Quit Listening To Missional Experts

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My favorite book on the church and God’s mission is Total Church. I admire Steve Timmis and Tim Chester tremendously and I have learned so much from them. I can say the same for Alan Hirsch, Jeff Vanderstelt and many others that I would consider missional experts.

But eventually I had to stop listening to them.

The excellence of their stories and the transferable truths were their principles and did not always translate to good practices me and my community. Early on, I adopted their practices and tried to copy their ways in the missional movement. Over time I realized that their practices bore fruit because the labor they put into understanding their context, living into their passions and stories, and learning to apply the gospel to their specific neighbors.

Sheffield, England is different than my Chelsea neighborhood of New York and my neighborhood is different than yours.

Experts teach us principles for practical theology, but experience can teach us far more.

Experts teach us principles for practical theology, but experience can teach us far more.

3 Steps to Adapting the Experts’ Practices

Step 1: Look for the Missional Principles

In Total Church, Steve Timmis & Tim Chester offer the principles of gospel-centered, word-centered and mission-centered. They go on to offer how these 3 principles guide the practices in various areas of their ministry. Jeff Vanderstelt offers us Gospel Fluency, the application of the apostle Paul’s work of contextualizing the gospel to each setting and situation. Cesar and Michael Frost offer us rhythms for evangelism and engaging the skeptical neighbors. Mike Breen & 3dM offer us their practical outworking of transferable discipleship materials.

A copy of a copy is a cheap knockoff and so are attempts at recreating the work of other leaders before us. We are not them and they are not in our churches with our people caring for our neighbors.

Their principles are immensely helpful. Wrestle with how the gospel applies to unique situations (Vanderstelt), listen and observe the rhythms of your neighborhood (Cesar), figure out how to transfer your vision into memorable teaching lessons (Breen) and seek to bless the neighbor next door (Frost).

The hard work is prayerfully finding the intersection of principles with practices that you and your church can accomplish. What begins on a whiteboard must take on flesh and dwell among the neighbors in Step 2.

Step 2: Learn by love and listening

One of my favorite experiences in the missional journey was attending Soma School years ago and listening to the love that the leaders there had for their neighbors and city. They loved their neighbors and then they listened to their stories, their wants, their questions and their needs. They didn’t project onto their neighbor theological ideas that must be learned or questions about God they weren’t asking.

Their principles were developed by 1 Corinthians 13 choosing to love with their talents through knowledge that comes from the act of listening. Their stories inspire us because they originate from demonstrating the love of God in tangible ways.

Invite your neighbor over for dinner, go to the local park or join the PTA at your kid’s school. As you do, listen, ask questions and put the phone away long enough to make sure your neighbor knows the importance they carry as an image-bearer of God.

Step 3: Trial and Error – Live, Fail & Adapt

After listening to your neighbors, listen prayerfully to God through His Word and His community around you. Come up with ideas, try them, let them fail or succeed and then adapt them for the next attempt.

Fear of failure on mission can be the biggest hindrance you and your church face to being a missional church. You won’t succeed at everything as you try to communicate the love of Christ to your neighbors but God has never asked for a 100% rate of return. He merely asks for our faithful risk of giving of ourselves believing the Kingdom takes our mustard seed investment of love and uses it to redeem the lives of our neighbors.

Fear of failure on mission can be the biggest hindrance you and your church face to being a missional church.
I share this as someone who has learned by listening, failed in mission and by God’s grace has some great stories to tell about it.

Make the missional movement your own

The early promotion of the missional movement was from practitioners that developed principles from their specific context for their specific mission. The principles behind these practitioners were very similar and principles translate well into different contexts. The practices of these missional leaders don’t easily transfer into every context.

Make the missional movement your own
They don’t even easily transfer into every missional community or community group. They must be adapted for the benefit of making missionaries and making leaders who lead their communities in their context with a mission that matches.

Maturity in the missional movement involves each community examining the principles behind the practices to develop local practices common to your community for your context.

Need a guide to help you mature your church’s mission for your local context? Logan specializes in coaching pastors, consulting churches and training leaders to live on the mission God has given them. Find out more by clicking here: logangentry.com/coaching