Practicing Being Sent

I had the opportunity to be the mission conference speaker at Fremont Pres in Sacramento, a church with an active mission program and giving, but is wrestling with "missional." This was actually their first missions "conference" so I was honored to be asked. It was called "Get up offa that thing: Exploring what it means to be missional." They heard me speak at the PGF Gathering in Long Beach and heard my passion for transforming the church.

I had four sessions, one on Friday, two on Saturday and preaching on Sunday. I incorporated some of the elements of the PGF Gathering we had in August. I incorporated lectio divina on Luke 10 in three of the sessions, coming back to it for more insights and questions. It is such a powerful way to communicate that, as Harold Kurtz said, "Mission is Messy," yet we have the assurance of a relationship with the Lord of the Harvest, and that "the kingdom of God is near."

I told my own story of missional discovery. I led with questions we/I had been wrestling with four years ago, and then shared my definition of missional church over the three sessions as "a gathering of believers (not an institution, or services, or buildings, but people, the body of Christ) sent (missional is a rhythm of inner and outer, it has to be practices by learning from each other and scripture, listening to God and our community, and experimenting being sent) into the world (jerusalem, judea, samaria and the ends of the earth, so do we have the same passion for jerusalem? what practices do we adopt from ends of the earth to help us in jerusalem?) by demonstrating the Kingdom of God" (as Guder says, we demonstrate it by being authentic community--making friends, doing the works of God--meeting real needs, and saying God's praise--giving God credit).

I shared with them some of our experimentation, not as a program to copy, but as an example of what God is leading us to in Solana Beach. I talked about last year's Community Serve Day, where we asked our people to develop sites along the lines of their passion in lieu of worship services. It's a great way to model that church is people, not worship services and that we are a gathering sent into the world. Last year we had 1600 of our church family and friends on 60 sites.

I shared at Fremont that the next weekend (Feb 21) we would have 3100 people on 125 sites. We partnered with the Disney "Give a Day and Get a Day" program where they give a park pass for doing a day of community service. As a result we had at least 1000 people join us from all over Southern California. I shared my genuine fear of being out of control, of it being messy, that we didn't know what would happen on that day or after that day.

So, we had our Serve Day last weekend. No services, but everyone was in the community serving. Our site leaders had to adjust and practice hospitality to the other who was serving alongside them while they were serving the others! We did things like painted homes, helped 18 year old foster kids move into their first apartment, hosted brunch and a party for homeless women at the Rescue Mission, packed boxes for Haiti, sent cards to hospitalized military, repaired ball fields and preschoolers potted plants for shut in seniors.

We are getting stories back from team leaders and they want to serve more, stay in touch with the people they served, and we invited all those who served with us from the community to join us this Sunday for our Celebration Service. I don't know if we will have 1000, 2000 or 0 more than usual, but it's creating a great stir in our congregation and in my heart. How great to be out there, out of control, not knowing what's next but listening to God and trusting God for the next step.

What if we were known as the church that served the community? What if people were attracted first to the church because we served instead of our preaching, music or youth programs? What if our people were always dreaming of new ways to serve, as small groups or as individuals, on their own, inviting friends to join them? What if the missional imagination was sparked in everyone's heart and mind? What if the church was truly the church? We would be changed and the world would be changed.

We had some tv news coverage. Not really interested in being famous, but we are interested in giving God credit, in pointing others to him, in changing the perception of church in our community to being relevant, making a difference, getting outside ourselves, being generous, known for what we love.

One person wrote to me: "Today, I may have sore and tired muscles, but more than that, I have experienced something with my family and my community that will hopefully instill awareness and a continuing legacy of service. These things are well worth a few hours of time and sweat on a Sunday when we would otherwise be sitting in pews."

Another wrote: "We had a family come all the way to Encinitas from Ramona. They found out about us from a friend, who’d heard about it on the Disney site. (The friend ended up working the Encinitas street fair—another SBPC CSD site.) We got to hang out and talk, and one of the girls said, 'I had no idea we’d be doing stuff like this. I thought we’d be serving lunches to hobos or something.' It was actually really funny. Then I said, 'Well, if you’re really interested in that sort of thing, the high school and junior high students at our church go to downtown San Diego once a month and feed the homeless. It’s pretty cool.' The mom loved that idea, so I’m going to email them the next time we do it. We’ll see what happens. Yea God."

Jesus said it's more blessed (joyful) to give than receive, that the first will be last, lose your life to gain it. Maybe the joy we're experiencing is what Jesus talked about. Maybe that's how God designed us. He also said the first commandment is Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength (all of our lives integrated together) and the second commandment is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. The second flows from the first, but we learn so much about the first from the second. And he give us the promise (at the end of the story in Mark 12) that when we figure this out we are not far from the Kingdom of God.

That's pretty cool. That's life to the full.


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