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Experience 3 – Becoming a Missional Church

Virginia Home Visitation

These guides were used in small groups of 6-9 people in my church as we explored what it means to become a “missional community.” 

* GATHERING  (5 Minutes)

– Gathered in a circle, holding hands, allow each member the opportunity to offer a sentence prayer to God, asking for guidance in discerning his voice. 

* BUILDING UNDERSTANDING THROUGH CONVERSATION (20 Minutes) 
In an article titled Becoming a Missional Congregation, George Bullard defines a missional congregation in the following way: 

A missional congregation is one who, out of their worship of the triune God and their passion around fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment, seeks to make the world more loving and just through actions focused on spiritually transforming the lives of their neighbors and modeling the gathering of these neighbors into healthy mission outposts called congregations for the scattering of these same neighbors through their own missional efforts.

Wow!  That’s a mouthful!  Let’s try a shorter version.

A missional congregation seeks to make the world more loving and just through spiritually transforming the lives of neighbors.

(By the way, George is the author of several books.  One of the best is Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation (TCP Leadership Series)

How might the community in which our congregation is planted look different if it were to become more loving and just?

What might it mean to say that our congregation aims to “spiritually transform” the lives of our neighbors? 

How has your life been “spiritually transformed” through your connection with our congregation?

What current ministries are “spiritually transforming” the lives of those connected to our congregation? 

What new or creative things might our congregation do to connect to our neighbors to bring “spiritual transformation” into their lives?

* DEEPENING OUR UNDERSTANDING THROUGH GOD’S WORD (20 Minutes)

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is engages in a discussion with a teacher of religious law about how to inherit eternal life.  The phrase “eternal life” is just as much about quality as it is about quantity.   The man isn’t just asking about “the great by-and-by,” he is asking Jesus to describe how life can have full meaning, purpose, and impact in the here-and-now.

Over the last several months, in worship, prayer gatherings, Bible study, and personal devotion, what have you sense is God’s purpose for our congregation in the here-and-now?  How do we find meaning and make an impact as a church for the sake of God’s Kingdom. 

The man asks Jesus how he can experience eternal life (a meaningful and purposeful life).  Jesus responds by asking the man what the scriptures say.  To this the man replies, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly.  Do this and you will live!”

In Jesus’ day, the heart was considered the seat of one’s passion and trust. 

The soul was the seat of a person’s will, focus and self-determination.

A person’s strength was all the resources of their physical might and body.

The mind was the center of a person intellect.

In light of these factors, what might it mean for our congregation to…

1. Love God with all its heart?

2. Love God with all its soul?

3. Love God with all its mind?

4. Love God with all its strength?

The second commandment recited from the scripture is to “Love one’s neighbor as self.”  What is the connection between loving God and loving one’s neighbor? 

* CONNECTING THROUGH PERSONAL APPLICATION  (15 Minutes)

After the man recited the instructions of the scripture, Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly.  Do this and you will live!”

This evidently wasn’t enough to the man.  He had one more question.  It was then and remains now a key question to be answered if we are to understand our missional purpose as a congregation.  The man said to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

In response, Jesus tells one of his most popular stories.    

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

There are two main challenges to be considered in response to this text.  The first is found in the final four words of this passage.  After the man identifies the “neighbor” as the one who acted with kindness, Jesus said: “Go and do likewise.”

What hindrances are blocking our congregation from acting like “the Good Samaritan” (like a good neighbor) to those we might be called to serve?

Another challenge in this text is in defining the primary people we are uniquely called to serve as a congregation.  While the church universal is called to serve humanity, God’s gifting and call on a congregation is typically specific to a region, people group, culture, and/or community.  As a congregation is found faithful being neighborly to it specific mission field, then its gifting and call from God will continually expand until its impact is truly global in scope.

George Bullard writes, “Missional congregations, while deeply caring for the needs of one another in its own congregation, are focused externally and seek to mobilize their congregations to be received, accepted, caught, embraced, and trusted by their neighbors.”

This brings us to a second challenge from the above passage of scripture.  If our congregation were to become a truly external focused congregation imagine what our membership look like in about ten years.

Answer this question:  Who are the people you sense we might be serving as a congregation if we continue to follow God and become a more externally focused congregation? 

* PRAYING OUT LOUD FOR EACH OTHER AND FOR THE CONGREGATION (15 Minutes)

In a minute or two of silence reflection, think about the story of the “good Samaritan.”  

Who are the people for whom you feel burden to become a better neighbor? 

Each member should pray aloud, asking God to burden their hearts and the heart of the entire congregation to discern the people to which he is calling us to be a neighbor of for the sake of the Kingdom of God. 

* COMMITTING TO ACTION

“As you drive to church, to work, and to all the other activities and tasks in which you are involved, give special attention to the surroundings you pass through.  Make mental notes of who you see, what you see, and needs of any kind that are readily observed – and even those not so readily observed.” (Bill Moore)

As we continue on the spiritual journey, each cluster group member in encouraged to remain open to God in the manner outlined above.  Keep notes of what you observe and how God might be calling you and this church to be a neighbor to our community.  

* RECORDING WHAT WE ARE HEARING FROM GOD AND EACH OTHER

Each cluster group is asked to appoint a “scribe” who will prepare a “group report” of what the group believed it heard (discerned) from God.  These reports should be submitted to the pastor immediately after your session and will be used by the “initiating leadership team” for consideration in the preparing the congregation’s “Future Story.”

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