The challenge, therefore, is for every follower of Jesus around the world to embody the mission and message of Jesus everywhere they go!
Simply understood, this means planting the gospel in the culture and incarnationally displaying and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is Lord! But HOW does this happen?
Rather than looking for new ways to “be missional,” it may be helpful to identify patterns of missional behaviors that can be “practiced” each week. I’ve been encouraging pastors and church planters to identify behaviors that demonstrate their Core Values. These behaviors then become Core Practices (habits) that everyone in their church family begins to exhibit.
For example, if your core value is “authenticity” – then the question to ask is: “how do we as a community demonstrate authenticity”? The answer should be expressed in behavioral terms.
- We confess our sins to each other
- We do not pretend to be “spiritual”
- We speak the truth in love
Another Core Value might be “Compassion” which could be demonstrated by:
- We serve others 3 times each week (or everyday)
- We bless someone 3 times each week
- We write an encouraging note to someone 3 times each week
- We pray with anyone right away whenever a concern is expressed
Another Core Value might be “Community” which could be demonstrated by:
- We share a meal with other believers once each week
- We meet to remember Jesus once each week
- We give “grace” to one another daily
Another Core Value might be “Intimacy with God” which could be demonstrated by:
- We daily read and reflect on Scripture
- We set time aside each week to listen to God (1 hour or more)
After identifying several of these behaviors, together you begin to “practice” them each week. Imagine a group of Christians that were reading and reflecting on Scripture, listening to God, confessing sins, not pretending to be spiritual, and speaking the truth in love, who were also serving others, blessing people, writing encouraging notes, praying together, sharing meals, remembering Jesus and being gracious. If everyone worked at living out their personal values, it would have an incredible impact on those around them.
Another way to identify behaviors might be simply to ask: “What would it look like to be Jesus to those around me?”
Identifying missional behaviors cannot be a program, it must be a lifestyle. Changing the way you behave isn’t easy. As the Holy Spirit helps you to identify ways to “be Jesus” to those around you, adopt the thinking and behavior that incarnates the gospel.
Missional behaviors are redemptive, reconciling, merciful, gracious, and other-oriented. If we “just” worked hard at “being Jesus to everyone everywhere” – we’d probably be headed in the right direction.
Keep asking – “How do we display the gospel to those far from Christ?” Certainly this will lead us to spend time with those far from Christ. A few more ways to get started might be:
- We share a meal in our home with non-believers every week
- We pray at 10:02 for laborers for the harvest (Lk 10:2)
- We frequent the same “third place” each week at the same time to develop relationships with non-Christians
- We use www.meetup.com to join a group of non-Christians in our neighborhood, town, or community
- We join our “Neighborhood Watch” group (or start one) on our street.
- We adopt the closest school to our home and start volunteering each week
I hope that helps a little. Don’t give up. You are doing a great work! If you haven’t read The Externally Focused Church by Rusaw and Swanson, pick it up. It’s got some great ideas, too.
NOTE: This post was my answer to Kristen’s question on my post Seize Christ’s Mission as Your Own: Do you have any practical ideas for “being a missionary in America”? What does someone (a normal working Joe) do to practice living this way?
You may also want to see MT 5: From Institutional Programs to Incarnational Practices