Missional living is a central part of the values and beliefs of the Vineyard—we are a church-planting movement, after all. God’s mission is our reason for existing. Swiss theologian Emil Brunner put it like this:
“The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.”
Because of the God we serve, our churches must be relentlessly, comprehensively outward-focused.
Because Jesus’ whole life was outreach (as summed up in Philippians 2, for example), being missional with our whole lives is part of becoming like him—part of discipleship. This is counter to how Western culture has conditioned many of us to think. We have learned to compartmentalize our lives. Each neat section—home, work, school, church, social life, etc—need never overlap if we don’t want them to.
This becomes very apparent when you are leading a church, small group, or even yourself in mission. Many of us have learned to see evangelism as something separate from regular church life, or something extra that is added on. But Jesus shows us how to live lives that are completely infused with mission—his family, his friends, his social life, his work life were all on mission.
As followers of Jesus, when our homes and our jobs and our families and our chance meetings all become missional, we are in fact developing lives of integrity. We are actually following the one we say we’re following. And people tend to think Jesus is a good guy. By taking him seriously in this, we show people that we are authentic and trustworthy.
In light of that, here are some tips for being a wholistically outward-focused church, small group, or church plant:
Keep your missional vision at the forefront.
It might seem obvious, but without a steady hand at the tiller, churches’ focus tends to drift inward. It’s good for us to love each other inside the church, but we can never lose sight of the people who aren’t there yet. We exist for them.
This is a big one. Effective outreach in the long-term is a time investment. Luke talked about how after 10 years, they are seeing the fruit of relationships they invested in years earlier. If you want a church that will be around for your grandchildren, invest in your community long-term.
Get to know people.
Most people are hungry for real relationships. Spending time getting to know them is a relatively simple way to serve them. So, as a church, find what people are up to in your community, and join in, whether it’s doing yard work at the same time as your neighbor, getting involved at your local schools, or something else.
Don’t discount anyone.
There is no one around you who does not need Jesus. As a church or small group, who are you overlooking? Maybe it’s the affluent people—you only reach out to poor and under-privileged populations. Or maybe all your outreach is geared for people with kids, and you haven’t thought about how to reach the elderly, or students, or single people.
Use your natural connections.
Many people think of evangelism or outreach as something you do by going out and talking to strangers. While this can be part of it, outreach can also happen very naturally with the people we already know, whether it’s the other parents at your child’s school, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
Partner with others.
This might include other Vineyard churches and pastors in your area or region—check out the triad model for one way that can work. But chances are there are also non-profits, charities, churches, government-workers, teachers, etc., in your community who share enough of your vision and values that you could work together quite effectively. If you want to go far, go together.
If you found these helpful but you want more, take the time to go watch or listen to the Missional Outreach That Works webinar—there’s plenty more there, as well as an excellent list of other helpful books and articles recommended by the panelists.