This is a guest post from Brian Johnson. Brian Johnson is with the staff team of Westside Family Church in Lenexa, KS. Currently, Brian oversees and leads worship for one of Westside’s campuses. He’s also a part of a team that develops content and coaching for local learning communities that reproduce missionaries and simple churches in Kansas City and beyond. More than anything, Brian, his wife Kristen and their five kids love living deeply into their neighborhood, helping those in their extended spiritual family take next steps toward Jesus.
“Put on your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you.” If you’ve ever been on an airplane, that’s one of the first phrases you’re going to hear before the plane ever leaves the ground. Most of us tune that part out because we’ve heard it so many times, but it’s some of the best advice, and it doesn’t just apply to emergency situations when you’re 30,000 feet in the air. It plays out in the everyday and the mundane as we live with gospel intentionality in our neighborhoods and networks of relationships. On an airplane, you won’t save the person next to you if you’re gasping for air. As followers of Jesus, the air we breathe in and breathe out is the Gospel. We’re not going to be good news to the brokenness around us if the good news is not first breaking in and shaping us first. We have to stop ignoring the pre-flight warning.
Breathe In and Breathe Out
In Kansas City we have been working for the last three years on two strategic learning communities. The first is a three-month experience where we train everyday people to become everyday missionaries where they live, work, study, shop, and play. In the three months we’re together, we do a deep dive on the B.L.E.S.S. rhythms: Begin in prayer, Listen and Engage, Eat, Serve and Story. With each of these rhythms we teach a breathe in and breathe out motion. For example: Breathe in prayer: practice listening prayer, listening for the voice of the Father and discovering where He is already at work. Breathe out prayer: pray with and for your neighbors. Breathe in eat by sharing meals with your spiritual family and those you’re discipling. Breathe out meals by opening up your table to those in your neighborhood. They’re basic missionary rhythms that are not always intuitive for every believer with a western, individualistic cultural narrative.
The second experience is a year-long process of training these everyday missionaries to launch simple churches. Simple churches are extended spiritual families who live in everyday gospel community, that are led by ordinary people, with the express purpose of living out the mission of Jesus in their neighborhood or network of relationships. Both of these experiences were designed to see gospel saturation happen within the city and beyond. We want to equip believers to live on mission, and we were doing it. We’re celebrating some amazing Jesus stories of how people are engaging their relational spheres.
What We Were Missing
While our processes were great at missional engagement, the area we were missing was soul care and gospel training. We had ignored the pre-flight warning that the gospel must be applied first to ourselves before we tried to speak it over others. Gospel Fluency brought us back to our center. After introducing Gospel Fluency (specifically the 4G’s of Gospel Fluency and Fruit to Root) to our cohorts, grasping a fuller understanding of the gospel, and adopting healthier gospel language, the members of our learning communities were able to identify their own areas of unbelief more clearly and move more intentionally towards belief in Jesus in every area of their life.
Learning how to speak the gospel to ourselves daily is the first step in learning how to hear what good news our family, neighbors, co-workers and mates need to hear, how to help them recognize the areas of unbelief in their own life and move towards belief in Jesus. It’s beyond just the afterlife and where you go when you die. We’re discovering how to speak good news into broken marriages, relational tensions with the neighbors, miscarriages, parenting, finances, resting well, identity, difficult job circumstances and more.
A New Language
With the launch of the BLESS Learning Community, we now spend the first two weeks exploring what it means to be fluent in the gospel language. We then take time each week with each member of the cohort to work through “Fruit to Root.” In our Simple Church Learning Community we ask each member to spend a month of their year experience doing a deep dive on this language and practicing “Fruit to Root” and “The 4G’s” with those they’re discipling and with other members of their missional team.
This one resource and these simple tools have dramatically changed the outcomes of our experiences. We’re no longer equipping people to just live on mission. We’re now equipping them with language that will fuel their mission and ensure that their mission is sustainable.
What practices have you found helpful as your community has grown in gospel fluency?
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