Almost three years ago I wrote a post entitled A Warning List For Those Who Would Join a Missional Church Gathering. It caused a bit of a stir in blog-land. I wrote it out of frustration with our own church plant and the fact that some people (NOT ALL!) weren’t connecting with where our church was going. Many were bringing with them (from previous churches) expectations that certain programs would be in place by now. One of these expectations (among others) was for a particular kind of youth program. They did not get what so many of us were convinced of, that the best way to raise children is in a vital community where we encounter the living Christ together in worship and mission, where the youth are asked to join in mission with adults (BTW – for sure we needed to provide mentorship and educational opportunities for the youth and we’re committed to that). Shortly after I wrote this piece, we printed this list in the form of a bookmark to make available to new people who wished to join in. Some people have remarked that it seems somewhat harsh, maybe off putting, somewhat arrogant. If you look at the post back then you’ll notice some of these opinions in the comments.
Nonetheless, I think some sort of warning on expectations is helpful at the outset of a missional community. Most missional gatherings begin by calling out already existing Christians to gather in a time and place to give witness to the Kingdom of God (so that God might expand it). Most seasoned Christians come from somewhere else with expectations about what church is. I think a warning list therefore serves a good purpose in the beginning stages of a community’s planting. Looking back however, I think I might soften a little of the rhetoric here. I think I might add a few things related to mission in rhythms and neighborhoods. I think I’d soften the very last “add-on” if I were to rewrite it. The list is below. What do you think? Are these still the right warnings? Is such a list appropriate? What would you add? How might you write your list?
TEN THINGS ANYONE WHO JOINS IN A TWENTY FIRST CENTURY MISSIONAL CHURCH PLANT SHOULD NOT EXPECT
1.) Should not expect to regularly come to church for just one hour, get what you need for your own personal growth and development, and your kid’s needs, and then leave til next Sunday. Expect mission to change your life. Expect however a richer life than you could have ever imagined.
2.) Should not expect that Jesus will fit in with every consumerist capitalist assumption, lifestyle, schedule or accoutrement you may have adopted before coming here. Expect to be freed from a lot of crap you will find out you never needed.
3.) Should not expect to be anonymous, unknown or be able to disappear in this church Body. Expect to be known and loved, supported in a glorious journey.
4.) Should not expect production style excellence all the time on Sunday worship gatherings. Expect organic, simple and authentic beauty.
5.) Should not expect a raucous “lights out” youth program that entertains the teenagers, puts on a show that gets the kids “pumped up,” all without parental involvement. Instead as the years go by, with our children as part of our life, worship and mission (and when the light shows dim and the cool youth pastor with the spiked hair burns out) expect our youth to have an authentic relationship with God thru Christ that carries them through a lifetime of journey with God.
6.) Should not expect to always “feel good,”or ecstatic on Sunday mornings. Expect that there will ALSO be times of confession, lament, self-examination and just plain silence.
7.) Should not expect a lot of sermons that promise you God will prosper you with “the life you’ve always wanted” if you will just believe Him and step out on faith and give some more money for a bigger sanctuary. Expect sustenance for the journey.
8.) Should not expect rapid growth whereby we grow this church from 10 to a thousand in three years. Expect slower organic inefficient growth that engages people’s lives where they are at and sees troubled people who would have nothing to do with the gospel marvelously saved.
9.) Should not expect all the meetings to happen in a church building. Expect a lot of the gatherings will be in homes, or sites of mission.
10.) Should not expect arguments over style of music, color of carpet, or even doctrinal outlier issues like dispensationalism. Expect mission to drive the conversation.
O AND BY THE WAY Should not expect that community comes to you. I am sorry but true community in Christ will take some “effort”and a reshuffling of priorities for both you and your kids. Yes I know you want people to come to you and reach out to you and you are hurting and busy. But assuming you are a follower of Christ (this message is not for strangers to the gospel) you must learn that the answer to all those things is to enter into the practices of “being the Body” in Christ, including sitting, eating, sharing and praying together.
If anyone out there is interested in this kind of place please join us or another missional church gathering somewhere.