Summer Video Series 6: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Today’s video is another from Forge America. Brad Brisco: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play is the longest of the resources we’ve made available here, because it actually includes a story of a group of people who’ve been contextually living out the stuff we’ve been talking about here on the blog.

God's Mission & The Places We Live, Work, & Play – Brad Brisco from Forge America on Vimeo.

We saw one example of how to live and work missionally. But what are some other ways we can be a light in the places we live, work, play, in our Canadian context?

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Missional Margin

By Cailey Morgan

I’m guessing some of you chuckled when you read my previous article—as if you’d have time to sit around sipping coffee in a garden! But part of the example we see from Christ is that He always had margin: white space around the content of His day so that He could engage in relational spontaneity.

He walked in a pace of trust in the Father, that what needed to get done would get done.

Margin creates buffers. It gives us room to breathe, freedom to act and time to adapt. Only then will we be able to truly nourish our relationships. Only then will we be available and interruptible for the purposes of God (Richard Swenson).

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If we seek to follow Christ into where He is at work in our communities, we’ll need the space in our days to listen and to go. I call creating these margins “time-trust.” These three “A”s from Brad Brisco are practical ways we can grow in this area:

1. Audit
Write down and study your weekly schedule and monthly schedule. Where is there margin? Where is there a lack of margin? What are some things that might need to go or change in order to not live at a hurried pace? Take a look at your daily routine, too. Where could you incorporate a listening time? Where are you sharing space with others but not actually relating with them?

2. Alignment
Margin is not about addition of another thing, but alignment. Align your calendar with the calendars of other people. Taking eating for example. We all eat 21 meals a week. Can we share 4 or 5 of them with others?

Can we find a ride-share for daily commutes? Can we do the dishes when the kids are in bed, in order to be available to play street hockey with the neighbours after dinner? Take a close look at the rhythms of your neighbours, coworkers and friends. How can you align your rhythm with theirs?

3. Accountability
These three processes are great to do in a small group, with a mentor, or even as a family. Work together to find creative ways to realign your schedule for the sake of mission.

One element of time-trust that I haven’t mentioned yet is Sabbath. It’s too huge of a topic for here, but I’d argue that it’s monumental for anyone looking to live a missional rhythm of life. I’ll soon post a couple of reviews on books about the Sabbath that I think are worth a read. In the meantime, here’s a helpful article on the Sabbath by Forge Canada Director Cam Roxburgh.

In my next article, I’ll share some thoughts about second and third places, and how we can put our trust in God and our time alignment to good practice away from home.

This is the fifth article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church
  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

Space to be Truly Present

By Cailey Morgan

Over the past several articles, I’ve been taking a look at some of the paradigm shifts that Brad Brisco suggests in Missional Essentials are crucial to us as God’s people learning to live out our purpose as His sent ones.

We discussed how our posture must change from doing ministry to, or even ministry for, to ministry with. With is a much more patient and intimate way of gospelling, that takes place wherever we happen to live our lives—our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our shopping haunts.

But practically, what does this look like for us? How do we live out ministry with in a hyper-individualized, over-scheduled culture of fear and isolation? Again, my themes arise from Brad Brisco’s work, as well as thoughts from Ray Oldenburg, Tim Keller and Richard Swenson. In the next few posts, let’s take a look at our homes, our workplaces and third spaces—and ultimately our hearts—to explore opportunities for mission in each sphere of life.

First Places: Our Homes
Our homes and neighbourhoods are a very basic building block for living as missionaries. Jesus exemplified radical hospitality, and had a lot to say about how we are to treat our neighbours, and the opportunities that our homes present us for genuine witness. Having people into our homes, and finding ways to be present in the community in hopes of being invited into others’ spaces, is an avenue for evangelism we all should be living out.

Home Sweet Home by jlhopgood CC BY-ND 2.0

However, most of us are not.

As Brisco says, “How on earth can we expect to love our neighbours if we don’t know their names?” We all have neighbours, but everyone I’ve talked to has said it’s a struggle to get to know those living near them. Some of us don’t like initiating new relationships. Some of us see our neighbours in their gardens as we drive by, but never have the time to stop and chat. Some of our neighbours operate under “stranger danger” and don’t trust us—or sometimes we’re the ones who have built walls to “protect” our families, which really end up perpetuating the lack of trust.

So how do we grow in using the first space—our homes—as part of our life of mission? I think there are three elements we can evaluate.

1. Trust. What are three ways that your willingly offer your time, talents, treasures and relationships to the Father? What are three ways that you take matters into your own hands? This evaluation can be sensitive, because we need to look at who’s really in control of our iCals, our kids, and what we turn to for identity and value.

In the book Untamed, Deb Hirsch does not mince words in her evaluation of whether we trust God with our home life:

the family has effectively become a pernicious idol…missional hospitality is seen as a threat, not an opportunity…our families and our homes should be places where people can experience a foretaste of heaven. Where the church is rightly viewed as a community of the redeemed from all walks of life.

2. Relationship. Do you know your neighbours? Shannon and I love the neighbourhood mapping exercise of drawing the street and seeing how many neighbours you can name. This exercise becomes especially helpful when you use it as a basis for prayer. Lord, how should I pray for the people in that home? What are my opportunities to be the answer to those prayers? Sometimes, the next step is to just knock and say hi.

3. Space. How about an audit of your home and how it could be used creatively to bring people together? Some of us might need to roll our barbecues onto the front porch so that we’re more visible from the street. Others could throw a neighbourhood party in the garage.

I have some friends in an apartment building who got permission from the manager to turn an unused piece of courtyard into a community garden. Not only are they spending evenings sowing and weeding with their neighbours, but they also bring their morning coffee out to the patio table in the garden and hang out with whoever joins them.

A helpful resource here is Don’t Invite Them to Church: Moving From a Come and See to a Go and Be Church by Karen Wilk. This flexible guidebook will help you, your small group, or your church get started in neighborhood ministry and missional living.

Next time, we’ll work through the major roadblock to neighbouring: our time, or seeming lack thereof.

This is the fourth article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church
  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

Incarnational Presence

By Cailey Morgan

In my previous article, “The Missionary Nature of God and His Church,” I mentioned that there are several paradigm shifts or renewed ways of thinking that we as the Church in Canada should consider if we want to reawaken ourselves to God’s call to mission.

One such shift in paradigm is to consider how Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “go and make Disciples” may actually mean “stay and make disciples.” As much as international missionaries are sent to delve deeply into the culture and day-to-day life of the place they are called to, Jesus sends us out our front doors and invites us to delve deeply with the culture and day-to-day life of our neighbours, coworkers, and the other parents on the elementary school Advisory Council.

STAY sign CCSA Glenn G

Proximity and Presence
Most of my musings here are inspired from a workshop on Missional Essentials by Brad Brisco. He’s done his homework on these issues, and reminds us that Scripture is full of examples and exhortations for God’s “gathered and scattered” people to be sent into really ordinary, everyday places. Our primary example, of course, is Christ Himself.

In John 20:21, Jesus says, “just as the Father sent Me, I am sending you.” If we are sent just as Jesus was sent, we should look at how and to whom Jesus was sent in order to establish how we also are sent. His sending from the Father was to be among us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Read the gospels to see how the ins-and-outs of daily life were Jesus’ platform for most of His ministry and teachings. This kind of presence, this kind of among-ness, exemplifies the humility and other-mindedness we are to have as we engage our neighbours (consider Christ’s nature of humble service as described in Philippians 2:5-8). He dwelt among, and emptied Himself for, those who needed to receive the hope He offers.

Darrell Guder puts it this way:

In the incarnation of Jesus, God revealed Himself as the one who is with and for His creation. Now, as the Risen Lord sends His Spirit to empower the church, we are called to become God’s people present in the world, with and for the world.

Our posture must change from doing ministry to, or even ministry for, to ministry with. With is a much closer, much more patient, even much more intimate way of gospelling. But to be with, we must address the barriers that are keeping us apart from our culture and our neighbours.

Advocate or Adversary?
For many reasons far beyond the socio-political understanding in my tiny mind, the Christian Church is often seen as the adversary in our culture. We say “no” a lot. We sometimes come across as judgmental. We like to put boxes around behaviour. And—as all humans naturally do—we tend to hang out with people who like us and are like us.

But what Jesus exemplified for us, what the Holy Spirit does daily for us, is not adversary but advocacy. The Holy Spirit is called the Advocate because He is for us and with us to offer His strength. And we have been called to follow in this posture of advocating for others rather than being about our own agendas.

An interesting example of this incarnational advocacy can be found in Jeremiah 29:4-7. God sends (Yes, sends. There it is again!) His people into Babylonian captivity. They hate Babylon and want to go home. It’s not comfortable, and besides, how can they worship God in such a heathen place? But what does God say? Settle down and make a garden! Embed yourself in the community. You’ll be here long enough to have kids and for your kids to have kids. Seek and pray for the prosperity of the place.

This 70-year exile was a slow but deliberate way for the Israelites to fulfill their original mandate from God to Abraham: be a blessing to all nations. And God is calling us to the same life today: to open our eyes to the people around us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. To hitch our wagon to our neighbours. To seek the prosperity and peace of the places we live.

As Brad Brisco explains, “The way the Kingdom takes root in the lives of people, and ultimately changes a city, is by exiles living normal everyday lives as citizens of the King in every neighbourhood and public place that makes up a city.”

What does it practically look like in the whirlwind of 21st-century North American life to daily seek the prosperity and peace of our communities? How do we expand our imaginations and truly understand our dual citizenship as not only Canadians but children of the King? What if I don’t know my neighbours yet? These are the questions I’ll wrestle with in my next article.

If you’d rather hear from Brisco on these topics, check out Missional Essentials, a brilliant and down-to-earth 12-week curriculum to help your small groups or leadership team explore these and several other biblical directives.

This is the third article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

By Cailey Morgan

In my previous article, I explained how Brad Brisco, Director of Bivocational Church Planting for the North American Mission Board, suggests that until we truly understand the why of our life as God’s people, we won’t have eyes to see how God is trying to shape our what and how. Brisco gives several paradigm shifts in our why thinking, the first being the missionary nature of God and therefore of the church.

CC Kevin T. Houle

Kevin T Houle

God is a Missionary and God is Missionary
When someone says the word missionary, what image comes to mind? Often, the picture is of an individual passionate about bringing the restorative work of God to a group of people far away. They’re so passionate, in fact, that they are willing to move into a new and uncomfortable context, learn a new language, incarnate into the daily life of those people, and in many cases (Jim Elliot and his colleagues come to mind), missionaries are even willing to be killed by the very people to whom they have come bringing hope. When described in that sense, I’m comfortable considering God as a missionary, especially as seen in the life of Christ.

However, when we say He is a missionary God, we are not only saying that He is a missionary, but that He is missionary: mission-focused, mission-like. His person is one of mission. Being missionary is one of His attributes.

From Genesis’ creation narrative to the promise of Christ’s recreative work in Revelation, the grand story of Scripture is about God and His mission. He is at work in the world. His nature is missionary.

God’s Called and Sent Ones
What does God’s missionary nature mean for us, then? As His people, following in His footsteps, we are to be a called and sent people. This paradigm shift helps us see the church not primarily as a mechanism for sending missionaries. Indeed, as Brisco says, “the church is missionary! We are individually and collectively the sent people of God.”

The language in Scripture is almost overwhelming on this point. The prophetic books are stories and words of people sent by God to participate in His redeeming mission and redemptive deeds. Jesus refers to Himself as the sent One over 3 dozen times in the book of John.

God’s people are called to Him and then sent as part of His mission. And this cycle of calling and sending is to be reflected in the rhythm of God’s people as it was in the book of Acts. We are to be a gathered and scattered people, called and sent, as it were, daily, weekly, yearly.

A Gather-Scatter People
Becoming missional does not mean abandoning everything about our present structures. Take, for example, a typical weekly church routine. Rather than a Sunday service being the main missional activity of our week—the program we bring our friends to so they hear about Jesus—what if this service was the calling, the gathering of a people who have been sent into their streets and schools and workplaces to share the gospel in every moment? The service becomes a celebration of God’s transformative work in the lives of us and our friends, and a time of equipping in order to again be scattered into spheres of influence for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

In this upward spiral of gathered and scattered, weeknight home groups become evenings of intercession and of vision: how do we support each other as we search for God’s action in our neighbourhoods and step out in faith to follow Him there? Bible studies become more vital than ever as we hide God’s Word so richly in our hearts that it not only changes us but begins to spill over into our daily interactions, bringing hope to those who don’t yet know Christ.

Let the Holy Spirit guide your imagination. Are there other elements of your congregational life that need to be steeped in the missionary nature of God? Is Jesus inviting your family into a new way of following His footsteps? Or a renewed understanding of your call and your sentness?

Next time, we’ll look deeper into God’s calling for us, and how it could be that His exhortation “Go!” in fact means “Stay!”

For more from Brad Brisco on these issues, check out these video sessions with Brad, made available for free from our friends at Forge Canada Missional Training Network.

This is the second article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

Why, Oh Why?

By Cailey Morgan

Have you ever researched the meaning of life? I recently asked Siri about that very topic, and her response was “chocolate.” Thanks Apple.

Why? CCSA Katie Sayer

Our church, as a Body—God’s people in a place—needs to be asking these kinds of questions. Why are we here? How do we view the church in the context of the world? What is the church’s purpose? Why does our local congregation exist? These are questions not so quickly solved by a conversation with an iPhone.

Perhaps your mind runs to the weekly church service, the sending of international missionaries, the provision of tradition around cultural milestones such as Christmas, weddings and funerals. Perhaps home groups, visiting the sick, potlucks, and youth programs round out your experience of church.

But these activities in and of themselves do not explain why God’s church exists. Each of these elements are biblical and often helpful manifestations of God’s people in the world, but they are only the how, not the why.

In some circles, there has been a backlash against traditional elements of congregational life like these. And in most cases, I agree with the prophets who are crying out “something’s missing!” But all our attempts to change the how—offering sermon podcasts, meeting in a funky warehouse, improving the coffee served during the service, or even exchanging “Sunday morning seeker-sensitivity” for grassroots missional neighbourhood outreach—will not change the reality that perhaps it is the why that we have backwards. (Although I must ask if there’s anything less pleasing to God or humanity than coffee so weak it comes out of the urn looking like tea!)

I would argue that if we are able to interpret ourselves, our world, and most importantly, our God correctly (the why), then the modus operandi (the how) will become of secondary importance. When our people are inspired by God’s good why, the how becomes a point of healthy discussion and relational depth, rather than a reason for dissension.

So What is the Why?
What is Christ calling us to? Who are we to be? I believe both these questions can be answered through prayer and the study of our context, once the primary issue—what is our purpose?—has been answered.

Brad Brisco, church planting advocate and co-author of Missional Essentials and Next Door As It Is In Heaven, points out several paradigm shifts he thinks today’s church needs to make, in view of Scripture’s description of our purpose. Here are two that I think are especially relevant for us:

  1. The Nature of God and of the Church is Missionary.
  2. The Church is to be an Incarnational Presence.

In the articles that follow in the coming weeks, I will elaborate on both paradigm shifts. My hope is that some of the traditions of your church will be validated as you see them from a new perspective, and that some parts of your congregational expression will be challenged as your why is again brought front-of-mind.

If you’d rather hear from Brad Brisco on these topics than me, check out Missional Essentials, a brilliant and down-to-earth 12-week curriculum (available in Spanish and English) to help your small groups or leadership team explore these and several other biblical directives.

This is the first article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

Free Workshop: A Day with Brad Brisco

As we at the CBWC work with you to grow your communities and witness people encountering Jesus, we want to bring you resources that will help frame our thinking about local mission and the tools to practice and disciple others.

Brad Brisco is offering a Mission Essentials clinic on October 12 in Leduc, AB, and October 13 in Surrey, BC.

We are so convinced that this workshop could be a game changer for your congregation that CBWC Church Planting is covering the cost for as many of you and your church folk and leaders to come as possible. Just register each attendee here.

 

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Brad is an author, church planter, teacher and catalyzer. One of the gifts that he has brought to the church in the past few years is his ability to take deep theological truths and make them understandable for normal people who love Jesus. This day with Brad will help churches to chart a course of action for understanding the mission of God and then helping us imagine how God wants us to engage in our neighbourhoods. This workshop is for everyone who is a follower of Jesus.

Please, please, please make these two sessions a priority for your church’s members and leadership team, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions at syouell@cbwc.ca.

Shannon Youell, CBWC Church Plant Coordinator