Missional Discipleship – The Struggles of Leading a People into the Concrete Everyday Missional Life

We Changed Our Identity Statement
At Life on the Vine, we changed our “identity statement.” We used to use only three words that we emphasized around our places: Transformational, Communal, Missional. Each word encompassed what we’re pushing for in terms of our focus as a people. We are pursuing a discipleship that transforms us into Christ, by sharing a life in Christ together, that participates daily in the Mission of God in the world.  Nothing too radical here eh?

Then this past summer we began to question whether these words were too ethereal. Had they become buzz words? nice sounding but in end not really meaning anything for the concrete lives of our church.  One of the pastors, Geoff Holsclaw began pushing for something more concrete and action oriented as opposed to just a nominalizing adjective. We came up with the phrase “Living in Christ, with One Another, for God’s Mission in the World.” Ah … we loved it. It resonated with what God was doing in our people.

The Missional Non/Checklist

Ah, but Holsclaw wasn’t satisfied yet. He pushed for more. He proposed a set of things we could list that were already going on in our community that we could point our people towards in order to further their discipleship into this way of life envisioned by this statement. After all, people needed to be able to visualize what this life might actually look like. I called it a “Missional Non/Checklist” because we wanted to offer people some ideas as to how they might enter this way of life, BUT WE DIDN’T WANT TO TURN IT INTO A FUNDAMENTALIST LEGALISM ALL OVER AGAIN.  Each section highlighted some basic “best practices” we could engage our lives in. And then under that, we offered a few examples of places where this is going on in our church body. Under “Living in Christ” for example, we highlighted transformational practices of life in Christ like our triads (three people getting together to do a Benedectine type spiritual formation practice), Taize service, spiritual retreat and private devotional exercises. Under “with One Another” we highlighted things like missional orders (house gatherings in neighborhoods), our church picnics, various mission projects, the community garden etc.. And under “for God’s Mission in the World,” we highlighted some service projects and engaging hurting people in regular life rhythms – things we have been teaching about at our church. The idea was not to sign people up for everything going on in the church. Rather give people an idea of what the Christian life looks like within our body as God has been working among us by His Spirit.  Let them find something that fits within their ongoing life rhythms (or develop some form of the practice within their own already existing relationships/rhythms ).

Now I know I’m going to get ripped for proposing a Checklist of anykind, even if I explicitly called it a Non-Checklist. But I think such a Non/Checklist has some advantages. For when the leaders are meeting with various members of our body, we have the ability to ask how’s your transformation going, how’s your communal life, how is your participation in God’s mission? Tell me your struggles? Where do you think this might be happening. Where do you go to get oriented in your life towards God and His mission? Where is there opportunities for God to work in your life that we might be missing? We have something to talk about that’s concrete. CONCRETE, CONCRETE, CONCRETE, did I say concrete?

Of course the first reaction to all of this is, please this smacks of my fundamentalist upbringing – I don’t need this or want this. And of course I still believe that certain ongoing practices beginning with the Sunday gathering around proclamation and the Lord’s Table and the Being Sent – profoundly shape our mind/body/souls for participation in/discerning God’s Mission.  Yet is there not a need for some hands on practical discipleship to guide our people into God’s Mission? For this purpose we have been introducing the Missional Non/Checklist. It’s got a bunch of problems with it that we have already discussed. For one, everything listed under one area could easily be listed under the other two. Yet it offers a starting point (just getting people to think that last thought is a major great piece of discipleship).

Any other ideas out there on missional discpleship? Any other ideas for improving this one? Go easy … 🙂

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