This is the second post in our series about missional ministry. Last week we defined what missional is. I defined being missional as, “at it’s heart being…about placing God’s mission at the center of the life of the individual and the center of the church’s existence.“ Another way to think of missional is in terms of warfare. Missional is the equivalent of the U.S. Army’s strategic shift from traditional warfare to a counter-insurgency strategy. The former was comfortable in that it was familiar yet it failed to take the battle to where it really needed to be–in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. The counter-insurgency strategy saw more forces out in the towns and villages winning the hearts and minds of the people. The church needs adaptive change–a change in strategy–to a missional model of church.
In thinking about making the switch to a missional understanding of ministry, it’s important that we remain rooted in the Scriptures. In many ways the book of Act is a natural place to look for insight into becoming a missional community. However, the gospels also contain some powerful examples from the life and ministry of Jesus himself. One of those is Jesus’ initiation of the first apostolic mission with the sending of the seventy-two in Luke 10:1-11.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’
We’re going to look at eight characteristics of missional ministry. The first that being missional requires community–you cannot be missional alone.
Community is critical in establishing missional communities for several reasons:
It is not insignificant that these new missionaries were sent out in pairs. There could, of course, be more than one reason for it. Obviously, safety would be a concern for traveling preachers, even one’s with little material possessions on their person. It’s hard for a robber to know, from a distance, whether you have gold concealed on your person.
As much as anything else, I have a hunch that our Lord sent these church planters out by twos for their mutual encouragement and accountability. Leading can be lonely. Leading something new is like loneliness on crack. There’s all of the normal challenges of ministry–sin, temptation, weakness, ego, you name it. Add to this the fact that you’re trying to do something no one has ever done before and it’s almost too much to bear. Creating a missional community takes time, and it is so context-specific that it can sometimes be difficult to make out forest (of the general principles) for the trees (the specifics of the people and place you’re called to serve). It’s imperative that there be strong community among the leaders of a missional community–regardless of whether that community is a congregation or some smaller expression.