Gathering a prayer team is critical for us as we begin the new community. There are those that pray on the ground in a local setting and those that are more distant. Our target is 100 people praying from outside the locality and this has been surprisingly simple to set up, the age of social media is your friend in this.
We have spread the net wide and have chosen a ‘zero policing’ policy, so I will not be checking up on who is following through on their commitment but have deliberately kept the bar low – pray intentionally at least once a month and I will commit to pray for them too, as well as informing them regularly. So the plan is as follows;
- 100 people in the wide net – these folk are gathered from friendships, contacts and social media. They commit to pray intentionally once a month and in return they receive information to fuel their prayer and I have committed to pray for them too. They receive information via email or a private Facebook group, maximum twice a month.
- 12 people in the boat – these 12 are close friends where I can share more deeply in the issues for prayer. These folk will be those that have shared a much deeper interest and are known to be warriors in prayer. This takes a while longer to set up and is still a work in progress, but vital.
- 3 Officers in charge – 3 prayer commandoes who meet to share guts and all, for prayer and encouragement.
It is impossible to know who wants to join prayer lists for ‘nosey faith encouragement’ but if people make a level of commitment, you must trust them. The close at hand people have to be trusted friends because you are sharing more personally. This is only right.
I have been blessed with a prayer team and whilst still in formation, we have seen many good answers to prayer and have known our arm is strengthened in ministry. We value our prayer support team, they are incredible.
In my previous post on starting a missional community from scratch the first point was to “adopt the posture of a learner” but what does this mean? How do we do this?
Adopting the posture of a learner demands patience, time, listening, observation and most of all, an attitude of continuous learning. When you are in a new environment and do not know people, where do you begin? How do you progress?
- Observe: where do people gravitate to? Watch were people go shopping, where they gather to relax, which community events are on, what is happening within the community. This will teach something of the lifestyle of the people around you.
- Listen: As you open up conversations, listen to what people are saying and why they are saying those things. This is critical in listening and most often forgotten. As you listen, assume that you know nothing, put aside your own viewpoints, your own learning. The people whom you are listening to are the professors and you are the child in kindergarten – this may help you to listen well.
- Patience and Time: Do not rush your listening, you will never have all the answers and if you jump to the wrong conclusions you will find yourself less effective. Time is the greatest gift that you give to your community.
- Attitude of Continuous Learning: There is not a time when you know it all, the community constantly changes (especially if it is living!) and the answers from a previous season do not always translate to the latest season. We are all aware of people who have stopped learning and growing, their stagnation smells horrific, don’t become that person but be willing to learn afresh, change your ways and act accordingly.
The posture of a learner keeps you humble and prevents you from “lording it over others” – missional communities should be a place where we are constantly in change, growing, developing and loving. Adopt the position of a learner and see what happens…..you may be glad you did.
“How To Pioneer” – David Male – A good practical handbook for anyone who wants to engage missional in their community. An excellent resource that is practical, sensible and evidence that anyone can engage in pioneering ministry. 10/10
“Neighborhood Mapping” – John Fuder – A helpful book with practical wisdom for getting under the skin of your community in order to serve as a missionary church. You think you know your community but maybe you need to think again and put a strategy in place for getting to know it better. This book is gold dust for practical thinkers. 9/10
“Church Planting Thresholds” – Clint Clifton – A manual for church planters from a reformed theological perspective. It is very detailed and full of practical wisdom, biblically loaded. It is not for everyone but useful for church leaders who are looking to plant a new church and recruit a team. 6/10
You know that you want you community to be a place where Jesus is seen and accepted but how do you begin with a missional community. Most communities start with a team but there are occasions when you have nobody…..what then?
1)Adopt the posture of a learner – it can be easy to make assumptions and to think that you know a community well. However, demographic studies, stats, maps and more stats are no replacement for legwork in the community and getting under the skin of the place. You need to be ready to learn more, listen more, observe continually and accept things may be different to what you perceive. Be ready to learn, be willing to learn and spend a great deal of time listening. Adopt a learning attitude.
2)Seek someone who will inform you – who is the person of peace, someone who imbibes the community, who will share their knowledge and is a friend. They do not necessarily hold your beliefs of faith but they are willing to share with you. Their willingness usual strengthens when you adopt the posture of a learner and not that of teacher.
3) Build relationships – as you talk with people, seek them out again, develop friendships, go deeper and let this rootedness in the community help you to flourish. Not all relationships will be tight, see it more of a spiders web with a central strength and a growing network beyond the fringes. Relationships are critical.
These first three steps are very practical and the holy people reading will ask, ‘what about prayer?’ Prayer is the most necessary component and I have assumed it will underpin, surround and inhabit everything. Without prayer you have nothing and the steps above only help begin a social club, not a missional community. Prayer is the blood running through our veins….do not abandon it.
All the above takes time….it is worth it!
Reading Dirty Glory from Pete Greig has been both a real challenge and encouragement. This afternoon, the opportunity to walk around Tabernacle Street, Wesley’s House and through to Aldersgate Street came my way. It was great to think and pray….there were no great revelations, no great insights, just gritty prayer and a fresh desire to see the City, Nation and World transformed. Come Lord Jesus!
“Among the “cooler” circles of many of my hipster urban church planter friends, it is common to hear an anti-“bricks and mortar” bent. If catacombs and homes were good enough for the first-century church, it is good enough for them. This is fine if we accept that ecclesia is simply a one-to-two-hour-a-week event that can happen in borrowed space. But if Christ-centered community is something more than a weekly gathering, then redemption of place and community re-enter the equation. What we need is a theology of place.”
in ‘View from the Urban Loft’ by Sean Benesh
Currently, the football (soccer) world was taken by storm by an unheralded Leicester team that won through an emphatic season. Their was no stand out stars although certain names began to emerge. Similar to Greece in 2004 when they won the Euros with a group of players that were unknown to a wider audience. This is unusual, most teams will have a player who is considered a star and if the team is fortunate, they will have a number of stars (cf Real Madrid and their Galacticos).
However, it should be remembered that in team sports, a star player cannot win on their own. Think Pele with Brazil, Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, Kobe Bryant with the Lakers. None of these celebrity players could have won on their own – they needed a team around them, most of whom remain forgotten in the mists of time but were essential to the success of the team.
So it is with Church. There are many who would choose to be the Apostle Paul (yet shy away from the persecution and suffering), yet even Paul needed his support people. Many would like to be the author of a great book, new course, on the platform at the global conferences etc. etc. but we cannot ever lose sight of the community of faith. We are all called to play our part and to engage with the mission. Not all of us will receive the credit, praise or be given a platform but all of us are called to love one another, seek each others best interest and to honour the name of God.
Let’s serve the team and be humble enough to accept our place within it. Lets be satisfied to be the Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Brian Shaw, or Wilson Piazza on our team.
Follow Jesus into your neighborhood with fellow followers of Jesus. Allow the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ to form your imagination for faithful presence. That means taking your bodies, your location and your community very seriously, as seriously as God in Christ took them. Faithful presence invites you to act on the belief that God is giving you what you need to be formed as disciples within your location.
Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, Dwight J. Friesen
In a work place that demands higher productivity, greater rewards and demands visible success it is no surprise that people are falling ill, requiring medication and suffering continual stress. The bottom line is market dominance, share price and brand awareness and if we are honest, this thinking has invaded the evangelical church to such a point that we are losing sight of God and building a church that is the bridesmaid and not the Bride.
We can quote sport stars that tell us ‘some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen and others make it happen’ (Michael Jordan) and put unknowing pressure on ourselves to perform. We need our church plants to be financially viable but try and model our churches on a franchise set up without reference to the community they serve, we want to see full pews in buildings that were built in a different generation…..the list is endless.
If you quoted that previous quote at Jim Elliot (missionary to the Aucas) his ministry would have seemed like failure. With the years that have passed, we can now credit the success of the ministry but it is only now that we can celebrate knowing that the Auca people met Christ. The disciples sat huddled in a room as their messiah was dead and defeated but in time they discover their resurrected Lord had conquered death.The missionary to London who has sowed seeds of faith continually in their neighbourhood and may never see the rewards but the person that follows…..Boom!
Goals are killing us…..because we are setting the wrong goals. The goal is to be faithful to a living God, to worship Him, living a life worthy of the calling we have received. We must not remain idle, we are fellow workers with Christ and will be held accountable for what we have done but we must reset the balance and set the right goals, otherwise our goals will kill us. It is not the balance sheet, it is not the numbers of seats filled, it is not the number of churches we have planted (they may be indicators of something…but do not over estimate their value) but the obedience to our call and the way we live our lives.
Set the right goals…..and know life.
“God is up to something in neighborhoods, on the ground in real places. The church, in all its diversity, needs to figure out how to join in. We think God is putting forth a dare that, if practiced, could both revitalize church traditions, and develop a growing unity among members of various denominational expressions in the parish. More than that, it could help the church learn to give itself away in love to the world around it.” Soerens and Friesen