It’s been a year and a bit since we started experimenting with missional community here in France. It has been slow going, feeling like a step back for every step forward, but we have been learning and building some momentum. Here’s the story so far…
Our first six months was characterised by a strong outward focus – lots of parties and inclusive events -but we over-corrected in the outwards direction and lost the sense of community and discipleship. We had a complicated calendar that tried to cover all the bases but in the end people just felt tired and confused.
The remainder of the year saw a swing back to the ‘up’ and ‘in’ dimensions of the group. We started to experiment with focused ways of discipling each other (using Life Shapes, Huddles and other concepts from Mike Breen, 3DM, etc.) and we experimented with including our kids too. Two of the three core families in our group had babies, and this very naturally slowed things down as they welcomed the new arrivals.
During this time, although it felt slow-going, the culture of the group was really being established as about ‘living on mission with Jesus’. So people were starting to figure out what a missional lifestyle might look like for them. This I feel was one of the major successes of the year, and an essential foundation going forward.
Of course, we had once more over-corrected and swung away from the ‘out’ dimension, as a group. We were a tight knit discipling-unit but not the inclusive and accessible community that we aspire too. So, with an understanding of prayer and discipling each other as an essential foundation, we are once more turning to building inclusive community, with perhaps two main aspects. Firstly, trying to ‘do life together’ and intentionally find ways to invite others in to what we are already doing (going to the park, going swimming, having lunch,…). Secondly, inviting others more intentionally into that social space so they get to glimpse what we’re all about too.
To do this, we are starting a discipline of simply getting our diaries out at our regular meetings and asking: how did we do last week in terms of connecting with God, sharing our lives and being a blessing? What opportunities are there over the next week or two to do those things? Simple stuff, but achievable and workable.
I have also become aware that we haven’t really be trained in ‘living the Jesus life’. Our church backgrounds have provided us with a Biblical ethical/moral compass and some spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study) – perhaps even (hopefully!) a Christian world-view – but not really the skills and mindset we need to live as missionaries to our culture. How do we bring word and deed together to really glorify God? How do we really help each other, day-in, day-out, to grow in maturity? How can we explain how the gospel relates to the preoccupations of our neighbours? This whole area of training is a big area that we need to explore over time.
My next post will digest all this into the lessons we’ve learned, though probably they are pretty clear from reading the above!
What about you? What kind of learning curve have you been on in this whole area?