You're Not Jesus

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in our church was seeking to be Jesus to our city. When we first started Soma, the church we planted in Tacoma, Washington, I opened the Scriptures to John 20:21 and read, "Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.'" Then I explained to our small core group we were going to discover together how God sent the Son and, in turn, how he was sending us into the city of Tacoma on mission. I made it my goal from that point on to teach the missional incarnation life of Jesus throughout the book of John and mobilize our team to live on mission every day. It was a great study as we sought to be Jesus to Tacoma—big mistake.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in our church was seeking to be Jesus to our city

By the time we had finished our study of John we were well aware of the life Jesus lived on mission, and we were also well aware of our inability to live it. We were overwhelmed and burnt out as we tried to love, serve, and demonstrate the kingdom of God in everyday ways—just as Jesus did. In our study we landed back in John 20. Tired, weary, overwhelmed, and disillusioned I read verse 21 again as the resurrected "Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.'" This time I kept reading verse 22. "And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"

If only I had kept reading before! Why didn't I read onward the first time?

My Mistake

I had called people to do the work of Jesus without the help of Jesus

I led people to try and be Jesus without the presence of Jesus. I had sent people out to do the missional incarnation work Jesus did without the same power he did it with: the Spirit. We can't be Jesus. There is only one Jesus. We need the same Spirit that empowered him for ministry and raised him from the dead. In John 15:5, Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." And the apostle Paul states very clearly in Colossians 1:27 that it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." In both cases, it is evident the only way the work of Jesus will be done in and through us is if we are doing it by the very same Spirit.

If Jesus needed the Spirit for the mission, so do we.

In our emphasis on living a life on mission, we must not be so foolish to think we can be Jesus—nor should we be so proud to think we are better than Jesus. If Jesus needed the Spirit for the mission, so do we. Jesus is a better Jesus than you, and the Spirit has all the power you need to accomplish Jesus' mission through you. Don't try to do this on your own.

"If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14). The good news is he isn't asking us to do the work. He is inviting us to ask him to do the work in and through us. I am thankful he let me experience the fruit of my foolish pride because he led me back to himself, and I will never forget how refreshing he was for this weary pastor!


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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

On Mission this Halloween

This coming Monday offers a great opportunity for many to engage in new relationships with those around us or to revisit some old relationships with new missional intentionality. Regardless of what you think of the holiday and it's roots, the culture we have been sent by Jesus to reach is going to celebrate Halloween this Monday. We all have in front of us a wide open door for missionary engagement in our neighborhoods. I want to encourage you not to miss out on the opportunity. If you are looking to be more intentionally engaged this year, I want to present you with a few ideas for how you can more effectively walk through the open door that Halloween presents to us as Jesus' missionaries.

BE HOSPITABLE...Don't just give out candy

  1. Give out the best Candy. Please, don't give out tracks or toothbrushes or pennies...kids are looking for the master loot of candy. Put yourself in their shoes.
  2. Think of the Parents. Consider having some Hot Apple Cider and pumpkin bread or muffins out for the parents who are bringing their little kiddos around the block. Make your entry-way inviting so they want to come closer and hang for a bit if possible.
  3. Be Present. Don't hide out all night. Come out to the door or hang out on the porch and if they stop to have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.
  4. Be Encouraging. Tell the kids you love their costumes and to have a great night. Practice building others up with words.
  5. Party. If you're really into it, you may want to throw a pre-Trick or Treating party. Provide dinner and drinks. Then, send the dads out trick or treating with the kids while the moms continue hanging with some hot apple cider, coffee or tea. Then reconvene with the parents and kids together to examine all of the loot (kids love to show their parents and other kids the loot).
  6. Learn the Stories. If you are out T or Ting with the kiddos or staying back with the other parents, ask questions...get to know their stories. Pay attention to their hearts and their felt needs. Look for opportunities to serve them later. This is how I first got to know Clay (while Jayne was hanging with Kristi and the other moms). I learned his story while we were with the kids and Jayne got to know hers. This led to both of them eventually coming to faith in Jesus.

GO TO THEIR PLACE...Join what is happening elsewhere

  1. Attend the Party. If others are throwing parties, you may want to join them. If so, bring drinks, food or whatever is needed. Then, serve by helping to clean up.
  2. Join the Community. If your community has key events, join them and invite some neighbors to go with you (then get to know their stories along the way). Our area has a trick or treating event on a main street where all the businesses give out candy, the firemen give tours of the fire engines, etc... We go with a group of friends to this each year and consistently meet more people to reach out to.
  3. Head to the "Watering Holes". If you do not have kids or are not going to engage in the Trick or Treating activities or events, consider going to the local pubs, restaurants or clubs near you for their events and get to know the people there. Make it your goal to learn the story of at least one person who needs Jesus and walk away with some next steps on how to serve them. You will want to do this with others so that you don't go it alone.

BE PRAYERFUL...Ask for the Spirit to led, guide and work

  1. Pay Attention. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes and ears to the real needs around you.
  2. Stay Dependent. Ask the Spirit to help you listen, care and serve those around you.
  3. Open Doors. Ask the Spirit for open doors for new relationships and gospel conversations

SHARE YOUR IDEAS...Let us know what you've done or are going to do. Please share your ideas with us...what have you done? What are you planning to do? Let's learn and prepare together...

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Gospel Fluent Thinking

This past Sunday I spoke on Wise Thinking from the Proverbs (Proverbs 4:2-5:6). You can listen to it here if you'd like. The content is part of some work I am doing in preparing for my book on Gospel Fluency. I have found that many of us don't follow the advice of the wise father to his son: "Ponder your path". To Ponder is to slow down and examine what you are thinking and doing. The father tells his son that the wayward woman (foolishness personified) does not ponder, but wanders aimlessly down the path to destruction, while remaining ignorant of what she is doing.

How many times have you found yourself asking: "Why did I say that?" or "Why am I saying this?" as the verbal diarrhea overflows into a toilet of regret. Or "What was I thinking?" while you stand in the debris of your foolish missteps. And, "How did I get here?" as you astonishingly wake up to the reality that your lack of careful pondering has snowballed into a pitiful, mess of devastation. Maybe you just know someone else to whom this is true and now you just need some good advice for them ;)

During my message, I shared some thoughts about how we can take the time to Ponder - slow down - and let the gospel shape our thinking, which I believe will lead to steps down the path of wisdom as a result.

First of all CAPTURE your thoughts.

It was springtime in Chicago and I was at the McCormick Place to speak at the Christ & City event at the end of the Gospel Coalition conference. I walked into the large auditorium that was four times as wide as it was deep to hear Tim Keller teach. Previously there had been around 6000 in the room for the Gospel Coalition event. At this moment, there were now probably 3000-4000. I was scheduled to teach a breakout session in this same room later. As I listened to Tim teach, I found myself making notes and scratching out some of what I had intended to say. "How did he get my stuff? He had stolen a bunch of my material!" I forgot how much his teaching had influenced me – some of my notes sounded like what he was presently saying. That wouldn’t have been so bad if I were teaching much later or somewhere else, but I was going to speak right after him in the same room to many of the same audience. So, I quickly started reworking all my notes.

After Tim was done, I was ushered back into the green room to wait my turn to be called up. I finished making some final notes and then was brought up on stage. As I walked up, I realized they had forgotten my white board for the diagrams I was going to draw while teaching. Then, I turned to look out into the room and I couldn’t see anyone. Oh, people were probably there, I think, I just couldn’t see them because the lights were so bright. Now, one thing about me that is important to note, I am a relational teacher – I love to see people and adjust my teaching in light of what I sense the Holy Spirit is doing and how I see people responding. I had absolutely zero visible knowledge of what was going on in the room. As I began teaching, I wondered if there actually were any people in the room at all. It was hard to tell because there was almost no discernible response (I think they were all overloaded with information because we were at the end of a long conference with some very heady material...or asleep because they were so tired...or just saving seats for the LeCrae concert happening later in that same room). I did my best and hoped that it helped some people. Then after I was done, they ushered me away from the people who wanted to talk to me afterward because I had to make it to a dinner that was about to start. Zero feedback. Zero knowledge as to whether I was helpful or hurtful in my teaching. I was flying blind and the radio signal was off.

I went back to my hotel room later that night very discouraged and depressed. I played my talk over and over in my head and it only seemed to get worse the more I did it (the snowball started rolling and gaining size and speed - this is what happens when our thought lives are not brought into submission). I began to think I had wasted people’s time and in turn the resources of the kingdom. At one point I started believing that I must have said a bunch of heresy and D.A. Carson, one of the theologians and leaders of the Gospel Coalition, was going to have to call me in and confront me. Then they would have to publish an apology for having me speak, acknowledging that I don’t represent what the Gospel Coalition believes. I felt like a failure.

Have you ever experienced something like this? A time when you felt like a failure? Or, a time when you began to be filled with self-doubt or fear? Maybe you haven’t experienced anything like this, but have you ever found yourself consumed with some destructive thoughts? Like thoughts of hatred and rage that begin to dominate your mind crowding out all other thoughts? What about impure, lustful thoughts that seem to keep pushing you to think of women or men in inappropriate ways? Maybe your thoughts have gone more toward pride and self-righteousness, leading you to think you are better than others and to despise others that just don’t seem to live up to “the standard”.

What do you do with these thoughts? Maybe you’ve never thought about thinking about your thoughts. Its possible that you aren’t even aware of what is going on in your mind most of the time because you’ve never stopped to think about it. Have you ever paused and thought about what your thinking? Feeling? Contemplating?

STOP. What are you thinking right now?

Most of us are moving too fast to stop. Or, the idea of listening to our thoughts, paying attention to them is scary - we don't really want to pay attention to what is going on inside. Many of us go on vacation and stay busy so we don't have to acknowledge the murmur of restlessness, anger, resentment, anxiety, fear...or any other number of frightful thoughts and emotions. And then we need a vacation from our vacation because we ran ourselves ragged trying to avoid hearing ourselves. Some of us never take a break because the noise of a busy life is more comforting than the contemplation of the heart around the gospel.

Paul told the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 10:5) to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. To capture something requires taking it under control and holding it in a place. We have to stop and ask "What am I thinking?" "Why am I feeling or thinking this?" "What is going on in me right now?" Lately, I have been asking my son Caleb, "What are you doing?" He responds: "Nothing." To which I reply: "You're always doing something." The same is true for thinking: You're always thinking something.

STOP - What are you thinking right now - Capture it - Control it - Examine it.

Most of us don't STOP to capture and examine our thinking. However, the apostle Paul says this is how we begin to experience transformation - by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). Our minds will not get renewed if we don't pay attention to what we're thinking and then...

COMPARE your thoughts to What is True of God; What He has done for you and Who you are in Christ Jesus.

That night in my hotel room with my wife on the phone, we took time to compare my thinking to...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8). This meant comparing my thinking to what is true of God, His work through the person and work of Jesus and who I am now because of faith in Jesus. Jayne reminded me: "This is not about you Jeff! This is about Jesus! He is glorified in your weakness AND your 'success'. What if God wants to glorify himself through your failure. Are you OK with that? Anyhow, remember, you aren't the one who changes hearts. God does. Besides, you don't want people to be impressed with you. You want them to be impressed with Jesus." I shared more of what I was thinking, feeling, believing... and she kept comparing my thoughts to what is true, lovely, pure, etc... "God is in control, even if you failed Jeff. You don't need the approval of man. You are accepted by God! He is your Father who loves you. What else do you need?" We continued on as she exhorted me in the gospel and the truths of God's Word.

How often do we slow down to compare our thinking to what is true of God and what we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

And do we have people around us we can turn to for this? I hear of way too many Christians living life alone - God didn't save us for a personal ALONE relationship with him. He saved us from ALONENESS into a community - His Family. I believe if we did this more often with one another in community, we would not only have lives that better reflect what is true of Jesus, but our hearts would also be full as worship as we become overcome by the grace of God in the midst of everyday life.

Finally, CONFESS your unbelief through genuine repentance and replace the lies with truth.

In over 20 years of ministry I have heard plenty of confessions, but rarely do I hear people confess their sin. People regularly say "I'm sorry" and rarely say "I've sinned".

We generally regret the consequences of sin and then desire that they go away as quickly as possible. We say, "I'm sorry I hurt you (...and that you are so weak and hurt so easily)"; "I'm sorry that this offended you (...you should not be so easily offended) or "I'm sorry I did that (...because it doesn't feel good right now). True confession of sin, confesses sin.

I have found there are generally two reasons we walk down the path of foolishness, leading to destruction - two reasons why we don't do what is right and good:

  1. Ignorance
  2. Unbelief and Rebellion

My daughter Haylee has been struggling with fear and anxiety. She is nine. We didn't rebuke her for this ("Stop worrying. You shouldn't worry. That's a sin!) We instructed her about who God is and how powerful he is. We have been teaching her not only that he is great and in control, but also good and loves her. We reminded her that Jesus overcame sin, death and Satan - the three sources of all of our fears. And that He is both with her and for her. Along the way we have been teaching her to not be anxious, but to offer her concerns to God in prayer with thanksgiving, trusting that God can guard her heart and mind in Christ Jesus, granting her peace.  Haylee was ignorant. Not any longer. Now, if Haylee refuses to bring her concerns to God and prefers to deal with them on her own, she is no longer ignorant, but rebellious, walking in unbelief. I know that sounds harsh to some of us, but it is true. We either humbly submit the truths we know about God or we pridefully ignore them or outright reject them.

Paul says the same thing to the people in Athens after he describes the unknown god to them as the True living God who made them and everything they enjoy - Acts 17:30-31: "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

Many of us or the people we care for and shepherd need to be informed so they no longer stand in ignorance. Our job in many cases is not just to confront sin, but to inform people with the truth of God and the good news of Jesus Christ. If they don't know the truth, how can they take captive their thoughts, compare them to Him and then respond in repentance.

However, once informed of the truth, we are no longer ignorant but informed. And when we take the time to capture a thought, compare it to Jesus and see where it is not in line with the truth of the gospel, we have a choice to make - repent or rebel. And repentance not only owns the sin, confessing it as such, but also owns the truth of God, confessing it in faith as our only hope.

That night, in my hotel room, on the phone with my wife, I repented. I saw that I was a prideful man and I was living for people's approval not God's glory. I wanted to do well, not just to help people, but to help myself. I wanted to be liked, accepted, approved of by man. I had believed the approval of man was more sufficient than the approval of God. It was unbelief in God's Word and unbelief in the gospel. I was sorry...not for the state I was in, but for the state of my heart before God. I acknowledged my sin of pride and unbelief in the complete work of Jesus that made me acceptable before God. As I confessed this sin, I also acknowledge my belief in his grace to forgive as well as my acceptance because of what Jesus had done, not for how well I spoke. I experienced healing and refreshment from his Spirit. God opposes the proud but he gives grace to the humble. We say that, but we are afraid to humble ourselves. I experienced his grace that night again.

After all of that, the Spirit confirmed that he did indeed use my talk, despite my weakness and brokenness. God does that - he works in and through our mess to show his power and glory. Crazy!

If we are ever to become a gospel fluent people, we must first of all become a gospel familiar people - we must experience it changing us first before we will have the confidence that it can change others as well. Take the time to capture your thoughts, compare them to the truths in the gospel and confess any and all unbelief and rebellion as sin and put your faith again in Jesus and his sufficient work for you!

Serving the MC (Jayne's Perspective)

Matthew 20:28 “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”

Missional Communities can be tricky. I can give you the rundown of what a “perfect gathering night” looks like or I can give you the real, unadulterated, hardcore truth that usually includes food on the floor, the dog puking (or getting out the front door and running toward the street), toddlers running around in diapers, loud thumps coming from the upstairs, water mysteriously all over the upstairs bathroom floor, multiple interruptions, clogged toilets, cell phones ending up in a mug of tea, and sticky spots on the floor that I will not notice until the next morning when the beautiful sun comes beaming through my clean (I mean sticky fingerprinted, and cloudy) front window…which illuminates memories of the night before. The smell of grilled meat and sweet potatoes are still ruminating in the house. Ahhh…I think we talked about Jesus??? Or maybe that was everyone else while I was running around the house…with joy in my heart…chasing a dear little boy named Finn. Finn is the active toddler of a couple in our neighborhood who loves Jesus and hopes to host their own MC one day. Finn’s mama and daddy were tired and needed to be with the adults tonight. I took my cue from the Holy Spirit and put down my Bible…and played with this little one upstairs for the next hour, while the older kids were happily entertaining themselves in the basement playroom. Finn and I played with legos, cars, balls, superheroes, looked at books, talked, tickled and laughed for a little over an hour while his mommy and daddy had a glass of wine and interacted around God’s Word discussing all the texts surrounding the Deity of Christ. Finn’s mom is a woman who loves Jesus and who loves to pray.

I can’t tell you what all the adults talked about because I wasn’t present in that discussion. But…I can tell you what was going through my mind while playing with Finn…like the fact that I am so thankful to have a home where people can openly talk about the Lord, and that Finn has a mommy and daddy that love Jesus and are partnering with us in this neighborhood to lead people to Jesus.  And that Jesus was with me in that upstairs room and I am not “missing out” on anything else happening in the house. I am part of a great call from Jesus to serve.  And most fondly, I was thinking of how God has given me a new mind and perspective on what it really means to serve...in the moment. I am humbled and grateful that He has revealed these things to me.

Many of us would like to think that we are “that kid” sitting in the front row of all that are gathered at the feet of Jesus while He is teaching. We are drinking in every word He says, feeling ready and eager to do anything He asks. Then…He says, “I need a volunteer!” All of our arms go up, we’re still sitting, but not really, we’re kind of half standing…and we shout “Pick me! Pick me!” But when He calls our name, we pull back, second guess, cower and say…”Nevermind…”

When Jesus calls on us, it always involves serving. Jeff was serving the adults tonight by teaching, instructing and leading in the main room. My task of watching Finn for this night was no less important to Jesus.  We, as hosts of our MC Gathering, are here to serve…period. If you are able to posture yourself with this attitude…and truth, you will experience joy in serving and be able to adjust to whatever task the Lord gives you for that evening.

Serving is not a gender specific, gifting or “personality” thing. It is a command in scripture and it looks different at different times. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love theology and I especially love interacting around God’s Word.  But tonight, God called me out of my chair to a different task. Serving is not always a premeditated, predictable act, but one that is recognized and accommodated at a moments notice. It’s a heart attitude of contentment, and it leaves you not exhausted, but filled with joy! Most of us can work up a desire to serve, but how we respond, in the spur of the moment, really exposes what is inside of us.

Jeff and I are on the same team. We are watching each other as we lead and we are filling in the gaps for each other. It’s like playing soccer. A team player doesn’t run down the field right next to the person with the ball, they open themselves up, watching and waiting for a pass.  Anyone who knows anything about the game of soccer, knows this is crucial. You position yourself in a strategic way so as to assist the other…and the goal is to score a point, not compete with each other as to who is in the “most important” position or debate who actually is responsible for the goal.

So…my charge to all of you would be to devote yourselves to prayer on this subject, not that God will help you be a good host, or that people won’t mess your house up…not even that God will “sustain you and get you through each week,” but that God will transform your hearts and minds to be filled with His Spirit and learn what it means to really “Serve wholeheartedly as if serving the Lord!” (Eph. 6:7)

God bless you all!

Planning the MC Mtg with Children in Mind

In the next several posts my wife Jayne and I are going to address the question: How do you do Missional Community with Kids? During this post Jayne is addressing the question: How do you address caring for kids during your weekly MC Gathering?

Keep in mind, when we think about children and our missional community we ask: How can our children join us in the overall mission? How do we disciple them all week long? How do we make sure the mission is accessible for them? How do we insure they can participate? And, how do we help them reach their peers as well?

When we think about our gathering on Tuesday nights, we don't feel like we have to address all of these in our 2-3 hour time together. We address these through the whole week approach.

Our gathering on Tuesday nights:

In our experience with kids, we have had to be very strategic. We currently have kids from under age 2 up to age 10. We have done different things, but what works well in my humble opinion is to have people rotate and share the responsibility each week. This adult or older child is NOT responsible for the whole night, but just for the discussion time. Also, it is important to really crack down and having a start and finish time of discussion that is clearly discussed and agreed on between all of the adults.  This is very important for the kids AND the adult who are serving the kids. An hour and a half is about all we can manage without major melt-downs…from both kids and adults.  Let the adult know that they are free to turn the kids loose at the ending time.

So, as an MC host, you would have a room set aside and ready with some snacks, puzzles, coloring stuff, toys, books etc. for the adult to take them in and watch them while you were having your discussion (some of our groups use a neighboring house).

Another option is to have this room ready for the kids to stay in and have an "on call" adult nearby peeking in on them, while partially engaging in the night. That has worked well for us too at times...although some nights an adult may need to be present or it will and has been known to turn into a “Lord of the Flies” situation.

You could have theme nights each week like..."Next week is popcorn and a movie night," or "Art night" and have crafting supplies ready for them to do a project. Obviously, the littler ones can probably only handle a story or two, but the older ones can work on some scripture memory or something like that. Reading to them from the Jesus Storybook Bible each week is a good option. Free play is also very important so the kids can socially engage and interact with each other. When the weather is nice outside (not much in the Northwest), we encourage the kids to play together outside.

Remember that all of our groups are always changing and adapting so our methods and practice need to change with them.

As the host of the home I have always tried to keep my eye on things and made an effort to help the mom's with young ones, stepping in to rescue them if they looked exhausted.  I think there needs to be leadership exercised as the host in serving, and sometimes that means that we sacrifice things in order to teach others how to sacrificially host and serve. We are always teaching by our actions…knowing that when others lead out of THEIR home someday, they will have seen that modeled and been taught that is how we develop servant leaders.

Remember that you are not being “Stuck” back with the kids…that your discussions are NOT superior and more important than your interactions with these young ones.  You can’t look at these kids as a hindrance or interruption. They need to be taught and guided and sometimes, depending on their age, this needs to be done in a separate area of the house so they can best learn and engage. It is an honor and privilege to pray for, prepare lessons for, and to hang out with them.

Most of the obstacles in our own group have been not logistics, but a heart issue. I have totally struggled with this in the past, that’s why I feel I can speak into it. My heart in the past has looked down on this task and looked at it as overwhelming and “not fair” that I am always “stuck” with figuring it out. I am ashamed of that...but, thank you Jesus for interrupting my thoughts and forgiving this sin, revealing to me that this is a situation to embrace, not “solve.” Hopefully, by the grace of God, after a little teaching to your adults, you will have people arguing about who gets to be with the kids next…I will pray you will see that happen…

Fleshing Out MC through Covenant

Committing to Life on Mission Together

As Soma Communities we define a Missional Community as a Family of Missionary Servants who make Disciples who make Disciples.

Every year we coach our MC leaders to form a group covenant shaped by this definition. They are guided through a process whereby they work through with their group what they all believe regarding the gospel and their gospel identity. Then, as they identify a people and place for accomplishing the mission of making disciples, they clarify how they plan to radically reorient their lives along the regular rhythms of missionary work in that context. The members who are willing to devote themselves to one another and the mission of the group then sign this covenant. This is followed by a public commissioning of the leaders and group at one of our church gatherings, similar to what we do when we send missionaries to another country.

This covenant is shaped around their identity in Christ:

Family – A missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family. They see God as their Father through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit.

This means they have and know of a divine love that leads them to love one another as brothers and sisters. They treat one another as children of God deeply loved by the Father in everything – sharing their money, time, resources, needs, hurts, successes, etc… They know each other well. This knowledge includes knowing each other’s stories and having familiarity with one another’s strength and struggles in regards to belief in the gospel and its application to all of life.

They speak the gospel truth to one another, regularly building each other up in love. They also love the people around them as if they were part of the family, showing them what the love of the Father looks like and in so doing inviting them to experience life in the family of God.

In light of this identity, the MC I am a part of committed to: 1-2 additional meals together outside of our weekly family meal; paying a portion of one of our families monthly expenses to the mom to stay at home; sharing our vehicles; helping with home repair projects; babysitting to give room for date nights; and much more…

Missionaries – God’s family is also sent like the Son by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of the kingdom – the gospel – and fulfill the commission of Jesus. A missional community is more than a bible study or a small group that cares for other believers. It is made up of Spirit-led and filled people who radically reorient their lives together for the mission of making disciples of a particular people and place where there is no consistent gospel witness. This means people’s schedule, resources and decisions are now collectively built around reaching people together.

Our MC committed to making disciples of The Wedge/6th Ave district and parents, teachers and students at Grant elementary school. We are intentionally engaged in daily life in this area together on mission getting to know the stories of the people in our missionary context; throwing regular parties and events; joining the existing parties and events; hosting The Story-formed Way to introduce them to the gospel; and praying regularly for their salvation.

Servants – Jesus is Lord and we are his Servants. A missional community serves those around them as though there are serving Jesus. In doing so, they give a foretaste of what life will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. Living as servants to the King who serve others as he served us, presents a tangible witness to Jesus’ kingdom and the power of the gospel to change lives. A missional community serves in such a way that it demands a Gospel explanation – lives that cannot be explained in any other way than by the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus (see 1 Peter 2:11-12; 3:15).

One of the key ways we are previewing what the restoration of all things will look like is through the community garden that we have created in our mission field. We also will serve at the school auction; serve at after school events; do regular neighborhood clean-up; and serve each other with home projects.

Disciples – We are all learners of Jesus our rabbi who has given us his Spirit to teach us all that is true about Jesus and enable us to live out his commands. Jesus commanded us to make disciples who believe the gospel, are established in a new identity and are able to obey all of his commands. The MC is the best context in which this can happen. Disciples are made and developed: 1) through life on life, where there is visibility and accessibility 2) in community, where they can practice the one anothers, and 3) on mission where they learn how to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

For our MC this means: meeting once a week altogether around a meal, once a week men together and women together for gospel development (know the truth, believe and submit to it, do what ever the Spirit leads); learning how to study the Bible together in our combined meeting; going on a retreat to learn about biblical marriage and parenting; and training a new leadership team to be sent out to start a new MC by the end of 2011.

Every one of our MCs develops a similar 3-6 page covenant that they are coached through monthly coaching sessions to fulfill for the year. Every year they revise and rewrite their covenants.

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

What is a Missional Community?

I posted the video for Gospel Fluency to provide the beginning to answering the question: "How do we develop a Gospel Fluent Culture?" I am going to post the second part to that series once it is edited. Now, before I start answering some of the other questions that have been posted, I want to clarify what a Missional Community is. The next post will describe how it works at Soma Communities. After that I will begin with "How do you do this with young children/as a family?" (one of the more popular questions).

So, What is a Missional Community?

A Missional Community is a Family of Missionary Servants who make Disciples who make Disciples.

Family – First of all a missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family. They see God as their Father because of their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit. This means they have and know of a divine love that leads them to love one another as brothers and sisters. They treat one another as children of God deeply loved by the Father in everything – sharing their money, time, resources, needs, hurts, successes, etc… They know each other well. This knowledge includes knowing each other’s stories and having familiarity with one another’s strength and struggles in regards to belief in the gospel and it’s application to all of life. They speak the gospel truth to one another, regularly building each other up in love. They also love the people around them as if they were part of the family, showing them what the love of the Father looks like and in so doing inviting them to experience life in the family of God (John 1:11-13; Rom. 12:10-16; Eph 5:1-2)

Missionaries – God’s family is also sent like the Son by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of the kingdom – the gospel – and fulfill the commission of Jesus. A missional community is more than a bible study or a small group that cares for other believers. A missional community is made up of Spirit-led and filled people who radically reorient their lives together for the mission of making disciples of a particular people and place where there is a gospel gap (no consistent gospel witness). This means people’s schedule, resources and decisions are now collectively built around reaching people together. (Matt. 3:16-4:1; Jn. 20:21; Acts 1:8; Acts 13:2)

Servants – Jesus is Lord and we are his Servants. A missional community serves those around them as though there are serving Jesus. In doing so, they give a foretaste of what life will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. Living as servants to the King who serve others as he served, presents a tangible witness to Jesus’ kingdom and the power of the gospel to change lives. A missional community serves in such a way that it demands a Gospel explanation – lives that cannot be explained in any other way than by the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus. (Matt. 20:25-28; Jn. 13:1-17; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Pet. 2:16)

Disciples – We are all learners of Jesus our rabbi who has given us his Spirit to teach us all that is true about Jesus and enable us to live it out his commands. Jesus commanded us to make disciples who believe the gospel, are established in a new identity and are able to obey all of his commands (Matt. 28:19-20). The missional community is the best context in which this can happen. Disciples are made and developed: 1) through life on life, where there is visibility and accessibility 2) in community, where they can practice the one anothers, and 3) on mission where they learn how to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

Responding to FAQs on Missional Communities

I have started a new blog and I want to serve as many people as I can through this medium. In this post I want to post many of the questions I receive through my training and consulting. I would like to find out what questions you want me to respond to. I am going to post the ones I hear most often and ask you either to let me know which of these you would like me to respond to OR what questions you have that I have not listed.

FAQs:

  • How do we transition our small group ministry to missional communities?
  • How can families with young children be effective in missional communities?
  • How do you raise up leaders for MCs?
  • How do you go about multiplying and sending out new MCs?
  • How important is the Sunday gathering in this approach to church?
  • How do you train MC leaders?
  • What does an MC leader assessment entail?
  • What is the role of women in MCs?
  • How does you wife handle this?
  • What basic training is required to start an MC?
  • How do you develop a Gospel Fluent Culture?
  • How do you counsel people who are "too busy" to be involved in an MC?
  • What does an MC Covenant look like and how do you help people form one?
  • What kind of ongoing training or coaching do you have in place?
  • What does this look like in a Suburban culture?
  • How do artists engaged this?

Let me know which of these you want me to begin writing on first OR what am I missing?

39 Comments

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.