I have a friend who is a pastor, and the other day we were talking about this missional church thing. He said something that confirmed some thoughts that I have had for a while. He said that it used to be that the thing that unified a church was the worship service, and, in his opinion, that is not the case anymore. Of the six generations that are above ground today in the U.S., some like traditional service, some contemporary, some alternative, some ancient future, etc. However, over the past few years through his church’s effort to become more missional, he realized that the thing that unifies his church now is mission action.
He put so much weight on the realization that his church made sure that every mission action (locally and globally) would have to be done by multigenerational participation. They did away with all youth-only and adult-only mission ministries. The youth or an adult group might facilitate a mission trip or event, but the ministry is designed so that any one can participate, pre-school through retirees. The unity that has resulted has been amazing for his church.
The reason I tell this story is that I think this is also the answer for reaching our communities. I mean when did being a Christian become more about following a set of moral rules and serving an institution? When did evangelism become about listing those rules and asking people to subscribe to them so they could serve the institution? When did we stop actually living our faith together in community? Instead, we gather around and learn how to approach people or our community with the gospel.
You know, I think part of the problem is that we even have to ask questions like this rather than just live our faith. Just think about the question for a minute … How do we approach people with the gospel? What a silly question, as if our lives are not always examples of our character and our character is not shaped by our faith.
My advice is to be real – 100 percent of the time – be real. Share yourself with others by participating in their lives. Offer to bear burdens without being asked, learn to observe and listen to people. So many are lonely and just want someone that will acknowledge them and listen to them. Live from your core with the only purpose being to love God with your action. Invite and encourage other people, regardless of their religion or beliefs, to participate with you as to love God by serving others. Welcome them to accompany you to the refugee center to teach English or job skills. Let them join you as you sit and talk to the homeless or the teens hanging out on the corner. Invite them for coffee at the local shop as you meet people who are just hanging out after a day of stressful work.
I think this is why missional is such a buzzword today, but I do not think that we understand why it has such potential. Living out our faith together cuts through all the fragmentation and unifies. If missional is a lifestyle that sees your whole life as participating with God, then life becomes very holistic. We break down barriers and heal fragmentation within our mind, soul, spirit and action. We see all aspects of life as intermingled and inseparable. Then as Christians, we invite others to participate with us as we act out our faith. By inviting participation from our friends and neighbors regardless of how they believe or what their religion is, we are welcoming people into an encounter with God by helping them see the healing power of selflessness rooted in love from God.
This means that there is no need for apologetics. There is no separation between mission and evangelism. There is no separation between public and private life. Worship blossoms from living our faith together in the community. It also means that individual giftedness finds purpose within community.
The story of my life is a story of formation in Christ. I cannot separate “approaching someone with the gospel” from living my life with people in community. What I can do is invite someone out of the loneliness of responding to each moment through the lens of the self, into community that cares more about others and finds meaning hiding under selflessness.