As Missional Communities are planted, it is important to understand mission as an ancient work empowered by the Holy Spirit. God has been doing this “work” throughout redemptive history and calls each new generation to join Him. Mission can be approached either reactively (mission in the moment, or spontaneous opportunities to bring the gospel to bear as you go about daily life) or proactively (mission by design, or organizing the controllable aspects of life, such as spare time, where we live and work, meals we eat, vacations, how we spend our money, etc., around the mission of God). As your Missional Community family engages in God’s ancient work of drawing people to himself as ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor.5:11–21), viewing both reactive and proactive mission through a framework of “seasons” will be helpful.
Being a good missionary isn’t only about leading people to Christ and baptizing them. There is much more to it. Think of it this way: A good farmer does much more than just harvest his crop. He invests his life into farming and knows the importance of every season of the harvest. Good farmers spend months preparing and cultivating the soil—plowing the ground, turning over the soil, and removing the rocks. Once the soil is cultivated and ready, then comes the season of sowing the seed (whatever he hopes to see grow). This time of sowing also means the hard work of watering, nurturing, and protecting the seed as it takes root and begins to grow. When the crop is ready and mature, then comes the season of harvest. Harvest involves carefully reaping the crop and producing it in a proper manner (i.e. grapes become wine). In the same way, good missionaries invest their lives into gospel ministry and know the importance of every season of mission.
Please use these descriptions of the three seasons of mission to help identify the season and the health of your MC’s mission. Healthy Missional Communities will always be in one of these three seasons of mission. Keep in mind that not one of these seasons is more important than the other—they are all equally necessary to making disciples of Jesus that make more disciples of Jesus. What is most important is that your missional community is able to identify what season you are in, and then allow the Holy Spirit to lead your MC as you cultivate, sow, and harvest for God’s glory in your city!
An MC assessment for determining the health of your mission.
Where are we in this process?
Below are the seasons of mission we tend to see throughout everyday life.
Discuss with your MC where you think you are in this process. Read through each season together, and use the questions to help you determine what steps you need to take next as a family on Jesus’ mission. After you have determined where you are, make a proactive plan of mission. Getting off-track on your mission is easy, so plan to revisit this assessment at least once a year, if not more.
Cultivating (or plowing) is the part of the discipleship process where we are praying for our focus area, making friends, learning their stories, and finding people in our missional communities’ focus area. We are building relationships, listening to the Spirit in prayer, and focusing the majority of our time together in relational settings that connect us to the people we believe God has called us to reach.
Key Activities during This Season: praying for people by name, prayer-walking in our focus area, building relationships, throwing parties to meet people, and including our new friends with the family. During the season of cultivating, a missional community should spend less time in the living room and more time making friends and building relationships.
Does the missional community have a particular common thread among everyone (i.e. everyone’s kids attend same school, you all live in the same neighborhood, there is a common hobby everyone likes, etc.)? If no one does, that is OK, but sometimes this exercise can help the community identify common interests that lead to common, everyday interactions, which could lead to a common desire for mission.
Do we already have close friendships in our focus area, or do we need to focus on cultivating new ones in our neighborhood or network?
If we already have close friendships, let’s move forward to sowing. If not, we need to decide how we are going to begin cultivating relationships with the people in our network or neighborhood.
What specifically do we want to commit to doing throughout the next three months to cultivate relationships with the people we are trying to reach? (Think through our everyday rhythms. What rhythms best fit the culture of our neighborhood or network?)
Examples: prayer-walking weekly, planning a game night, taking cookies to neighbors to get to know them, hosting cookouts in the front yard, inviting coworkers to weekly lunches, looking for ways to serve and bless, hosting holiday parties, going to HOA meeting and volunteering to help with something, etc.
Sowing is the season where we begin to share our lives with the people we have connected with and sow “gospel seeds.” We are sharing our story, speaking of Jesus, and displaying a gospel-centered life to our friends. Remember, because we have done the hard work of plowing, our friends trust us and love us at this point, so our sharing of Christ is only natural. As the Spirit leads, we are beginning to invite them into our Missional Community meetings, Sunday gatherings, and other social activities in our church family. Sowing also involves nurturing, watering, and protecting the “gospel seeds” we have sown. This might look like additional conversations, clearing up any confusion, praying fervently for salvation, and serving the people we are sharing with. An important thing to remember here is that some of the people you are reaching will not come to faith in Christ. Keep in mind that this is not because you did not share your faith well enough or because you were too pushy. They chose to reject the gospel and not hear the truths of Jesus you were sharing with them. However, do not let that hinder you from praying fervently for them to come to faith in Christ.
Key Activities during This Season: sharing the gospel in conversations and through everyday rhythms, inviting friends into the life and gatherings of church family, deepening relationships and trust, and fervently praying for friends by name.
During this season a missional community might spend more time in the living room and around the dinner table discussing the scriptures, going through the Story of God, and planning proactive mission.
What specifically do we want to commit to doing throughout the next three months to sow the gospel among the people we are trying to reach? (Think through our everyday rhythms. What rhythms best fit the culture of our neighborhood or network?)
Examples: planning a guys’ night or girls’ night where you can invite your friends into the life of the group, inviting those you are closest with to go through the Story of God with your MC, asking your friends how you can pray for them and letting them know when you do, etc.
Harvesting is the season where we see our friends come to believe in Christ and trust in Him for salvation and life. This usually happens in mini-stages, but we know we are in the season of harvesting when we see the Spirit at work in our friends’ lives. We know we are in the season of harvesting when we see our friends responding to our sharing of the gospel in positive ways. They have recognized their need for Jesus in their lives, they are reading the Bible and praying with us, and they are motivated to serve with us. The pinnacle of the harvesting season comes when our friends officially repent and believe in Christ and are adopted into God’s family! Once this happens, we continue the discipleship process as we live life as a family.
Key Activities during This Season: sharing the truth of the scripture, praying with our friends, serving others with our friends, encouraging faith decisions, and calling our friends to believe.
What specifically do we want to commit to doing throughout the next three months to call our friends to life in Christ? Remember, if we are in the season of harvest, our friends trust us and the Spirit IS WORKING in their lives. (Think through our everyday rhythms. What rhythms best fit the culture of our neighborhood or network?)
Examples: consistently inviting our friends to Sunday gatherings, studying a gospel-rich book of the Bible as an MC and inviting friends to join you, getting together weekly as an MC to pray for their salvation, etc.
How does identifying the season of mission your community is in help you grow as effective disciple-makers?
–> Join the online community, ask questions, and get answers from seasoned practitioners.
–> Check out some helpful resources: