I want to introduce you to Seth McBee, on of our Missional Community leaders in Maple Valley, WA. I have asked him to share a little about his MC and I hope it encourages and spurs you on. This is from him: In two weeks, in a suburban town outside of Seattle, we'll be celebrating God's grace and the Spirit's work through baptizing a new disciple of Jesus. The question that comes up the most when you speak about the evidences of grace we are experiencing is,"How did all this happen?" Now, some might read and not be overly impressed that we have one new baptism after living in our neighborhood for 7 and a half years, while others read and can't imagine ever seeing a new follower of Christ emerge from their sphere of influence. I write this to both of you. But, my main audience that I want to impress this upon are those who desire to make disciples in their neighborhood, or sphere of influence and would like to just see an example of someone that is currently doing it. Not only that, but most that will read this are reading this on a work break, during their kids nap time or before they go to bed so that they can wake up and enter the work force on what seems like just another Thursday. You see, I am like most followers of Jesus, I am a husband, a father of two (with one more on the way in 2 months) and a business owner. But, my desire is to see my neighborhood look like the book of Acts, where disciples are made and we teach and preach from house to house...but what does that look like in today's context?
Let's back this truck up some.
We moved into our housing development 7 1/2 years ago and for the first 6 years, we didn't know anyone that didn't live directly next to us. I am serious. I didn't know the guy across the street. By the way, his name is Trevor, he's getting baptized in my backyard in two weeks. But, for the first 6 years, the extent of our reaching out to our neighbors was handing out bibles door to door and singing Christmas carols in the dark because people shut their lights out on us and the youth group I was leading. Sometime while standing in the dark singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" I started to think, "maybe we need a different modus operandi for the gospel to my neighbors." As I decided to leave my one church to seek out help from people who have done this before, I landed with Soma Communities. Now, I am very prideful in the way I do things. Whether it is my orthodoxy or my orthopraxy, I feel like I have it down to some degree, which is a spillover from my success in business. It is wrong thinking, but I do know this about myself and so I purposely decided to be learner when coming to Soma Communities. What I thought was, "if you know so much, how come no one around you is repenting and being baptized?" So, even though I was asked pretty quickly to take a lead role in our Missional Community out in my suburban city, I decided to just sit back and learn. As I learned, as I listened, I began to be intrigued, and I finally had to act on it. So, I simply asked a new friend of mine, Caesar, "How should I start? Where should I begin in my communiity?" He suggested, "Ask the Spirit, 'What's next?'" Now you have to realize that I rarely asked the Spirit to guide me and empower me for mission, because I was doing nothing that would require the Spirit. Before I was insular, hanging around only Christian people, and rarely ever actually engaging anyone with the gospel, or showing them the affects of the gospel and how that might look in our community. So, there was no reason to pray. It would have been like asking God to help me flip the channels on my television.
Well. My wife and I prayed...Spirit, what's next?
If you want to open the power of the Spirit like a hungry lion out of its cage, then ask the Spirit what's next with a desire to show others what he's like for the sake of making disciples.
The Spirit answered by simply telling my wife and I this: On July 4th, instead of having your BBQ in the backyard, move it to the front yard. Now, I know this isn't earth shattering. But, as Luke 16:10 puts it, he who can be trusted with a little, can be trusted with a lot. We agreed with the Spirit, and decided that would be a good idea. Then he pressed. We ended up putting together a 4th of July wiffle ball tournament and cook off and going door to door to hand out flyers. The response was overwhelming, not to mention this was the first time I met Trevor across the street. He entered a team, they won it. Whatever. In the end, we had about 40 people play in the tourney and around 150 people at the 4th of July festivities. People continued to come up to me and tell me that it was the best 4th of July they had ever been to and it reminded us all of the Wonder Years. But, we didn't want this to only happen once a year. So, we started throwing BBQs all the time and inviting people over to have dinner from the connections we made from the 4th.
As summer was drawing to a close, my wife and I knew one thing: we needed help to build this community to reflect the community of God. We started praying that God would send helpers and had other leaders within Soma praying for us as well. God answered. He ended up moving another couple to our city from a different Soma Expression and then sent us another couple from our old bible study. It was beautiful. We came together with a plan that we felt was from the Spirit. We sought to continue this with these new couples by hosting Saturday morning breakfasts at our house. We wanted these other couples to be there with us to engage our neighbors and become part of our community. To do this, they had to be willing to lay aside some of the things that they might be more comfortable with to pursue our neighbors. But, our goal was to have these breakfasts with an eye on going through the Story of God at some point with those people we were building relationships with. We figured this might take a year or so to build these relationships strong enough to engage them on a deeper spiritual level.
This whole time, my wife and i kept asking the Spirit, "what's next?" Now, we were able to put names to these prayers. We started the breakfasts in October and by the end of the month the Spirit was opening doors for the gospel like I've never seen. People were asking us, "Why do you do all these things for the community? (we had also arranged a Halloween party, game nights, etc.) Do you sell Avon? Are you Christians? What church do you go to? etc." We answered those questions, but then merely asked, "Would you be interested in walking through a dialogical study of what the Bible says about God and why we feel compelled to bring about this type of community? We can do it our house and have fun and eat like we always do anyways and then have this Story time with dialogue amongst friends.” We ended up asking about 6 couples from our neighborhood and 4 said yes, including Trevor and his wife. After 10 weeks of engaging in story and having a lot of fun, Summer was back. We told those who went through the story that if you wanted to continue with us to dig into the Scriptures to see what they said about making disciples, we'd be happy to have you. Trevor and his wife agreed and really started to delve in. We again threw a huge 4th of July party with wiffle ball, cook off and fireworks, and kept following up with BBQs and studied the word together as a missional community.
Now, this entire time, we have, as a group, been praying that God would put on our hearts those people in our lives that seemed to be pushing into the kingdom. We've been praying, and are still praying, because we are going to once again be doing the Story of God coming up in January. We then hit a study on baptism, and two things came out of Trevor's mouth. 1. I want to be baptized 2. I've been praying and talking to my brother and his fiancé and they desire not to only come to the BBQs, but also to the Story of God when we start it.
In two weeks we'll be having Trevor's whole family, some friends & our MC in our backyard for a BBQ and a baptism. He's being commissioned to make disciples, but because he has been watching me and I've been walking this out with him day to day in normal everyday life for a year and a half, he's already doing it. To him a disciple of Jesus naturally makes more disciples.
Our missional community started the day I put aside my own comforts and moved my BBQ from my backyard to my front yard. We went 6 years without knowing anyone. Now, if we throw a BBQ we have 70 people showing up, we have 6 couples in our missional community, we are doing pre engagement for one couple and trying to save another couple from going through a divorce. We think we might have to multiply coming up in January because we could have close to 40 people that desire to go through the Story of God with us.
I'm no saint. I'm nothing special. I'm not paid by the church. I'm not paid by by community. But, God pays me money through my business, not to hoard it, but so I can be making disciples who make disciples in the neigbhborhood I live in.
This story isn't crazy. This story isn't outlandish. It's pretty normal. My family is pretty normal. That's the beauty of it. I will also say that this is a small taste of what has been happening in our neighborhood and also in our own spiritual development. You’ll notice as you live this out, that life, as usual, isn’t perfect. There are times of much difficulty and, as a dude in our MC put it, “You only get really irritated with people if you actually get to know them. It’s hard to get irritated at others if you merely wave at them when putting your garbage at the curb.”
If you're reading this, what is holding you back from going to your knees tonight and just asking God, "what's next?" But, be careful, because once you let this Lion of Judah out of the cage, he'll take over the neighborhood.