The Most Important Thing You Bring To Your Small Group/Missional Community

One of the convictions that unites the GCM Collective in South Jersey is the conviction that a person cannot become a fully-formed disciple of Jesus without being in a gospel-centered community on mission.

The key to this statement, as I understand it, is the phrase “fully-formed”. Sure, a person can experience some measure of spiritual growth as a disciple apart from a community devoted to Jesus’ mission of making disciples. But a fully-formed disciple is one who is learning to obey everything Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:19).

Since so many of Jesus’ commands require community (such as, “Love one another,” or “forgive one another,” or, “Get the log out of your eye before you examine the speck in your brother’s eye”), then to be fully obedient to Jesus, we need community. And since He also commands that we go into all nations preaching the gospel, baptizing new believers and teaching them to obey all He has commanded, and living a life that commends Him to a hostile world, then a disciple who isn’t devoted to that mission surely cannot be considered “fully-formed.”

So I think it’s helpful to say that a disciple cannot be fully-formed apart from being in a gospel-centered community which is on mission together to make disciples of Jesus. In all the talk about the importance of community and mission, though, I wonder if something very important and seemingly-obvious gets neglected. So when I talk to others about the need for gospel-centered community on mission, one thing I like to stress is:

A gospel-centered community on mission will experience true discipleship only to the degree that the individual Christians who make up that community are personally experiencing vital, soul-enriching communion with God on their own.

As vital as deep community is to healthy discipleship, discipleship won’t happen just by “doing life” together, engaging in everyday rhythms. Throw some unbelievers in the mix, and it doesn’t automatically become mission. If the Christians in this community aren’t personally experiencing fellowship with God, there will be no Christ to bring into those everyday rhythms. And if there’s no Christ, then surely there is no discipleship. As disciples of Jesus, the life we now live is a life of faith in Christ (Galatians 2:20), and that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

We walk the path of discipleship in the same way that we initially get onto that path: through faith in Christ (Colossians 2:6-7). If we’re not hearing from Him, as He is revealed in the Word, then we won’t be growing, nor will we be able to help anyone else to grow, which is what discipleship is all about: growing up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ so that every single aspect of life is joyfully submitted to His rule and reign. And that happens as we speak the truth (i.e., biblical truth, especially gospel truth) in love to one another (see Ephesians 4:11-16).

So if there is no intake of truth, then there surely will be no speaking of truth to others, and thus no true mission will actually happen. But when we are experiencing vital, soul-enriching, communion with God, hearing from Him with faith, then discipleship is as simple as sharing with others what God is saying to us personally.

For instance, in re-reading Tim Chester’s wonderful book You Can Change, I was struck by a simple statement Chester made in ministering to a man who was dealing with panic attacks: “Not what if, but what is, and what is, is that God is in control.” I was struck by this, because the absence of peace in my life (a confidence and rest in the wisdom and control and goodness of God, rather than my own) was something the Spirit had been pressing on me in recent weeks.

I seized upon this statement, and tried to make it more specific by inserting particular biblical truths to convey, “what is”. Not “What if?”, but “What is?” And what is, is that:

• The LORD, who is my good shepherd, is pursuing me with goodness and mercy today, and all the days of my life (Psalm 23:1, 6)
• God rejoices to do me good with all of His heart and all of His soul (Jeremiah 32:40-41)
• Jesus, who loved me and gave Himself for me, is even now upholding the universe by the word of His power (Galatians 2:20, Hebrews 1:3)
• My present sufferings aren’t worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to me as an heir of God, and a co-heir with Jesus Christ Himself (Romans 8:17-18)

You get the idea. In the past few weeks since reading this, I am experiencing the transforming power of the Spirit, bringing me back to liberating truths of who God is and what He has promised me because of Jesus. And inevitably, as I do life with other believers, I am sharing with them what God has been showing me, telling them about the “What if/What is” lesson I am learning, and telling them the specific truths and promises that He is using to set me free from fear, anxiety, discouragement, etc. In doing that, I am taking my experience of growth and using it to engage in the discipleship of others. I am speaking truth in love to others, because I am hearing truth from my God, Savior, Shepherd, King and Redeemer.

That is, as I understand it, the mission I’m called to: seek the Lord with everything in me, marinate my soul in the rich truths of God’s Word, and then share with others (both believer and unbeliever) what God is showing to me as I commune with Him.

So, yes, you cannot faithfully obey everything Jesus has commanded (and thus, be a fully-formed disciple of Jesus) without involvement in a gospel-centered community on mission. Know this, and live this; don’t deceive yourself into thinking you’re a healthy disciple of Jesus just because you know a lot of truth about Him. But know this as well: you can’t contribute to the health of a gospel-centered community on mission if you’re not personally seeking fellowship and communion with God in your own life.

As you do that – as the Creator of heaven and earth meets you day after day and speaks to you from the pages of Scripture – share that experience with others who you’re doing life with, and you’ll be living out His mission of making disciples. The mission of disciple-making is more than this; but it’s surely not less.

This was a guest post by Larry Lazarus; pastor at Joy Community Fellowship in Pitman, New Jersey.

Interview With Mark Sellers About The Gospel, Community, And Living on Mission

Question: Tell us a little about yourself, your family and your role at Summit Crossing Community Church.

I am a native southern boy. I was born and raised in Mississippi and have now been in North Alabama for 13 years. I am a preacher’s kid and have been raised in the church world. Unlike many of my fellow PKs I grew up loving the church! My father is an amazing pastor and lover of the Father’s bride and his own bride and family. I have been married for 13 years to my amazing bride, Staci (also a native southern girl) and have two precious children: Andrew (6) and Ava (16 months). I was a part of the core team (4 families) that planted Summit Crossing Community Church 10 years ago. My official title at SC3 is “Community Life Pastor”. It’s my job to give both vision/ direction and execution to our missional communities. So I am responsible for discipling and equipping MC leaders, getting folks in the general church body connected, and overseeing the multiplication of the MC movement in our city. I also oversee our membership process and reaching out to new folks in our community. So basically, I get to hang out and eat with a lot of folks! Best job ever.

Question: What is your definition of a Missional Community?

In a sentence, a missional community is the family of God’s missionaries on the mission of making disciples who make disciples. We do this quite simply as we go, doing life together, seeing every moment in life through a gospel lens.

Question: What does it mean to be fluent in the gospel and why is this so critical for the spiritual health of every believer?

To be fluent literally means to be able to write or speak something with ease. Practically, to be fluent means that something is a natural part of you. It flows out subconsciously, without thought. To be fluent in gospel means that the gospel is a natural part of us, both literally and practically. So not only are we able to speak it without much thought, but we are also able to apply it without much conscious thought. So we speak it, we think it, we apply it when we make decisions, when we interact with situations and people, its natural! Why is this critical? Look, we are in a battle, both personally and corporately. And its the same battle that our original ancestors fought in the garden: our ways versus God’s ways. He has given us Himself and in that He has given us everything. But apart from both the purpose and power of the gospel, we are completely unable to choose anything other than ourselves. We must know the truth of the gospel and must apply its truth to our lives and to our communities to be healthy people and healthy communities. The world will not encourage or empower this. Our only hope is found in the gospel and the gospel is the answer for life period.

Question: Loving our neighbors in practical ways can be quite a challenge for people who do not all live in the same neighborhood. What does it look like for the MCs at Summit Crossing to be on mission?

When we transitioned to MCs, we really pushed folks to all unify around an adopted mission. It looked good and sounded good on paper, but it really frustrated many of our groups. That kind of mission is really easy (or I should say easier) for groups that are contained within 1-2 neighborhoods. But it was very difficult and frustrating for groups that were regionally connected but not defined by 1-2 neighborhoods. What we realized was that we were in danger of establishing a “missional legalism” that would take us away from Jesus’ simple words in His commission to us. It was subtle, but it was present. So we took a step back and encouraged our communities to consider asking these questions: “How are we making disciples both personally and corporately, and how does this community encourage and equip us for both?”

So we really want our MCs not to “rate” themselves on whether they are unified around A mission but to ask whether they are unified around THE mission. One of our MCs is localized in a suburban community but is spread out across many subdivisions. They were one of our “frustrated” groups that couldn’t unify around a particular mission. They began to break into smaller discipleship groups based on geography and relationship and found that each of these groups were much more effective in not only discipling each other but in making disciples within their other spheres of influence. So two times a month they all gather to share and celebrate the grace of God in their personal lives and in their missions. So at that gathering there is not only encouragement but the opportunity to partner with others in mission. The rest of the month these smaller groups meet and do life together to make disciples.

Our MC originally started as a neighborhood MC and it was really easy to be on mission in our neighborhood. We experienced a lot of traction early on but grew outside the boundaries of our neighborhoods. Our group was also very diverse and so it was even hard being on mission in our neighborhood with so many different walks of life. So we began to discuss where God was giving us favor or traction with people on mission. This led to some of us really giving time and energy to a rec team that involved a few of our group children. This led to the whole group being able to be a blessing to two families that we met through this rec league. One of the families has now since joined us and is getting to see what a gospel family looks like. Other parts of our group have been able to penetrate the artistic community and many of us have been able to join in with them on mission. Not all of us but a few of us! One of our girls got engaged and our group was able to help plan and execute her wedding which was a blessing to their extended family. So all of us didn’t do everything, but we all have had the opportunity to engage where God has given us personal traction with the help of our MC. And my family has been able to help others in our community do the same thing. So there’s no pressure to do it all, but there’s the freedom to follow the Spirit to engage with others as they live the mission. It’s actually fun and its a delight, not a duty!

Question: What do people study in your MCs?

Most of our groups study the same texts that we are preaching through in our corporate gatherings. Right now, that’s Romans (pray for us!). We have these groups answer 5 basic questions about the text each week that center around observation, interpretation, and gospel application. It is our hope that our people learn to be self-feeders! Many groups are actually studying ahead of what we are preaching so that they hit it before it’s preached. This allows them to hit the text fresh and be led by the Spirit and not just the preacher. A few of our groups do other book studies or other things like The Story of God or Gospel Parenting, etc. Anything outside of the sermon discussion must be approved by the church elders.

Question: How do you train your MC leaders?

Our training is really a two tier approach. On a large scale corporate approach, we offer quarterly workshops for all leaders and apprentices across all three campuses. This is a really big deal for us. We feed them all breakfast, take care of their kids, and give each family a free resource (not free to us usually!) along with the training that we do. In short not only do we try to equip and encourage them, but we try to bless their socks off too. The training generally has four sessions that revolve around these four components:

1. Evidence of God’s Grace (sharing MC stories)

2. Vision Training (one of our 5 community essentials or 4 rhythms)

3. Practical Training (gospel fluency through counsel training or the like)

4. Collective Prayer Time (both for the leaders and for their MCs; divided up geographically)

Our leaders love this and we almost always have every community represented at these events. They are led both by elders and MC leaders, but always by practitioners! On a small scale, our 3 campuses are divided into 9 geographic regions that we call collectives. Each collective has elders and deacons present that oversee individual coaching, accountability, encouragement,and equipping amongst the collective leaders. So the workshops are our air war and the collectives are our ground war for training.

Mark is also on the Executive Team for GCM Collective.

Interview with Caesar Kalinowski

This is an interview I did with Caesar Kalinowski a number of years ago…

Caesar is a spiritual entrepreneur and an avid storyteller. His background includes communications, media production, working with youth, and extensive travel in international missions. He has worked in over 15 countries around the world including Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria, Burma, India and the Czech Republic. Before moving to Tacoma in 2004 to help launch Soma, Caesar and his wife owned and operated several businesses in and around the Chicagoland area.

At any given moment Caesar is starting a new Missional Community and handing over another to a new leader.  He’s one of the elders in the Hilltop Expression, leads the charge for international missions and helps oversee a lot of the structures and systems we need to keep a big family organized.

He has been married to Tina, his high school sweetheart for over 25 years; they have three children: Caesar, Christin and Justine.

Question: Your Missional Communities in Tacoma are living on mission together in very practical ways. Give us one or two examples of how your MCs are being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in their neighborhoods.

Caesar: One of our missional communities is led by Greg Landon. Greg’s “day job” is as the VP of Network Services in Tacoma. Network is a sister org to Soma in Tacoma and owns and manages 31 low-income and transitional housing. The goal of Network (and the Gospel) is to give homeless families a leg up, get them off the street, in many cases off of drugs, and to see them move on to be healthy families that are no longer homeless and fully dependent on “the system” to get by. Ultimately we want them to come to a restored relationship with the Father through knowing Jesus.

Greg has led his missional community to focus on being “family” to several of the individuals and families within Network housing. The idea being that to just give them an apartment is not enough—we want to be their family and show them the love of God and an active gospel via close relationships.

It has been amazing to watch young mothers and teens come off the streets, finding true community, becoming exposed to the Word via The Storyformed Way (a 10 week narrative, dialogical way to begin to make disciples) and living out the gospel in real time as they grow closer to God and his people. Simple things like shopping and cooking together, throwing birthday or graduation parties and filling out school or job applications can be profound expressions of love as God meets real needs in real time.

Greg is now looking for and leading others to form missional communities right inside the housing complexes as he desires to see the gospel more fully incarnated among the “least of these” people God loves in Tacoma.

Question: From my time with you guys at Soma I saw a wonderful, biblical balance between the Sunday Morning worship service and living together as a community on mission during the week. There are many leaders who would like to grow when it comes to how they live in community Monday-Saturday. What practical advice would you give pastors and churches that are trying to transition from a traditional church model (it’s primarily about Sunday) to a more holistic missional model (every day is sacred)?

Caesar: It all starts with the leaders. Always.

Leaders–the senior pastor…the XP…the elders etc. are going to have to become convinced that living life in gospel community on mission is the life we were created and saved to live out. As men, as women, as parents, as leaders in the church. Then begin to lead others into this life with you. Try using the following common, cultural rhythms to give you some “handles”. Try and begin to live life in each of these daily rhythms with “gospel intentionality”.

Story-formed. Live in the Story of God and get to know others’ stories and how they fit into God’s bigger picture.

Listen. Spend time daily and weekly just listening to God. Listen both “backward and forward”.  Listen backward through “listening” to the Word of God and listen forward by listening to the Holy Spirit and others in your missional community. You’ll be amazed at how much God has to say when you listen instead of talk.

Eat. Try and have 3 (of your 21) meals per week with not-yet-believers. You’ll have great opportunities to live out all of the other rhythms with them!

Bless. Live a life of blessing. Blessed to be a blessing was apart of God’s call and promise to Israel. Ask God to show you 3 people you could intentionally bless each week through words, gifts or service.

Celebrate. Make your Sunday “services” into true celebrations. Also, regularly throw parties, BBQs, and go to others’ parties with “gospel intentionality”.  Look to show them what God is like by bringing the best food and consumables!

ReCreate. This is the idea of living out the gospel through Sabbath rest…al the time. The gospel says that we now rest because of Christ’s completed work on the cross and the work or “create” out of that love and acceptance. Ask the Spirit to help you life in a rhythm of rest–create, rest–create…

End of Interview

I want to thank Caesar for taking the time to do this interview with us! My hope is is that it spurs you on to both know and embody the gospel wherever you live. For me the challenge is how to live this out in our suburban context. I no longer wrestle with the question, “should we should try to live this way?” or “will it work here?” The reason I have stopped asking those kinds of questions is that I see this radical/gospel way of living so clearly rooted in the pages of Scripture.  The question for me now is “how will we make it happen?”  Please feel free to add your thoughts to this ongoing discussion! Do you have a story of how you are living out the gospel in your neighborhood?

Interview with Scott Boren

This interview was done a couple years ago while blogging for Missional in Suburbia…

Question: Thank you for being willing to answer a few questions! Tell us a little about yourself…

Scott BorenScott: Husband of a beautiful woman, father of four kids (all seven and  under), pastor and someone who cannot help but write and research. But  even more basic, I am a hay-throwing farm boy from North Texas who felt  God calling him discover what it meant to be a leader in the church. To  my surprise, I found that traditional church leadership did not fit me  well. This has led me down some wild paths, from extensive intellectual  pursuits to very practical hands on experiments of alternative ways of  being the church.

Question: Please define a Missional Small Group and explain how it  is different than what we typically think of when it comes to Small  Group life.

Scott: Definitions  of experiences are hard in some ways, but I know they are necessary so  that we can try to get a common understanding of what we are talking  about. In my book, I talk about four stories of group life, the first  two being normal and the second two providing stories of missional life.  Missional small groups are about living a story of life together that  steps beyond the normal group experience. By normal, I mean the small  group that is a Christian add-on to the normal American way of living,  the nice weekly or bi-weekly Bible study that helps us be better  American Christians. Missional groups live out an alternative story.  This story is shaped by a set of rhythms of life that we practice as a  community.

Question: I really enjoyed this quote from page 139, “We no longer  need haphazard gospel sharing that is not supported by visible  community. We need much more than good sermons, big buildings, and  professional video presentations. We need a people committed to specific  places who are called to bring redemption to those places.”  Explain  why you believe it is so critical to missionally engage our  neighborhoods “together” as opposed to an “individual” approach?

Scott: I’m finding that many people want  more than the normal American church experience. They realize that they  should be living differently, but they don’t know exactly how. The  practices that I offer in my book aim to provide entry points for groups  to discover together what it means to move into this “more” experience  or this “missional story.”

Question: I was excited to see that you explained that being  missional is not just another thing we do in the church, being missional  is a actually part of our identity as followers of Christ. Why do you  believe this is so important for us to understand?

Question:Personal  or individual evangelism has been a major thrust of the church for  decades. However, the “good news” of Jesus is much more than a message  that I as an individual can offer one of my friends. The good news of  the Gospel is a way of freedom, an alternative life to the entrapment  and bondage of the normal life that we typically live today,  characterized by isolation, individualism, rampant debt, fear, etc. The  only way that people can receive the good news of the Gospel is when  they see it. There will be a few who can see what the Gospel through  words alone, but most people need to see and outpost of heaven in a war  torn world. And they need to see it happening on their streets, in our  neighborhoods and apartment complexes, in our schools and playgrounds.  They need to see the good news lived out as we love each other and enter  into honest conversations with people around us. This is the reason the  word “engagement” is so crucial to being missional. But that gets into  the next question.

There  is a lot of talk about “missional” right now and many a using the  Mission alongside the words Communion and Community to help clarify  three parts of the life of a missional community. I find this highly  problematic primarily because when we conceive of mission as part of our  life we turn it into something we do for outsiders. Communion and  Community is insider stuff, mission is outsider stuff. But “missional”  is a being concept, not a doing concept. This is rooted in a rich  theological heritage. God is a God of missional being, not of doing. He  is a sending God, in that he sent himself through the incarnation and  through the sending of the Spirit. God is an overflowing fountain of  love who send himself out of his self gift.

Question: You write on page 49 that “When the focus of group life is  on the meeting, we limit the gospel…” Explain what you mean by a  “limited gospel”.

Scott: This  is the reason I talk about the three rhythms of missional small groups  in different terms: Missional Communion, Missional Relating and  Missional Engagement. Some might think that this is unnecessary  verbiage, but I think it is absolutely crucial. And my experience  reveals this. When we think of missional as something we do, then we  have strategic plans and activities for reaching people for Jesus. But  when it is something we are, then our praying has just as much impact  upon our way of sharing Jesus with our world as anything else. And our  way of loving each other can be as good if not better than the best  evangelistic sermons. Being missional is about living an alternative way  in conversation with people in our neighborhoods. The point of my book  is to help people enter into that life.

Question: What would you say to encourage the average busy Christian  who just does not think they have the time to commit to a Missional  Small Group?

Scott: A  limited gospel might get us into heaven but we don’t allow it to change  our lives now. A limited gospel has enough good news to forgive our  sins, but not enough to set us free to actually love and sacrifice for  those around us. A limited gospel opens the door for a personal  relationship with Jesus but lacks the power to challenge us to be  disciples. A limited gospel calls us to go to church or go to a small  group but does not call us on mission with others.

Don’t  discount this idea by using the excuse that you are too busy. You might  look at this idea and think it is too radical for your life, but I  guarantee that if you really consider it that your heart will resonate  with the possibility of living on mission. Just consider it. Pray about  it. Listen to your heart. And let the Spirit of God do the work in you.  Don’t start with action steps or trying to make something happen. Start  by listening to the Spirit of God within you and a new hope arise within  you from the inside.

One final note: I have  written a new study guide to help groups work through the ideas found in Missional Small Groups. If provides a simple and realistic process to  help groups get started on the missional journey. And one more thing:  It’s free. It can be downloaded at http://www.mscottboren.com/id5.html

Mission Trip In Your Own City

Last night I met with my Missional Community leaders and one of the things we talked about was the idea of doing a missions trip right where we live. How many times have you, or someone you know, gone on a short-term missions trip and upon returning home wished that they could live with the same sense of purpose in their own neighborhood?

We want to embrace and live into the truth that we are called to live out the gospel in word and deed in our own community. You may want to argue, “Do we really need to organize this kind of stuff? Can’t we just let people make it happen on their own?” I think that is a wonderful idea, maybe even ideal! The truth is that for many of us we need a little encouragement and guidance to get outside of our comfort zone and embody the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mission South Jersey 2013

Interview with Jayne Vanderstelt (Soma Church)

A few years ago my wife and I spent a week at Soma Church in Tacoma, Washington. We went out there to be a part of what they call “Soma School.” Soma School is an opportunity to learn about what it means to be immersed in both the gospel and community while on mission to the city of Tacoma. The week that we were out there had a profound impact on me and my view of ministry.

jaynevanderstelt (1)Jayne Vanderstelt is married to Jeff (Elder and Missional Community Leader at Soma). Jayne was kind enough to answer some of my questions so that I could learn from her and in turn share her responses with you. She has some incredibly insightful things to say in regards to life in a Missional Community, making disciples, and the importance of loving where we live.

Tell us a little about yourself.  I was born and raised in the Northwest, Seattle, and met Jeff when I was 19. He was working as a youth pastor, fresh out of college, a transplant from Michigan. We’ve been married for almost 20 years (March 13) and have 3 kids…Haylee (10), Caleb (8) and Maggie (6). I have a graphic design degree and worked a bit in that before having Haylee when I was 30. I have always loved art and am a visual artist on the side. Most of the work I do is for my kids’ school auction or projects for friends. I took a classical drawing class that I really loved, but mostly do art as a hobby. I haven’t worked outside our home since my oldest daughter was born. I currently volunteer at my kids’ school (mostly on the auction committee and in the classroom), I am a hospice volunteer, have played a very active role in our Soma Kids Ministry, and finally I am meeting with various women in our body in a mentorship role. We host MC at our place and I do DNA with 2 ladies. Our kids are in soccer and Swim team, so those things keep us busy as well. I also like to read, watch movies with Jeff, listen to music and eat and drink yummy food! Haha…oh and now that I am 40, I am learning to like exercise.

There are many people who do not feel deeply connected to the city, suburb, in which they live. Why is our attitude towards the place in which we live so important?  Being connected in a community is a very intentional act. It means I am meeting people and engaging in events that are happening in my city. I am going to the grocery stores and coffee shops, learning people’s names and trying to frequent places that will communicate that I am a faithful and consistent customer (you can easily do this in the city or a suburb). I strongly believe that you need to be loving the people you are living with…and if you struggle with this, to ask God to give you a heart for them. It’s very true that you can either love or despise a people group/culture quite easily. Growing up in Seattle, I was afraid of and even looked down on Tacoma. In fact, had you asked me in my 20’s to move here it would have been a straight up “NO WAY!” But as God called us here and I started to engage with the people, I realized what an amazing place this was. We had lived in Chicago for 6 years prior to moving to Tacoma and a close friend that I had developed there told me once that I was always comparing Seattle to Chicago and she was starting to take it personally. I didn’t realize that my homesickness for the Northwest was starting to affect my ability to really enjoy and engage in the people I was ministering to so I’m sure I was portraying a bit of an arrogant posture, not trying to, but communicating to them that what I was experiencing there wasn’t quite as good as what I had “back home.” How offensive is that??? Well, once I realized this, I started to become very careful with my comments and started focusing on the positives of my new home. I realized that I was encouraging the natives and ministering to them in a way they felt built up and loved. This in turn helped me to get my focus off myself and my selfish desires and put it on others. I then started to really love the people and the culture. This lesson has served me well in every subsequent experience of new surroundings. Bottom line…If God calls you somewhere, HE alone will put a love in your heart for the people.

Many Small Groups have primarily been focused on caring for one another, Bible study and prayer. All great things! Why is being on mission to your city so critical for Missional Community life?  Any time we completely focus on ourselves we miss so much of what God has to do in us and through us while we are living on this earth. God intended for us to not only receive grace, but to give it away. I have so enjoyed being part of other people’s lives in a way that leads me to pray for them and the people they are reaching. Being involved in mission in the city fuel’s our time together at the MC meeting. We all come together and are able to build each other up, bring the Gospel to each other’s situations and relationships, pray for each other and experience joy together when someone has a victory. I think it’s hard for people to understand that caring for each other within the body is only fully realized when it involves caring for people outside the body.

What are a couple things that you love most when it comes to being a part of a MC?  I love seeing people experience family in a new way. I love seeing needs being taken care of. I love it that I have a group of people who are checking in on me when Jeff is away. I love the spiritual dialogue and growth that happens in our lives. Just last week, Jeff was gone and I hosted our MC. I looked around the room and realized that most of the people we were on mission with have come to faith in our community…or are “coming” to faith presently. People’s lives are very precious and the journey God has us all on is very unique to each one of us. This is the beauty of an MC. We are all at different places, but God is at the center of it, uniting us all. Our MC is a community where we are all personally growing and being stretched as well as constantly talking about the people God has put in our lives and how we can pray, watch and join the Lord’s work in their lives.

What are some of the struggles, challenges you have when it comes to sharing life in a MC?  We have been a part of many MC’s over the years and I am learning to recognize a cycle that we go through. We start with a smaller group, learn to trust each other, get to know personalities, work through conflict, find sometimes that we are socially drawn to some more than others, and learn to love and grow…as a family…all the while some leave, new ones join, and others remain “consistently” “inconsistent.” (for lack of a better description:). I can recall one group in particular that I really struggled with at first and I remember praying and asking the LORD why He would put us with these people, I thought there might have been some mistake and entertained the thought that maybe we needed to reaccess this group and assign ourselves people we had better chemistry with. I knew this was wrong and that God had a purpose in choosing us to be together so I devoted myself to praying that God would give me a new heart for these people. Long story short…as I prayed and applied my heart to loving them, God gave me a deep love and understanding into their lives and the very different perspective they were coming from. My love muscle was exercised and grew during that time. I constantly look back on that experience and thank God for it because it taught me the power of God in my life…to change my heart towards another person. Functioning and “surviving” in the MC God has chosen for us will help us learn the discipline of applying ourselves to love…which will in turn, help us in the”real world” be the kind of selfless people that those in the world need to be in a relationship with. To learn how to interact with people in which we don’t see eye to eye on everything is of great value and a vital practice if you are going to reach the world for Jesus…and shouldn’t that start in our MC family!

How do you personally disciple ladies in your MC/church? In a nutshell…it’s not in meetings. I am devoted to prayer, reading God’s Word (where I am learning a ton on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus), living it out,  and I am sharing it with the people in my community. I have found that my life experiences are way more impactful than what I believe and teach. I am in a DNA that meets on Monday nights and I am starting two separate Mentorship groups of women who have contacted me to ask if I would meet with them. I am convinced that one on one mentorship is not nearly as effective as a group situation. But mainly, I am interacting with the ladies by asking them what they are learning and how are they working it out…and sharing with them what God is teaching me and how I’m working it out. If you want a practical example, here is a recent situation…I was helping at a function at my kids’ school and needed some extra hands so the first people I contacted to help, were a handful of the ladies I am mentoring. They were eager to help and it was an amazing testimony to the school who thanked me for providing my own helpers and were encouraged by people outside the school who are willing to give up a Friday night to serve them.

Lastly, I just want to add that prayer is a vital part of all of the above. I encourage intimacy with Jesus and a devotion to learning to listen to the Spirit in everything. Honesty with Jesus and those around you and a humble submission to His will, will open the door of clarity in the area of truly being missional in a way that pleases God. Life on mission is messy, changes frequently, unpredictable, etc… If you are not truly connected to Jesus through it all you will rapidly crash and burn because of your weak choice to burden yourself with a life that is not empowered by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. As a beloved daughter of God I have functioned in both arenas and will say with great conviction and authority that the Spirit of God is mysterious and unpredictable but simultaneously grounding, comforting and clearly the only one who will leave you with the profoundly supernatural experience of peace, joy, and the undeserved fruit of your labor.

Interview With Seth McBee About Being On Mission, Community And Discipleship

Who is Seth McBee?

Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade Seth is an seth mcbeeInvestment Portfolio Manager, serving as president of McBee Advisors, Inc. Today, he’s a preaching elder with Soma Communities in Renton, WA and part of the Executive Team with the GCM Collective. In his down time he likes to CrossFit, cook BBQ, host pancake ebelskiver breakfasts at his home and many other neighborhood events in his hometown of Maple Valley, Washington

Question: What do you do (the strategy) to make sure that people in your church are being discipled do that they can go and disciple others?

My strategy to ensure people are making disciples is pretty simple.   We trust in the work of the Spirit as we live out the implications of the gospel in community as a family of missionary servants.  I am not sure any other way to “make sure” people are being discipled.  You can do trainings, classroom discussions and studies, etc. but that isn’t ensuring anything is actually happening.  You must get the people in community, living out the implications of the good news with the power of the Spirit for this to happen.  We see this is exactly how Jesus did it as well.  We can see him discipling his disciples on the mission field with the broken 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time was just with the disciples.  The interesting thing is that by doing this we get to see the real responses of the discipleship process, meaning, we even as readers 2000 years later, get to see where the disciples need the gospel.  We see Peter saying some pretty stupid things and the apostles failing to heal (Matt 17) and asking Jesus for explanation, (with many other examples) all these happening as real responses from being on the mission field.   So, by living out discipleship on the mission field, you will see where you, your missional community and those that are not yet believers actually need the good news of Jesus in their life.  When you are having a BBQ and a neighbor’s kid spills his fruit juice on your carpet and you yell at him and get angry at the cost of carpet cleaning, it reveals you need to understand who’s carpet it actually is and why you have your home.  You need the good news applied to both your anger and your possessions.  If you have the BBQ with your MC, and you see them as family, they can point these gospel needs to you with confidence you desire correction to make you more like Jesus and under his Lordship in every area of your life.

Not only this, but we encourage everyone to live as normal people with normal lives, but understanding they have an abnormal calling.  Everything we do needs to be transferable to each one of our people instead of discipleship only being able to be done by a select few.  If your discipleship can’t be transferred over to a single mom, a CEO or college student…you are probably not doing what Jesus was doing.  He lived in such a way that was transferable to a wide range of people.  Fisherman, tax collectors, zealots and even crazier…women. (crazy for that day…don’t get mad at me).

The last thing I’ll say about this is to realize that the second people meet someone, they are discipling them to who Jesus is.  Everything you say and do people perceive is what a follower of Jesus does.  When your people see this difference, it opens their eyes to understanding discipleship and how much they are discipling in the every day.  Much more to say on this topic, but we don’t want to belabor that here.

Quick summation: Holy Spirit empowered, Gospel saturated,  in community, on the mission field, transferable, in the every day.

Question: Do you make disciples in a group (Life Group or Missional Community) or do you do it one on one? Or is it a combination of the two? Please explain.

Both, but mostly, like 90%, in community.  There are times to meet up one on one, I get that.  But that cannot be the totality of our discipleship.  There is a reason that God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, God calling out Abram to start a new nation, God calling the people of God the church, a family, a body, a flock.  Because the point of all these are to point people to who God is and what he is like.  God is Trinitarian, therefore, by living and discipling in community, we show off who God is and the fact that he lives in community as Father, Son and Spirit.  If I merely disciple someone one on one, that person will start to look like me, instead of Jesus.  I can call them my disciple, instead of them being Jesus’ disciple.  It would be like going to the gym and merely working out your right bicep.  Sure, that bicep will be huge, but it will not help your whole body’s development.

Again, this doesn’t mean you negate one on one, but you must see the fallacy of that being the way to make a fully formed disciple of Jesus.  Even Jesus rarely met with the disciples one on one…what makes us think we should spend most of our disciple time doing that?  Unless one thinks they are greater than Jesus.

Question: How often should Life Group or Missional Community Leaders meet for training? What curriculum do you use?

How often? Not sure.  This will be different for every community.  We need to be careful from trying to set this up for all people for all time.  Some questions to ask to determine for one’s community would definitely be these:

  1. Where do we see our people needing to be trained in?
  2. How long do our people need to live out the training before we start a new topic to train them in?
  3. Can we gather for training that will not interrupt their normal discipleship lives in an unhealthy way?  If yes, the question then comes, how often should this be to make sure it is not a burden?
  4. Can we use our other gathering times for training? MC meetings, Sunday gatherings, etc.

We use many of the resources found on the GCM Collective.  I am about to embark on this with my MC as I am moving and expecting three MCs being born as I leave.   I will be going through these first: Empowered by the Spirit; Gospel Fluency; How to Create an Environment for Discipleship; The Power and Purpose of the Gospel.

Question: What should we do if there is a lack of Life Group or Missional Community apprentices? Steps to take?

They are there.  Usually people just have too high of expectations for apprentices.  Too high being the apostle Paul would struggle to pass your test.  I think the very first step is to ask the Spirit to reveal them to you.  Remember it is the Spirit’s mission and the Spirit’s power, so he’ll provide the workers.  We must rely on him and him alone for leaders to be not only born, but empowered.  Once he shows who this is, and he will, take extra time with them.  Make sure you are continually living life on life with them and tell them what you see in them.  Tell them you believe they’ll be leading some day and you believe in them because you believe in the power of the Spirit.  If we think every one of our kids are going to be “good enough” to one day lead their own families, we should look at our MC family the same.  Every one of them could lead, doesn’t mean all of them will.  But, just as you treat each of your children differently because of age, maturity,etc. do the same with those in your MC.  Some will be ready for leadership more quickly, so spend more time with them now readying them to multiply, and when they do, look for the next batch by asking the Spirit again.

This all goes back to the first question though.  You have to make sure that you are discipling in ways that are empowered by the Spirit, transferable and in the every day.  If you do this, more people will believe it’s easy to lead an MC.  I am about to leave for Arizona and my MC is freaked out some, but they know that they can do everything that I’ve done, because everything I’ve done is pointing them to the Spirit’s power, easily transferable and very much in the every day.  They’ll miss me because we are family and I have some distinctive gifts, but they won’t miss me because they don’t think they could do the exact same thing with me gone.

Question: What are a few books that you have read lately that have had a big impact on you?

I always get rocked by seeing the life of Jesus and how he lived with the power of the Spirit, in relationship with his Father and discipling in such simple ways.   I have been reading the Bible and focusing on the life of Jesus looking for these things.  Powerful.

Other books that have been killing me, in a good way, are Creating a Missional Culture by JR Woodward and also The Permanent Revolution by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim.  Both focus on Ephesians 4 with the giftings given to the church: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers.   Both these books are revolutionizing my thoughts on the church and I believe is the tip of the iceberg for the church at large.

Question: Is Caesar Kalinowski coming out with a book? If so, tell us why we should be excited about reading it.

The reason you should read it is because Caesar does a great job of showing everything I/we believe about discipleship in the everyday empowered by the Spirit.   Love that guy…he means a ton to me.  Great friend and even better brother.

The book will be coming out next year, stay tuned!

END INTERVIEW

If you want to learn more about Missional Community life go to GCM Collective. There is a GCM movement underway in South Jersey; if you are interested you can contact me (Michael Wallenmeyer).

Neighborhood or Network Missional Community by Caesar Kalinowski

This video by Caesar is helpful for those of us doing Missional Community in suburbia. By nature of our context we are spread out and so the idea of immersing ourself in one neighborhood is not easy to accomplish. We know that being on mission, living as missionaries, is a part of our gospel identity. So…we have to be creative. I guess that puts us in the “Network Missional Community” category.