Amber, Hildalejandra and Doug serving cookies and coffee at a laundromat in Wichita, Kan. Photo provided.
Recently, a Mennonite church plant in Wichita, Kan., asked, How can we be missional in our city?
Four local Mennonite congregations joined efforts in this missional endeavor.
They began to engage with their community serving complementary coffee and homemade Mennonite cookies—their version of peace coffee—at a local laundromat through the end of February.
People at the laundromat were surprised and skeptical. They asked, Why are you doing this?
“God loves you very dearly and cares for you,” was their reply. “This is how we are responding to God’s invitation to be in your neighborhood where we understand that we are your guest, and where we would have the opportunity to meet you and become friends.”
This question and answer—posed by several people in different occasions at the laundromat—made me reflect and weight the intention of my heart and of the church’s.
I thought about our missional approach as local congregation, conference, denomination and as a movement abroad.
It is not so much about the intentions of the heart alone, but rather your actions and words. It is about being a theorist or a practitioner. It is about taking a contemplative stance or a “hands on deck” approach. It is the church’s program versus the calling of the church.
Mission and discipleship cannot be separate because a follower of Christ is always in mission—God’s redemptive work.
The church—whether Mennonite or not—is not a drone (an operated vehicle from a remote distance).
It is an organism that seeks to be incarnated in the community and people’s realities. The church is a guest in the community where it resides and attempts to reach them out proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. The church works at this through the spoken word and through service.
The nature of the church is to be missional. This is not an innovated program of this century or a nice thing to do; missional is supposed to be part of DNA of the church.
The church becomes the people of God only when it journeys toward God and his mission.
If a church wants to hold a strong identity of being the people of God, then the church needs to consider fully engaging in its immediate community.
Consider this, ‘for God loved so much the world’—not the church, not the agencies, nor the conferences or the denomination. The church is an agent of the kingdom of God.
The whole idea is about God’s plans for the world and the restoration of all things. It is about salvation, transformation, and joining God in his restorative work.
Being missional is more than a theory elaborated from a desk, a lecture in a classroom or a table discussion of endless meetings. It is more than a service project from an outside community in a marginalized area.
Instead, a missional community is formed by committed Christians that live out God’s mission in their hometowns and abroad, incarnating in the reality of a given community with the gospel of Christ.
A missional community, led by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, is one that is constantly inviting people through both service and word to follow Christ.
How can we share the redemptive and transforming gospel of Christ to our hosting community?
While there are many ways, it would be best if we take our “missional temperature.”
In many cases, the results will be alarming.
We can ask questions such as, How do you share the Gospel with others? How often do we do this sharing? How are we serving our local communities and abroad? Is the church proclaiming God’s kingdom or it is endorsing a program’s agenda?
These and many other questions were prompted while reflecting on my tridimensional Christian sphere—in terms of relationships of God, the church and one’s neighborhood.
Mike Breen in “Multiplying Missional Leaders,” asserts that one needs to be vigilant of the three areas of personal relationship “up, in and out.”
The ‘up’ relationship refers to God’s, the ‘in’ refers to the church and the ‘out’ refers to the world.
Surprisingly, one will discover that most of the times, one is dwelling in a specific area more than another. Usually, many followers of Christ are spending more time in the ‘in’ and the ‘up’ angles of relationship opposed to the ‘out’ angle.
As a church, we tend to spend more time among ourselves, in church programs—or maintenance mode—than actually meeting and being with our respective neighbors.
As disturbing as I find it, the tendency is to forget that “God so much loved the world” in juxtaposition of loving so much the church.
The sole purpose of the church is to be the salt and the light of the world in God’s behalf.
As a church, we have been empowered to be a flavor of the kingdom of God that brings healing to a broken world. We are to be the lighthouse that points to God in the midst of a raging sea.
I think that today’s church should strongly consider incarnate in its community’s reality inasmuch as humanly possible.
One can have good intentions and yet not get many results, in terms of communal transformation. One can have a great idea and a great program, at least in theory, but if that idea does not move one into concrete actions, it is not worth anything. One can have a very convincing speech but without actions, it is just a dream. The first step to make a dream come true is to wake up.
The intent of church life and worship is to experience God afresh. It is not about our talents and programs.
We need to keep looking for opportunities for holistic Christian witness within the city hoping to serve and interact with our neighbors.
Those who follow Christ are missionaries because discipleship and mission cannot be separated from each other.
May I suggest continuing or to start treating your neighbor for a cup of coffee or tea. The point here is to get together.
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6b).