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Friday, February 27, 2009

vi - repeating, reviewing, reminding, repeating missional

The following is part six of a workshop I taught at the Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF) “Gearing Up” conference in Atlanta. The content and illustrations are from life at Good Shepherd, but I was trying to identify key transferable concepts, particularly for life in smaller churches (though I hope they would transfer into any context).

The title really says it all. Nonetheless, the point needs to be made. “Missional” is not a label to slap on programs, nor a program to be run. To be truly missional, for most of us, means a change in identity to see ourselves not as those collected by God, but those sent by God.

To invite and pursue such a change of identity within a whole congregation takes more than one killer conference or one super-sermon. It takes constant teaching, illustrating, embodiment, prayer, and a holy transformation (God has to handle that last one!).

I have compared the transformation that is happening in our church to the process of raising children (and I have three of those). My kids have grown so much since they were born, but they are only part way grown. And raising them to maturity (obviously) takes more than a parenting class, a good parent-kid talk, or any other short term interaction. It is a formative process that takes their entire childhood (and a significant portion of my adult life). Like parenting, the process of shaping a congregational identity and culture is slow going. Some days I get frustrated by not seeing explosive growth (numerically or outwardly). But if I pause to look back one year, or three, or five, it’s not the same congregation. We are growing significantly, with God’s help and blessing. Much like my kids, I believe we have made it to a kind of awkward early adolescence. It’s an exciting place to be, and there is so much more in store for us!

Just as parenting involves lessons and actions repeated, reviewed, reminded, and repeated, so do the lessons and actions of becoming a more missional congregation. I have already described some of the communication involved, and it’s not like I keep rehashing the same sermons and lessons. But if scripture and our Christian identity is outward-focused after God’s own heart, it becomes hard to preach any sermon or make any application that doesn’t relate somehow to that identity and mission.

From time to time, I will see my children make decisions and behave in ways that demonstrate our parental “imprinting.” I’m not right there with them anymore, and they don’t know (necessarily) that I’m watching… but their identity is forming and it becomes evident who they are becoming.

Likewise, I see members of the congregation owning their “lighthouse” identity. They paint pictures of the lighthouse; they verbalize their sentness in their own words. Disciples are making disciples. That’s exciting!

NEXT: reflections on missional

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