Those who have spent their time learning the language and theology of the missional church know that its popular to talk about the church being the “sent church.” I wrote about this extensively in my paper on the suburban church (The Gospel and the God Forsaken: The Challenge of the Missional Church in Suburbia).
The challenge of course lies in the fact that many of us talk a great game about being “sent” and few of us actually can really figure this thing out and get our hands around it. It’s a lot of trial and error and expirmenting. Basically, it’s not easy when you are shaped by a society and culture that is based in consumerism. This kind of culture goes directly against what it means to be a sent church. Before you know it, your faith and church community life becomes a consumer way of life as well.
At The Well we have found that no matter how much we teach and talk about being missional (a sent community for the sake of the world) it is a whole other thing to live it out. Now, we do have an awesome community. We have people who are doing their best to live as “ordinary radicals” (to steal a term from Shane Clairborne) in their daily lives.
- We have moms who are intentional with their neighbors.
- We have social workers who are doing their best to work in often broken systems and fight for the disenfranchised and poor.
- We have baristas who are doing their best to be teh presence of Christ in their coffee shops.
- We have waiters who are doing the same in their restaraunts.
- We have business people who are trying to be faithful in their 9-5s.
These people understand that in their daily lives, they are sent.
But (you knew there was a but coming didn’t you?) the hard thing is to think creatively and effectively about structuring a church so that we are not only sent individuals, but a sent community. We need to not only be sent in the places we go everyday. We need to be sent into the places we don’t naturally want to go. And, we need to be sent together.
Someone asked a question a few months back that really got me thinking:
“How do I get involved at The Well”
Since we are a community that does not have a bunch of weekly programs this is not an easy answer.
When I was a kid, the answer to this question would have been this:
- Come to church on Sunday’s.
- Come to church on Sunday Nights.
- Volunteer at AWANA on Monday nights
- Go to youth group on Tuesday nights. (if you are an adult volunteer for this)
- Go to the youth group bible study on Wednesday nights. (if you are an adult, go to a small group).
Now, these things are all good. I am very glad I participated in them as a kid. But, notice something. They are all “in house.” There isn’t really much “sentness” going on here. (yes, i think i just made up the word “sentness”).
So, as a community that doesn’t really have all these things (we have some small groups and some other “in house” ministries but not near enough to get someone “fully involved.”
For a while my answer at The Well was this:
- Come on Sunday mornings.
- Get to know some people through our community dinners.
- Get in some good friendships that are challenging you to grow in your faith.
- Go to work everyday and be a faithful witness for Jesus.
Now, while I guess this is good and all, its wasn’t really a satisfying answer to me. It was fine for those who are outgoing but for those who are a little more socially introverted, this is a hard thing to imagine.
So, we (Gary, my co-pastor and I) began looking for another way to answer this question. It was just at this time that he led a team to Center City Philadelphia for a missions trip serving the homeless and I was in Guatemala with my wife bringing home our new son, Mason. Before these things we had spent the summer studying Romans 12 and had some good discussions in community on the concept of Sacrifice.
In the midst of these things, something clicked for both of us. The light bulb went off. What we had to do was clear. There was no longer any excuse for us to be calling each other and our community to give up our own comforts for the sake of others who might be considered the oppressed and outcasts in our society.
Simply put, it’s time to put up or shut up.
To make a very long post a little less long here is what I will now tell anyone who asks (And even those who don’t) how they can be involved at The Well…
- Come and be part of our community through our Sunday mornings, community dinners and bible studies.
- Be sure to be in closer relationships that intentionally encourage you in your faith.
- Find an external ministry in the city or in the suburbs that serves the poor, disenfranchised or oppressed and go serve regularly with a few others from our community. (From our trip to Philly, we have a few awesome ministries to partner with).
- Maybe come to a weekly bible study.
- Take a look at how you can serve others in our community in some of our in house ministries like children’s ministry and other stuff.
My wife and I are joining another family with small children and we’ll be heading to the local nursing home in our town. In my mind, the elderly are a little bit like the leapers of our culture. We shut them of from society, stick them in their own communities and pretty much forget about them. We’re excited to build into our kid’s lives from a very young age that serving others is just assumed when you are part of the Hiestand family. We’re also excited to not have our lives and evenings revolved around television shows, but serving others. This might sound stupid, but if you’re honest, its unfortunately a big deal.
We pray the same for our community. That we will cultivate a culture that just plain assumes that to be involved in practicing justice and compassion is part of what it means to be a Christian. And, that as a pastor, I pray that I can help by cultivating a community structure that aids all of this.
We had a big sign-up Justice/Ministry Sunday thing this morning in church. We’ve got a good wave of momentum moving forward and its going to take a lot of hard work to keep us all motivated and involved.
What a privilege it is to be part of what God is doing in the world….