series, I will explore:

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The Word

Most evangelical churches value the centrality of God’s word, so it seems like this ought to be something that goes unspoken. Like anything though, if you begin to assume it, you’re only a few short steps from it being forgotten.  We make this value explicit therefore in our Roadmap:

MC Roadmap

This explicit value flows from our motivation to love God.  The Word is where we learn about God – His character and His purposes.  You cannot love someone without a commitment to know their character and purposes.  Growing in our affections for God requires that we know him more!

To be a word centered church doesn’t just mean that you have expositional preaching though.  Because the church is a group of people, to be a Word-centered church means to be a Word-centered people. Practically speaking, we want every person in our church community to be engaging the Word of God on a daily basis.  We want to cultivate self-feeders, not consumers.

Our basic discipline of Scripture reading is our REAP method, and the tool for accountability is the Life Transformation Group.  Rather than have a menu of bible studies that missional communities use, we try to reinforce this way of engaging the Scriptures together, and expecting people to contribute to the life of a community from their own time in God’s word.

In order to reinforce gospel-centrality in our study of God’s Word, we study the Word through the lens of the Gospel:

  • What do I learn about God?
  • What do I learn about humanity or myself?
  • How would this passage point to Jesus?
  • How do I respond in repentance and faith?

Lastly, I think it is critical in becoming a Word-centered people to reinforce that the Scriptures are not just to be studied, but they are to be obeyed.  Proper bible study culminates in repentance and faith that brings about action!  We therefore want to hold ourselves accountable as disciples to put into practice what we have learned in the Scriptures.

I’ll focus on our next value, Prayer, in the next post.  What have you found helpful in cultivating a value for God’s Word in your communities?