I have written recently about a developing missional identity seen in "missional fruit." I compared our developing missional identity to a developing person and see us in a kind of pre-pubescent or early adolescent stage in our missional development.
...growing in fits and starts, with some awkwardness, but also with some glimmers of real maturity, purpose and calling that make the angels sing.
One of the very hopeful and encouraging fruits of our developing missional identity has been the relationships and ministry with the guys from the group home across the street from the church.
Naming years ago... I remember naming the group home as a mission field back in 2006, when our officers first had a retreat around the lighthouse-searchlight themes. We named several other mission fields in the near-neighborhood and have kept naming them and keeping them before us ever since, even though we connected with some immediately, others years later, and some we still haven't.
Praying for an open door... With several of the mission opportunities being rather non-traditional (shopping center ministry? ministry to group home residents??) we prayed for an open door, for God to not only make our next steps evident, but to prepare the way for us. One seemingly miraculous open door was one of our church youth being paired with one of the guys from the home at a camp in Western Carolina. What were the chances? Then hit it off and boy was I surprised to hear that Cory's "buddy" lived right across the street from the church. Apparently Cory told Josh I was okay, because Josh came over to see me shortly after that.
Responding to the open door... In the case of the group home guys, they came to us (not just Josh, but all). I don't think this was an accident. After all, we had been praying for them for two years before that. It may be that was the necessary timing to prepare US to be good neighbors. I remember them first coming to an outdoor concert we had on the church grounds. Then it was another year before Josh, Mark, Jason, and the other guys started coming over.
Awkwardness/mess... I've preached and blogged about the "messiness" of really embracing a missional identity. And the guys from across the street have brought a glorious kind of awkwardness and mess. And yet it so clearly portrays to me the Kingdom of God.
Persevering in prayer... And so I am reminded of the importance of persevering in prayer. Not just with the kind of "persistent widow" mentality, but because God uses such prayer to teach us patience, and perhaps even prepares us for the answer when we might not have been ready for an immediate answer.
Physical growth from childhood into maturity is slow, sometimes almost unnoticeable and sometimes in quick spurts. I am realizing a missional identity forms in a similar way, sometimes in small almost unnoticeable ways and other times with awkward leaps. What thrills me is realizing that not only has God been faithful to grow our missional identity; but also that God is not finished with us yet!