3 Steps to Developing Leaders

As I talk with leaders and church planters there is reoccuring topic that always keeps coming up…developing leaders. Common questions I get are: How do we develop leaders? What are you guys doing at Redeemer to develop leaders? What content do you use to develop leaders? What systems and structures do we need to put in place to develop leaders? These are great questions to be asking! If you are asking these questions then it means that you are valuing the right thing as a pastor/church planter. You know that your job is not to provide your church members with spiritual goods and services, but instead it’s to make disciples, equip the saints, and raise up other leaders to do the same. If you want to develop leaders it’s because you value multiplication of ministry not just church growth and large crowds.

As I have these conversations I am noticing two common mistakes leaders make when thinking about developing leaders (I’ve also made these mistakes).

  1. The desire to develop a bunch of leaders in a few easy steps. You cannot mass produce leaders in our churches. Regardless of how great your “leadership pipeline” looks on paper, you must take into account that not all leaders are alike. [Shameless plug:  I’ll be posting a follow up next week titled 3 Ways of Leading Others, and discussing how to develop each type of leader.] Leaders are to be developed. Development takes time and intentionality. It means you must know the people you are developing. They need opportunity and time to learn and grow. This is true for all types of leaders- MC leaders, church planters, or ministry team leaders.
  2. Looking for “already leaders”, rather than having a commitment to develop everyone. Instead of thinking about how we are going to develop everyone in our church, you are just look for potential leaders that are “close”. You grab those folks, train them up (you’re really just teaching them your language and “offense”) and send them out to lead. The problem with this is you’ll soon find yourself stuck. When you need more leaders you’ll be left hoping and praying for more “already” leaders to miraculously walk in your door. This is common among church planters. You get lots of “already leaders” at the beginning, but after 6-8 months your left desperate for more help. Again, this isn’t development. It’s just re-training “already leaders” who are new to your church.

Here are 3 steps to developing leaders that I hope will help you move out of these 2 ruts I just mentioned. Keep in mind this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Design a clear target for each type of leader you are looking to develop. Some questions to ask: What does this type of leader look like in my church? What do I expect this type of leader to do/believe/know? What type of characteristics should mark this person’s life?  At Redeemer we’ve developed a clear target for leaders at every level: every day disciples, MC leaders, deacons, elders, and church planters.
  2. Have each potential leader self-assess in light of the target. Self assessment is powerful. Before you being to train and develop someone, give them a chance to identify their areas of strengths and weakness. Allowing them the self-assess in light of the target accomplishes three things: a) it gives them a clear picture of what it means to be this type of leader…which is something we often fail to do, b) it allows them to admit weakness and express a desire to grow, & c) it allows you to begin to personalize your leadership development plan.
  3. Train leaders in the basics, but personalize their development. All leaders need the same baseline training. This is where you teach and train them on the things in “the target”. But in order to develop healthy leaders they need more than just baseline training, they also need ongoing development. On-going development is about helping an individual leader grow in the areas of weakness they self-assesed. This can happen through coaching, special classes, one-on-one meetings, assigning books to read, sermons to listen to, videos to watch, etc. This is where leadership development and discipleship come crashing together beautifully. The problem is we often don’t let them. Our “pipelines” and “programs” are too rigid. Not to mention that we are not patient or intentional enough in our leadership.

When you give people a clear target and allow them to self-assess it can awaken desire for growth in potential leaders. When you go beyond teaching and training, and begin to personalize on-going development leaders will be less likely to burn out and more likely to reproduce themselves in others.


Mistakes to Avoid When Coaching Church Leaders

Last week I posted about the role of coaching church leaders, specifically missional community leaders and church planters. Coaching is about coming alongside of a leader to help them reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit about what it looks like to move forward.

If I’m honest I haven’t always viewed coaching this way. In fact, my first years of coaching missional community leaders and church planters I made LOTS of mistakes. In fact, what I was doing was hardly coaching. Here are 3 of my biggest coaching mistakes.

1. Know-it-all-ism. I must admit that I am a recovering Know-it-all. For many years my “coaching” was more like an advice giving session. I’d sit down with a leader and ask a couple of questions, let them respond, and then launch into a 10-15 minute monologue of what I’ve done or how I’d fix their situation. I’d leave thinking I really helped a leader, only to be frustrated the next time we met when they were still stuck. I bet many of you can relate. Perhaps you struggle with know-it-all-ism. Here are some of the symptoms: the inability to listen and ask questions, always sharing what you know and what you’ve done, failure to truly listen to what leaders are saying because you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next. The problem with giving advice (even good advice) is that leaders will be less likely to own the outcomes. The action steps that they walk away with were your ideas. They were never forced to slow down and reflect on what the Holy Spirit might be saying to them. As I’ve repented of my know-it-all-ism, and started asking questions rather than giving advice, I’ve found that leaders are much more motivated to own the outcomes when the Holy Spirit tells them to do something rather than me!

2. Coaching the problem rather than the person. Here is a good example of what this has looked like.

ME: What issues are you facing that you’d like to chat about today? LEADER: I’m really frustrated with some folks in my missional community. They just aren’t committed like I’d like them to be. ME: Well, what options do you have to help them become more committed?

Although I did a good job of using questions to generate reflection, I moved too quickly to action. I completely skipped over what God might be wanting to do in the leader. Perhaps the reason the people in their missional community aren’t committed is because they’ve got issues going on in their life. Perhaps they need to be loved, pursued. Perhaps God wants the leader to deal with their frustration and grow in patience and grace. This leader is seeing people as obstacles to their mission, not sheep that need to be shepherded. Remember, there is a spiritual dynamic to coaching. We have to coach people, not problems. Note: Often times people who get into coaching do so because they are action oriented people. They love to accomplish. They are builders and doers. We must remember that we don’t “get people done”. We develop people as disciples of Jesus first and leaders second. We disciple people into Christ-like leaders. Coaching is about coming alongside the work of the Holy Spirit to see leaders developed and matured.

3. Asking clunky questions. This is something I am still trying to get better at. Asking clear and powerful questions is the hardest part about coaching. A clear question is a question that is clean. It’s easy to process and leads to immediate reflection. Beware of asking complex, prefaced, or stacked questions. Powerful questions are questions that cause genuine reflection and lead to new insights. Don’t spend too much time peppering a leader with questions about stuff that has already happened. Ask forward moving questions. Be careful not to ask too many clarifying questions. You don’t need all the details of a situation (remember your not giving advice, so you don’t need to understand things perfectly). A good rule to follow is that 80% of your questions should be for the benefit of the leader (helping them reflect and gain insight), and 20% of the questions are for the benefit of the coach (helping the coach gain clarity and understanding of the topic).

If you want to learn more about coaching church leaders I highly recommend Coach Model for Christian Leaders by Keith Webb. This book helped me realize and correct these coaching mistakes I was making. Also, I’d be glad to serve you anyway I can. You can contact me here.

The Role of Coaching in the Church

Proverbs 20:5 tells us “the purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”.

Think about this word picture we are being given by the author. There is a deep well of purpose (calling) within the inner person of our being (heart) that needs to be drawn out. A person would be wise to regularly slow down to draw out the ideas, creativity, reflections, strategies, and action that God has already placed within us.

This is the role of coaching in the church.

In other words, coaching leaders is less about drawing up the X’s and O’s you want someone to execute in your offense (a common misconception), and more about coming alongside of a leader with a water bucket to draw out what God has put in. Coaching is about coming alongside a leader to help God lead them forward.

This is why I love Keith Webb’s definition of coaching:
Coaching in an ongoing intentional conversation that empowers a person to fully live out God’s calling.

Coaching church leaders is first and foremost about empowering leaders to live out the things that the Holy Spirit is calling them to do in obedience to Jesus’s command to make disciples.

This is why I believe we must prioritize coaching church leaders if we want to effective at making disciples who make disciples.
The Holy Spirit’s job is to equip and empower disciples of Jesus for ministry. In fact, in John 14:26 Jesus tells us that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to remind us of everything that Jesus taught– not a “Know it All” coach or pastor. I believe the Holy Spirit is regularly speaking to and empowering leaders for ministry through a variety of means… sometimes they just need help slowing down to reflect upon on what he is saying and doing in their midst. This is why all leaders need regular coaching. Coaching helps us listen to, reflect upon, and act out what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do in ministry.

How often and what types of leaders need coaching?
Personally I think everyone needs someone in their life helping them slow down and listen to God. But not everyone needs formal coaching. At Redeemer we provide regular coaching (monthly) for all of our missional community leaders. Missional Community leaders are deacon level leaders for us. They are leading a group of 10-20 people that is often a mixed bag of mature disciples, immature believers, and not-yet believers. This makes all of our groups very different, with some being more complex than others. Because every missional community is made up of unique people and they each have a unique vision for mission, coaching is critical. We’ve found that coaching is just as important (if not more important) than training for our leaders. MC leaders need the regular, on-going conversation to help them think through what God is up to in their groups and how they need to respond. What I find as I coach our leaders is that God is giving them Holy Spirit-inspired direction, solutions, and corrections (he has put it all within them), I just need to help draw it out through coaching conversations. Other types of leaders within the church that need regular coaching are staff members, ministry leaders, and church planters. Anyone who is leading others will benefit greatly from coaching.

Disclamer…coaching is not the same thing as shepherding or training.
A mistake that people often made in regards to coaching leaders in the church is that they think that coaching can supplement shepherding or training. It cannot. Coaching compliments, and in many ways heightens the pastoral care and leadership training we should be providing to leaders regularly.

Over the next 3 weeks I will be sharing more on coaching leaders, specifically missional community leaders.


Ideas for Loving Your Neighbors on Halloween

Halloween is just a few days away. As you are making your plans and prepping costumes for your little goblins, I wanted to also call us to consider how we might love our neighbors this Halloween. Regardless of how you feel about Halloween, it is one of the best days of the year to get to know your neighbors. They will literally be coming to your door!

So, in light of our September sermon series The Art of Neighboring I wanted to share a few ideas on how you can be intentional about loving your neighbors well on Saturday. These ideas are all things that different people/missional communities at Redeemer have done in the past.

1. Don’t just hand out candy, make it fun!
All the other folks in your neighborhood will open the door and drop a few pieces of candy in a trick-or-treater’s bucket. Do something different at your place to make it fun. Set up some games or activities in the front yard where kids can “play for a prize/candy” We’ve done this in several ways over the years including:

  • Spin to Win– a simple game where kids would spin a wheel to determine how many pieces of candy they get.
  • Shoot for Loot– we set up our mini basketball goal in the driveway and every kid got three shots. If they made a shot they got candy.
  • Corn Hole/Washer Toss- Use your yard games like corn hole, washers, ladder golf to create a game for trick-or-treaters to win candy or prizes.

We’ve done these types of things over the last few years and have been stunned by how impactful these simple ideas have been. Our kids and neighborhood kids loved it. Our front yard became a gathering place for neighbors on Halloween. We’ve been able to get to know new neighbors and have significant conversations every year.

2. Create a simple photo booth in your front yard.

Every mom (and dad) wants a great photo of their kids to Instagram on Halloween night. Move a bench into the front yard, decorate with some pumpkins, hang some lights in a tree, and make a sign that says “Halloween 2015”. Just like that you’ve created a place where your neighbors can snap a family photo. Offer to take their picture for them. Ask them about their family. Get to know people! This is such a simple way to love your neighbors.

3. Give out “treats” for the adults too.
Hot chocolate, cider, even bottled water make great “treats” for adults who are chasing their kiddos around the block. Offer parents a drink, ask them their name, be a great neighbor. If you have a fire pit, move it to the driveway and allow folks to make S’mores. Both kids and adults love S’mores!

None of this is rocket science. You can do these things on your own in your neighborhood or together with others in your missional community. It is all fairly simple, yet it requires that we think with gospel-intentionality. It requires making yourself available to engage with people, getting to know them and having conversations. It requires a little more of your time and resources. In other words, it requires that we love our neighbors. It requires that we see ourselves sent to them, to serve, love, and bless with the love of Christ. It requires that we fix our eyes on Jesus this Halloween— the one who made himself available for us, sacrificed his resources for us, loved, served, and even died for us.

So, how is God leading you to love your neighbors this Halloween? What ideas do you have? What have you done in the past that you can share with others? Perhaps you have a story you could share. I’d love to hear them!

Your Missional Community Needs a Vision

Last week I defined missional communities. I answered the question: What is a missional community at Redeemer? Our answer: a missional community is a family of servant missionaries committed to growing as disciples and making new disciples in all of life. In that post I unpacked everything in our definition except for the word “committed”. This word is important because every missional community should be committed to following Jesus in unique ways. It is important for us to understand that although every missional community has the same definition, in practice they can and should look different. Every missional community is a unique family, will serve in unique ways, and is sent as missionaries to a unique people. So, today I will unpack the world “committed” from our definition– answering the question: How do we discern and craft a unique missional community vision?

Crafting an Unique MC Vision
I don’t want to over complicate this idea of crafting a MC vision. This is something that we’ve done in the past. We’ve made the process very complicated at times— using primers and covenants— which have made our MCs clunky and robotic. We’ve also error on the other side, where we haven’t taken seriously them importance of establishing unique MC visions and our MCs have essentially become social clubs or bible studies, that spin their wheels and don’t grow as disciples of Jesus or make new disciples of Jesus.

Simply put, the process of crafting a unique MC vision is about pursuing God together with your missional community, asking him to show you how he wants to work in you and through you during this time and place.

  • We do this because we believe God is working in this time and place. This is what we call Ancient Work. He is at work around us, accomplishing his purposes, using his people. It is our job to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and lives that are available to be used.
  • We do this because we believe that evangelism and discipleship best happen in community. Disciples cannot be mass produced. Disciples of Jesus are made life on life, life in community, and life on mission.
  • We do this because we believe that God speaks to us. He speaks to us about his work in the here and now. He speaks to us directly as we seek him in prayer, and he speaks to us through one another as we discuss and discern what season of mission we are in.

Discerning the Vision- “Pursing the Lord Together About His Work In & Through You”
Again, I’ve learned to keep this simple and reproducible. Crafting you MC vision is as simple as asking God to show you how he wants you to uniquely live out your gospel identity during this time and space. Below are some simple questions we use to help guide our leaders. This process gives us another chance to teach and reteach gospel identity.

1. How is God asking us to be the FAMILY of God?

  • In what ways do we each need to grow as a disciple of Jesus? How can we help one another do this?
  • How can we use the 5 component of MC life to help us grow in Christ and grow as family?
  • How is God asking us to love one another?
  • What will keep us from being family?

2. How is God asking us to live as SERVANTS of Christ?

  • Who has needs among us?
  • In your relationships with others, who has needs we can meet?
  • What in our city breaks your heart?
  • What will keep us from serving others?

3. Who are the not-yet believers in our lives that God is sending us to as his MISSIONARY people?

  • What relationships with non-Christians do we have that others in our MC can come into? How can we begin to do this ASAP?
  • What are some ways that we can cultivate friendships with those God has placed in our lives? How can we begin to do this ASAP?
  • Who are we praying would come to Christ in the next year? How often will we pray for them by name?
  • What will keep us from doing these things?

One great way to use these questions to craft your MC vision is to take 3 consecutive weeks to discuss these, tackling one set of questions each week. Give people the questions beforehand and have them prayerfully answer them. Then gather together to discuss and pray. Write down the things that are shared and discussed so that you can revisit them regularly.

**(Side Note: Sharing Leadership = Sharing the Vision)
One problem I’ve witnessed in many missional communities is failure to share the vision. Sharing leadership in the missional community is important because it empowers others in your MC to own the vision. If you do everything (or all of the important things) then the missional community vision will be only yours. You’ve taken people that God has gifted and turned them into spectators. Their role becomes “show up and participate”. We want to not only allow others to help us craft the vision of our missional community, but call them to use their gifts and own the vision. Ask the group to consider how God has uniquely gifted them for this work he has called you to. Another way that we have failed in the past is having rigid categories for shared leadership (meal plannner, kids person, etc.). Be careful not to limit people to these positions. It is better to craft your vision first, and then discuss how every person can contribute to the work God has called you to. This might lead you to identifying some people to plan meals and organize kids, but it will help you to make space for the Spirit to lead people into using their gifts and passion.

Evolving Your Vision— “During this Time and Space”
Once we’ve established a vision and shared leadership we need to be careful not to think about a missional community vision as set in stone, like you went up to Mt. Sinai and came down with tablets. It is the job of the MC leaders to be sensitive to the Spirit’s work in and around you, so that you can evolve your vision as you move into different seasons.

For example: what happens when people leave the community? What happens when God begins to do something different entirely? What if you thought you were supposed to serve in one way, but suddenly find yourself serving in a different way? What about when you get into your missional community and discover the needs within the MC are overwhelming? Then what? Are you allowed to change your missional community vision? Not only are you allowed, but your missional community vision should change if you are truly seeking to follow God.

1. Responding to Needs Within
Early in the life of a missional community discipleship and shepherding needs will continually pop up. As you begin to have fun together and people start opening up about their lives, it’s at this moment when the needs of the MC begin to be revealed. Things like theological issues, or areas where some folks need to be taught or corrected. In others, people reveal thoughts, hurts, pain, or needs that they’ve never shared with anyone before. Hardship or suffering set in in people’s lives. These are all things that have happened in MCs I’ve led. In these moments, the MC has the opportunity to respond to the work of the Spirit in their midst. These things are not a distraction to the mission and vision, but often times need to be seen a apart of the mission and vision. As these moments arise, take time to acknowledge them collectively and acknowledge them as a gift from God to form the community around His purposes and not our preferences.

2. Responding to God’s Movement
This is another opportunity to evolve the vision for your missional community. You’ve prayed, discussed the questions above, and identified ways that God is asking you to live as servant missionaries. You begin to obey and do some of the things that you’ve discussed. As you do these things God might begin to answer prayer and open doors in different ways than you expect. We must be ready to respond to God’s movement and put our plans aside for his plans.

3. Responding When Things Are Stagnate
Although it isn’t always fun, sometimes God asks us to lead a missional community that will go nowhere. The vision you dreamed of doesn’t happen, the people you hoped to reach move away, and the work that God does in you isn’t what you hoped it would be. In a way, this is God answering our prayers though it is not as we would have liked it. It is important to remember that all MCs have a shelf-life. Some will die, others will reproduce. This is not a failure for the MC! God uses stagnate MCs to refine the people and leaders in another way. Who are we to question his work? God can use stagnate MCs in a variety of ways, often leading to launching new MCs or strengthening existing ones by merging.

We cannot predict what God is doing or will do when we craft our MC vision. This is why it is important to revisit your vision regularly with your MC. It is also important to regularly discuss what God is doing in your midst. Celebrate his work regularly and pray for His Spirit to lead you. It is also important that you regularly meet with your MC Coach. Monthly coaching meetings exists to help you see what God is doing in your midst, solve problems, and respond to God’s movement appropriately.

In closing, establishing a clear vision and sharing leadership is paramount for every missional community within the first few months. If a missional community has not established and committed to a vision for growing as disciples and making new disciples it’s failed to fulfill our definition– but most importantly it’s failed to hear from our living God who stands ready to work within us and through us!

Clearly Defining a Missional Community

It seems that nearly everyday I have a conversation about missional communities. I am thrilled that the missional community conversation is continually getting turned up louder! This excitement of mine is not about missional communities as a model of church per say, but rather because I believe missional communities take us back to the New Testament functions and forms of being the church– thus making missional communities most effective for making disciples.

But the more I talk with other church leaders about missional communities the more I am realizing the confusion that surrounds MCs. For some missional communities are mysterious– “I don’t really understand what you guys are doing, but it sounds really cool”. For others they are a new name for small groups– “my church just switched from life groups to missional communities”.  And then there are others who are skeptical– “I’m not so sure missional communities can really work” (by ‘work’ they mean draw and keep big crowds).

Like never before I think it is important for us to clearly define what a missional community is. Over the next three weeks I will be sharing how we define missional community, our vision for missional communities, and how we establish vision/form missional communities.

Let’s start with defining a missional community.

Definition of a Missional Community
A missional community is a family of servant missionaries committed to growing as disciples and making new disciples in all of life. This is a definition that needs unpacking. Let’s start with the “family of servant missionaries…in all of life” part.

Gospel Identity
Our definition of a missional community begins with our gospel identity— who we are in Christ because of the gospel. It can be a real temptation, and a big mistake, to make missional communities about our doing. In other words, we can be more concerned with all that “we can do for God”. But this leads to all kinds of problems: burnout, “doing” in our own power, busyness, etc. Therefore, it is important for us to know that a missional community is first and foremost about learning to “be”. We need to learn to live out our gospel identity in all of life.

We are Family— In the gospel we have been saved from the penalty of sin. We are no longer dead in our sin and objects of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-6). Through Jesus’s bloody death on the cross we have been transferred from being God’s enemies to being His dearly loved children, members of his household, seated with Christ (1 John 3:1-2, Ephesians 2:19). If we are God’s sons and daughters, then that makes us brothers and sisters. We are family. The New Testament is full of instruction for us as to what it looks like to be good family (“the household of God”). Two examples of this can be found in Colossians 3:12-17 & 1 Peter 4:7-11. These passages are worth your reading and reflection. As you read these passages (and many more like them littered throughout the NT) it is clear that the primary paradigm for the church is the family of God.

We are Servants— In the gospel we are being saved from the power of sin. Although we may still fall into sin, we are no longer enslaved to sin. God has placed his Spirit within us, giving us new hearts that are increasingly learning to serve sin less and serve Jesus more (Romans 6:5-14). Rather than “obeying sin’s passions”, we are learning to obey Jesus. As we learn to obey Jesus, we learn to walk his road, taking up our cross and laying down our lives in service to God and others. Every Christian is first and foremost a servant of Jesus.

We are Missionaries— In the gospel we will be saved from the presence of sin. This world is not our home. We are strangers, aliens, and sojourners in this world. But this doesn’t mean we sit on the sideline (or in the pew) and wait for Jesus to return and “take us home”. Instead, we are empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit to be sent into this world as His “holy people” and “living temple” that proclaims “the excellencies of Him” who saved us (1 Peter 2:9-12). We are to live lives that adorn the gospel, and regularly tell of the hope that we have. God is redeeming this world by using us, his missionary people, to display and declare his redemption to others. Every Christian is equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to participate in mission through the body of Christ.

We are a family of servant missionaries. This is our Gospel Identity. We’ve been given everything we need in the gospel! We have people & belonging, joy & significance, and purpose & security. What a good Father— setting us right and using us to see the world set right!

So, a missional community is a small group of people who are learning to live out their identity— loving one another like family, growing free from sin and in selfless obedience to Christ, and sent and empowered by the Spirit to share and show the gospel to those far from Him— in all of life’s everyday rhythms.

“Growing as Disciples and Making New Disciples”
As we continue to grow in the gospel, learning to live more consistently with who we are in Christ (family of servant missionaries), guess what happens? We begin to grow as disciples of Jesus and we make new disciples of Jesus. This is the essence of what it means to be a missional community. But one thing that we’ve learned is that we need help and support in order to grow in the gospel and live out our identity. To help us in our effort to grow as disciples and make new disciples we’ve built some structure into missional community life. We call this structure the 5 Components of MC, and they are built on the 5 Key Practices of the early church seen in Acts. In Acts 2:42-47 we see these 5 key practices that led to growth both personally and corporately.

  1. Devotion to the Apostles teaching— this meant that believers were regularly gathering to learn. They were learning the gospel and learning the way of Christ.
  2. Breaking of bread in homes— They were regularly gathering to share meals and fellowship. As we share meals together we share life.
  3. Prayer— It was God that they depended on in this new life. The devotion to prayer shows us that it was a personal God that they gathered around and trusted. Both personally and corporately, prayer was central in the life of early Christians.
  4. Unity & Clear Mission— they were together and had all things in common. They were on the same page, having a clear vision and united mission. They were selling possessions and giving to the poor— all contributing to the mission.
  5. Fellowship & Favor— not only did they live in close fellowship with one another, but they lived as a people welcoming and inviting to outsiders. Although their message was offensive to many, they had favor with all people because of the life of love they lived. God was adding to their numbers daily as a result.

We live in a different time, culture, and context than the early church that makes some of these practices abnormal to us. But because we think that these practices should be normative, and we want them to be present in our MCs, we’ve developed the 5 Components of Missional Community that we hope captures these early church practices.

5 Components of MCs at Redeemer
These components are meant to be starting points. They themselves are not the goal, but rather that these things would begin to bleed into all of your life, and will help your MC live lives that are consistent with your gospel identity.

  1. Family Meals– The family meal is the time when the missional community gathers to share a meal together with Jesus at the center. This meal is intentional in every way. We must make it clear that Jesus is who we are gathering around and he is the one who makes us a family. Encourage your people to have intentional, Christ-centered conversation while they eat. It is also important to use the family meal night as an opportunity to encourage one another, pray together, and cast vision for the mission of the group.
  2. Sunday Gatherings– Sundays are a place for people who have been being the family of God and living on mission in a broken world to retreat and be renewed by the power and presence of God. We desperately need to be reminded of the truth of God’s word as it is preached. We need to be ministered to by the Spirit as we declare truth through singing. And we need to be reminded of the gospel as we share the Lord’s Supper with the church. Sundays aren’t optional or second rate, they are the place where missional communities are encouraged, shaped by the Word of God, and recommissioned to the mission of making disciples every week.
  3. DNA– DNA is where we dig down deep in our care for one another as disciples. You must make it a goal to see every committed member of your missional community regularly participating in DNA. DNA isn’t just another thing, it is where we are formed by God’s word, pray together, confess sin, and are committed to one another’s personal growth as followers of Jesus.
  4. Missional Living– Missional living is showing and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who are not yet believers. We should be looking to cultivate loving fellowship with those God has placed in our lives. Missional communities must ask and answer the question, “How will we be build redemptive relationships with the lost?”. Perhaps that means a regular trip to the local park where you invite others and look to build relationships and get to know new friends, you throw parties in your neighborhood, or you build relationships with those you are serving. Whatever it is, we need to make sure we have an outward posture that is looking to share the gospel.
  5. Serving– Serving is a part of who we are as believers. Every missional community should be regularly serving and meeting the needs of the needy. Your MC should be asking, “Who are the people around us in need and how can we meet those needs?”.

Structure as Skeleton
It is important that I give a disclaim here. This can look like a bunch of stuff for you to do. It is not! Remember our doing must flow from our being. These 5 Components are designed to be skeleton, not a check list. The skeleton is to be wrapped in flesh— life on life, life in community, and life on mission.

So, what is a missional community at Redeemer? A missional community is a family of servant missionaries committed to growing as disciples and making new disciples in all of life. You might notice that there is one piece of this definition that I didn’t discuss today… the word “committed”. This word is important. In my next post I will discuss the importance of making a missional community commitment and developing a committed core.

Training Leaders for Missional Community

Recently at Redeemer, we took around 30 of our leaders through 8 weeks of MC training we’ve called the MC Fast Track. Our hope for the MC Fast Track was three-fold:

  1. to provide on-going training for existing MC leaders
  2. to equip new leaders hoping to launch MCs
  3. to “fast track” those who were new to our church on all things MCs (language, vision, expectations, etc.)

We learned a lot through the process, but all in all feel like it was a huge success. Our church was strengthened and 3 new MCs will be launched in our city as a result. One of our biggest take aways was the value of including current leaders, potential leaders, and those brand new all into the same training. The different perspectives and experiences sparked great conversations and dialogue. Also, we were able to provide both push and pull equipping at the same time.

If you would like learn more about our MC Fast Track, the audio and notes for all 8 sessions are available HERE.

3 Tips for Neighborhood Missionaries

I’ve lived in 3 neighborhoods in the last 5 years, and in every neighborhood I have set out with intentions of being “missional”. Each neighborhood was a fresh start and a new people to engage with the gospel. How exciting!

But it didn’t take long for the excitement to run dry and for me to find myself wanting to give up. It has started the same way every time….

“Hey honey, will you bake some cookies so that we can take them over to our neighbors this weekend”, I’ve asked my wife.

My wife (who bakes great cookies) joins me as we take them over to meet our neighbors. Three knocks on three doors and we come home with three plates of cookies in all three neighborhoods we’ve lived in.

Maybe my neighbors just don’t like cookies (or us), so we try something different.

“How about a neighborhood cookout”, I said to myself.

I moved my grill from the back yard to the front yard. I remembered one of those guys at Verge said that was a good way to be missional. (They also were the ones who said taking cookies to my neighbors was a good way to be missional).

“They will see me cooking and smell the delicious burgers and will stop to say hi”, I thought. Once they do that I will invite them to join us for dinner. To my surprise…no one cared I was grilling burgers in the front yard, and we had dinner alone.

I’m persistent, so when that didn’t work, I decided I would invite my neighbors over for a game watching party (everyone likes football, right?). This time one of the five neighbors I invited said yes. Awesome! But when he only stayed for 10 minutes I realized that he only came because he felt sorry for me.

I am dejected. Disappointed. Slightly embarrassed now. I put myself out there (for Jesus) and now I just look like the guy who is desperate for friends.

“I have plenty of friends”, I reassure myself. The temptation now is to give up on my neighborhood. I tried right?……

If this (exaggerated) story resonates with you, here are three things you need to know.

1. Neighborhood mission is more like a marathon than a sprint.

What did you expect? Did you really think that because you are friendly toward people one time they will open their life to you and listen to you share how they need to repent and turn to Christ? I live in the suburbs, and in the suburbs people are incredibly self-sufficient. They have their friends, their money, their houses, their cars, their kids, their DVR, and their hobbies. They usually don’t have time in their life for new friends…especially the overly-friendly guy on the corner with cookies and an agenda.

Commit for the long haul. Understand that mission happens in seasons. You have to plow and sow before you can harvest. Listen and learn the story of your neighborhood. What do people value? What are the needs? Who are the people on the margins? Who sets the culture of the neighborhood? Prayer walk your neighborhood regularly.

 2. Be a really good neighbor first.

Being a good missionary starts with being a really good neighbor. Get involved in neighborhood events, attend HOA meetings if your neighborhood has them, play outside with your kids, etc. Every neighborhood is different and every neighborhood has a different definition of “good neighbors”. If you recently moved into a neighborhood you have a great advantage. As you meet your neighbors, ask them about the people who used to live in your house. Their answers will tell you what “good neighbors” are to them. As I have asked this question over the years I have heard things like:

-They were really nice couple that used to baby sit for us a lot…we were sad to see them move…

-They were loud and never mowed the grass…

-I don’t really know much about them, they never came out of their house…

If you have been in a place for a while, as new people move in, ask them about their old neighborhood. What were the things they liked and disliked about it? These answers will tell you how to be good neighbors. Being a really good neighbor opens up more doors for the gospel than cookies and random cookouts.

 3. Love people in a way that matters to them.

One big mistake that any missionary can make is to assume your preferences on to the people you are trying to reach. This is a mistake I’ve made many times. There is a reason that my neighbors didn’t respond to my cookouts and cookies. Cookouts and cookies didn’t matter to them. After several months of living next door to one neighbor, I observed that he was working every weekend. Money was tight, bills were barely getting paid, and his kid’s birthdays were both in December….along with Christmas. He didn’t have time to come to my cookout. My “missional living” didn’t matter to him…it wasn’t missional to him to because it didn’t communicate love to him. But when my wife and I bought birthday presents for both of his boys he broke down in tears. He couldn’t understand why we would do that. We got to tell him that Jesus calls us to be good neighbors, and this is what good neighbors do. It was a start….only because we loved him in a way that mattered to him.

I hope that these things help. Don’t give up. Press on. God has placed you in your neighborhood/apartment to use you. May the lost be found, Christ be proclaimed, and God be glorified among your neighbors!

*disclaimer…I love the guys at Verge!

Making Disciples: Push vs Pull

Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry is hard. One of the things that makes it so hard is that there is so much equipping to do! We need to teach people to read their bibles, share their faith, love their spouse, raise their children, pray, work and rest unto the Lord, live on mission…..the list could go on and on. So where do we start? And how do we get to all of this with an ever changing group of people in all different stages of life and maturity?

One thing that has helped me is to think of equipping through the lenses of PUSH versus PULL. What I have learned is that while “push” is important, “pull” is the most effective way to equip people for life and mission in the everyday. Here is a breakdown of push versus pull.

PUSH equipping is “pushing” information into people who need it. They may or may not know that they need this information, but we know they need it, so we are going to give it to them. Most push equipping is done in theory, disconnected from real experiences and people. The idea behind push equipping is– let’s teach them how to do it so they will know, and they won’t fail. Example: a class that trains people to share their faith.

PULL equipping is “pulling” people into the information they know they need. Pull equipping is connected to real experiences and real people, and only happens when you have called people to do something that you know they cannot do on their own. The idea behind pull equipping is– let’s call them to do it, let them fail, and then equip them when they doExample: training people to share their faith (with specific people) because they want to or have tried, but don’t know how.

Think about pre-marital counseling. It is helpful and needed for any couple…but it is primarily just good information prior to marriage (push). Let someone be married for a few years, realize they need help, and then give them that help…and it is equipping for marriage (pull).

What this looks like…

One year ago I realized that the majority of the people in my MC had very few relationships with non-believers. So I began to call us to cultivate relationships with those who are far from Jesus. We threw neighborhood parties, committed to pray for new friendships, and committed to bringing intentionality to the ones we had. We did this for a year. It was awesome. Two weeks ago during our family meeting I asked the question, “how are we doing at sharing the gospel with the people God has placed in our lives?” The answer…not good. One person even said, “I feel like I don’t know how to say it (the gospel) in their language“.

I wasn’t discouraged by this at all. My response was, “Awesome! It’s my job to teach you to do that.

Now I get to give food to people who are hungry for it. They have real people and real situations to apply it to. They will digest it.

With only push equipping, people might never be hungry for it. It’s just another can to put in the pantry for later…incase they need it.

I am thankful to my friend, Mark, who coached me through my frustrations last month and helped me see that I needed to do less pushing and more pulling as I equipped the saints for the work of ministry.

Understanding Mission: Seasons of Mission

As we plant missional communities we want every MC to be a family that understands that mission is an ancient work, we want to approach mission reactively and proactively, and we want to accept that mission happens in seasons. To finish out my series on “Understanding Mission” I will unpack seasons of mission.

Seasons of Mission

Being a good missionary isn’t only about leading people to Christ and baptizing them. There is much more to it. It is helpful to think of it this way—a good farmer does much more than just harvest his crop. He invests his life into farming and knows the importance of every season of the harvest. Good farmers spend months preparing and cultivating the soil. This means hard work plowing the ground, turning over the soil, and removing the rocks.  Once the soil is cultivated and ready, then comes the season of sowing the seed (whatever he hopes to see grow). This time of sowing also means the hard work of watering, nurturing, and protecting the seed as it takes root and begins to grow. When the crop is ready and mature, then comes the season of harvest. Harvest involves carefully reaping the crop and producing it in a proper manner (i.e. grapes become wine). In the same way, good missionaries invest their lives into gospel ministry and know the importance of every season of mission. I think that it is important for a missional community to always be identifying what season of mission they are in. I have seen and lead many groups that “spin their wheels” and never make any missional traction because they are sowing gospel seeds without having done the hard work of cultivating the soil first.

Below you will find a description of the three seasons of mission that I hope you will find helpful. At Redeemer, our hope is that every missional community will always be in one of these three seasons of mission. An important thing to remember is that not one of these seasons is more important than the other. They are all equally necessary to making disciples that make disciples. What is most important is that your missional community is able to identify what season you are in, and then you allow the Holy Spirit to lead your MC as you cultivate, sow, and harvest for God’s glory in our city!

Cultivating– cultivating (or plowing) is the part of the discipleship process where we are praying for our focus area, making friends, learning their stories, and finding people of peace in our missional communities’ focus area. We are building relationships, listening to the Spirit in prayer, and focusing the majority of our time together in relational settings that connects us to the people we believe God has called us to reach.

Key Activities During This Season – praying for people by name, prayer walking in our focus area, building relationships, throwing parties in order to meet people, and including our new friends with the family. During the season of cultivating a missional community should spend less time in the living room and more time out making friends and building relationships. 

Sowing– sowing is the season where we begin to share our lives with the people we have connected with and sow “gospel seeds”. We are sharing our story, speaking of Jesus, and displaying a gospel centered life to our friends.  Remember, because we have done the hard work of plowing our friends trust us and love us at this point, so us sharing of Christ is only natural. As the Spirit leads, we are beginning to invite them into our expression gatherings, missional community meetings, Sunday gatherings, and other social activities in our church family. Sowing also involves nurturing, watering, and protecting the “gospel seeds” we have sown. This might look like additional conversations, clearing up any confusion, praying fervently for salvation, and serving the people we are sharing with. During this season a missional community might spend more time in the living room and around the dinner table discussing the scriptures, going through the Story of God, and planning proactive mission.

Key Activities During This Season – sharing the gospel in conversations and through everyday rhythms, inviting friends into the life and gatherings of church family, deepening relationships and trust, and fervently praying for friends by name.

Harvesting– harvesting is the season where we see our friends come to believe in Christ and trust in him for salvation and life. This usually happens in mini-stages, but we know we are in the season of harvesting because we see the Spirit at work in our friends lives. We know we are in the season of harvesting when we are seeing our friends responding to our sharing the gospel in positive ways. They have recognized their need for Jesus in their lives, they are reading the bible and praying with us, and they are motivated to serve with us. The pinnacle of the harvesting season comes when our friends officially repent and believe in Christ and are adopted into God’s family! Once this happens, we continue the discipleship process as we live life as a family.

Key Activities During This Season– sharing the truth of the scripture, praying with our friends, serving others with our friends, encouraging faith decisions, and calling our friends to believe.

One last thing that is important to remember in regard to the seasons of mission is that God might be asking us to share in the harvest with other believers somewhere else.  This happened to me once with a neighbor. I spent two years doing the hard work of plowing and sowing. I prayed for my neighbor, got to know him and his family, shared with him over and over again about Jesus, cared for him during tough times—only to watch him move to another city right as I sensed the Spirit leading us into the season of harvest. During this time I had to trust that God’s work is an ancient work and rejoiced that I got to play a role in the harvest that would come. It has also been my experience that I have met neighbors who are already immediately open to the gospel, because others have done the hard work of cultivating in their lives. Consider John 4:26-38 and 1 Corinthians 10:10.

How would your community function differently if you embraced the seasons of mission?