If you fail to pray, you will have missed the most important element of transitioning from Sunday to everyday.
When we first began training leaders to start and lead missional communities we were primarily working with church planters and new churches. Now we increasingly find ourselves coming alongside already existing churches looking to transition from a Sunday centric model to equipping for ministry every day. Presently, I am leading my own church family at Doxa Church through this same transition. Admittedly, I am still in process, but I am learning a lot about transitioning through both my experience and the stories of others. Before I begin, it’s important to state that I could probably write a whole book on the topic of transitioning. What I have to say here is only the tip of the iceberg, but I pray it’s helpful nonetheless.
The first and most important principle is unified leadership—leaders who share the same convictions. Those who give overall leadership to the church must be both convinced and committed to a new direction: convinced biblically that this is God’s desire for their church and committed practically to living it out as an example to the people under their care. You will not consistently lead the church toward a new reality if you are not convinced enough to lose people who don’t agree and committed long enough to learn how to work it out practically for those who stay to see and experience the change. Leaders must be unified and in agreement about what they are committing themselves and the church to for the long haul. This is not like adding a program or making a minor ministry shift. This will be a whole church transition, and the transition will take many years.
As leaders become aware of ways they have not faithfully been examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3), they should be prepared to repent publicly. For instance, the Scriptures are clear elders are called to show hospitality, which is making space in their life, home, schedule, and budgets for outsiders. Hospitality gives a tangible expression to the truths and effects of the gospel showing how God welcomed us in through Christ. Leaders are called to lead the church in hospitality first by example and second through instruction. We will never move the church from Sunday to every day if leadership doesn’t lead the way in hospitality.
As elders come to see they have not been faithful in hospitality, they need to confess that to the church and ask God to give them the grace to change. Repentance will likely need to happen in many areas (i.e. being friends of non-Christians, discipling the flock under their care to be disciple-makers, showing radical generosity in all things, etc.). As leaders publicly confess and repent, they create a culture of grace in the church that makes it possible for the church to repent, as well.
I have found most people will not take new steps toward change unless they believe there is grace to acknowledge past failures and sin. Think about it, most churches are where they are today because the members choose to follow the example and teaching of their leaders. To expect them to change without leaders repenting publicly is an unhealthy expectation. They didn’t fail. Leaders did. If the church is going to turn corporately in a new direction the leaders will have to lead the way in repentance.
However, we should not only look back on where we failed, we must also look forward to a preferred future. People will not change until the pain of staying and missing out on what could be is stronger than the comfort or familiarity of what is. Why did God’s people go to Egypt? Famine. They believed Egypt offered sustenance and a future. Why did Jesus’ disciples leave their careers to follow him? They believed He had something much better. If you are going to lead God’s people forward from Sunday to everyday, they will need to see that the better way is a life of full submission to Jesus in the everyday stuff of life.
Most people who love Sunday gatherings have likely experienced God at work in their hearts there. Leaders need to help people see they can experience even more of God’s presence and power in an ongoing way. Describe the life of a disciple filled with and led by the Holy Spirit on mission every day. Most Christians have not experienced much of the abundant life Jesus promised because they have not stepped out in faith to walk on those waters. I often hear people express their desire for a greater intimacy and acquaintance with the power of the Holy Spirit. However, I must inform them that the life lived in the Spirit is a life lived on the Spirit’s mission.
You won’t come to know the power of the Spirit if you live a life that does not require his power. To call people to transition from Sunday to everyday, I paint a picture regularly of a preferred future walking in the Spirit on mission with others who deeply love Jesus. If that life doesn’t sound better than only a weekly event on Sunday, people will not leave their present nets of comfort to venture out into the unknown. It’s true; there are significant costs in following Jesus every day, but the kingdom benefits far outweigh the worldly costs. Once again, this starts with leaders. If leaders are not convinced the future is better, they will not be able to convince anyone else either.
Next, keep all programs that support the future direction, starve all that do not, and remove any that fight against it. I often use the analogy of a body when describing how to transition a church. The body has certain organs that if taken away will kill the body. It has others that the body can live without, and others, if damaged or infected, can kill the body. When making a transition, don’t get rid of the activities or programs that are the heart and lungs, skeletal supports, and nervous systems of the church. In most churches, Sunday gatherings and groups play vital roles in the transition to everyday mission. I’ve seen churches kill their entire church by shutting down all their programs to start missional communities. This is a fatal mistake.
At Doxa Church, we use the Sunday gathering to exhort, equip, and encourage people toward mission in the everyday. When I arrived here, they had community groups in place. I didn’t scrap them and start over; I decided to keep them and gradually transition them to missional communities. These two programmatic structures were and are vital structures for communication and care through which we can also bring equipping for the new direction. I also choose not to feed programs or events that do not specifically support the future direction. By starving I mean we don’t give leadership energy, coaching, or training to these ministries. We didn’t shut them down, but we don’t prop them up and work to sustain them either.
Each church has a limited supply of leadership and resources. We must steward our resources most effectively toward accomplishing the mission of making disciples who make disciples in the everyday stuff of life. We must do few things and do them well versus try to do everything mediocre. Finally, any program or ministry that is cancerous must be eliminated. A cancerous program is one that is fighting against the future direction or even poisoning others along the way. These cannot be allowed to continue or they will destroy the body.
As you move forward you will find some have been waiting for this change. It seems God always has a remnant in the church being prepared to pioneer forward. As you discover the pioneers and early adopters, be prepared to give them the best support, mentoring, and training your church has to offer. They will need all you can give since this is new territory. Ideally, the overseeing leaders of the church are either in their groups leading by example or in other groups sharing their own learnings with others. The best way to move the entire church forward into a new direction is to have a few lead the way. People need to see and hear what life can be like from those who’ve gone before them.
We have found that placing pioneering leaders in pilot groups can be a very effective way to provide them with close training and development. A pilot group is made up of people eager to move forward into this new reality led by one of our equipping leaders who is most familiar with mission in everyday life. We presently are using the Saturate Field Guide as the curriculum for these groups. We call people to commit for a ten-week journey together through the Field Guild with the expectation that they will put into practice what they are learning along the way. We’ve done this both in singular groups and in larger groups that are broken up into 4-5 smaller groups. Through the pilot groups we have identified and equipped leaders, given people a taste of everyday mission in community and formed new missional communities as a result.
As leaders and others step out into everyday mission together, overseeing leaders must be present and available to coach and encourage them along the way. Most plans fail for lack of good preparation and ongoing support along the way. You can’t just launch people into a new reality. You need to provide ongoing training and evaluation along the way. Jesus didn’t just send His disciples out on mission. Prior to that He did it in front of them and with them. He pulled them aside regularly to explain what He was doing and to reflect on what they were doing. His training was hands-on and real-time. Then, when He did send them out, they returned with reports. Jesus provided additional training and coaching in light of their experiences or failures. We need to follow Jesus’ example of developing His leaders if we are going to expect people to lead from Sunday to everyday.
Smalls Steps and Shared Stories
I have discovered that the move from Sunday to everyday for some seems daunting. Some can’t imagine themselves making the trek up what seems to them to be Mount Everest. However, everyone can take a step on the trail. We have found that the vision of the preferred future is compelling, but without small steps being clarified, it can become paralyzing. Our job as leaders is to help people take small steps forward.
For instance, invite your neighbors over for a cookout, or call your group to pray weekly that God would open doors for the gospel. Take a prayer walk through your neighborhood once a week and ask God to open your eyes and open your neighbors’ hearts. Start going to the same restaurant once a week, and be gracious guests who learn names and stories of the servers and tip very generously. These are all small steps that anyone can take. Then share the stories of steps taken while gathered with the larger body on Sunday.
I know of one church that has a section in their weekly gathering called “I gave it a try.” During this time people share stories of giving it a try. I tried inviting our neighbors over for dinner last week. They denied, but we gave it a try. We try getting to know the story of the parents we sit next to in the stands while watching Joey’s football practice. We actually have a better idea how to serve them lovingly now that we gave it a try. At Doxa, we have a story each week from normal people in our congregation take small steps of faith in everyday situations. The people in our churches know what we care most about based upon what we do on the platform and what we regularly celebrate. Encourage small steps and celebrate each step taken.
Jesus instructed His disciples to wait for power from the Spirit before they went out as His witnesses (Acts 1:6, 8). The account of the early church throughout the Acts of the Apostles is one of consistent, prayerful dependency and Spirit-led mission. To lead our churches forward into everyday mission, we must become a prayerful people. Once again this begins with leadership. Leaders must pray regularly, consistently, and for significant periods of time.
We have adopted several ways of creating a prayerfully dependent culture here. We pray at 10:02 every morning for harvest workers. This is taken from Luke 10:02. We learned this from the leadership of C2C in Canada. We stop whatever we’re doing and take time to pray that our Lord will send more workers for the harvest and prepare the harvest for the workers. We also try to dedicate a block of time for prayer in most meetings. We also commit to “stop and pray.” If we are in a conversation where someone is in need of prayer, we don’t say we will pray. We stop and pray in the moment. We also stop and pray during a meeting when it is apparent we are lacking wisdom or direction. We have people praying during our gatherings on Sundays and more recently are asking our missional communities to commit to praying through an entire Sunday morning gathering to learn to pray together throughout the week. Our elders lead these times to both model our commitment to prayer and to actively train our people.
As our church grows in prayerful dependence they also grow in being led by the Spirit. Many Christians don’t know how to engage in the mission in everyday life because they haven’t yet learned how to follow the Spirit of God on mission in prayer. If you do all that I have already written and fail to pray, you will have missed the most important element of transitioning from Sunday to everyday. Jesus is building His church in the everyday stuff of life. Prayer is the key to submitting to Him and being empowered by Him to join in the work.