Someone once said nothing reveals sin in the heart like calling people to mission. Opportunities for a missional community to serve and bless others often come into conflict with our schedules, preferences, convenience, or comfort. How we respond to mission opportunities can serve as an indicator of where our worship is centered and what we may be believing at the moment. It can also point to insufficient understanding of one or more components of the basic DNA of missional community—Gospel, Community, and Mission.
We train our MC’s to take time to prayerfully seek God in selecting a common mission, a people in a particular location or circumstance to whom they will demonstrate and declare the gospel. The MC then determines how they will orient their lives around that common mission. What will the week look like as they live, gather, serve, eat, and play in relation to their common mission? A part of that orientation of life centers on regularly serving the people of the common mission, so the MC makes the appropriate plans. But then, for various reasons, some MC family cannot show up.
To be fair, we all sometimes have other plans, obligations, or emergent situations that prevent us from joining our family on mission. However, we all have also experienced that twinge of reluctance when there is no significant conflict, and we simply do not want to join in. Mission resistance often manifests in one of two ways: making excuses and raising objections.
Excuses and Objections
An excuse is an explanation wrapped in self-justification. It’s not my responsibility, not my area of gifting, I’m not a people person, not comfortable with that, etc. Objections are expressions of disapproval. We need to do more Bible study, we should avoid the appearance of tolerating sin, our time needs to be more structured.
Excuses are simply what they are. However, an excuse can also be offered to veil an objection that a person prefers not to voice. Sometimes the objections are genuine concerns based on the individual’s personal convictions or past experiences. But sometimes objections are merely excuses disguised in piety. Either way, these are typical forms of resistance. Both can be addressed by gospeling the heart and continued training in missional living.
Paying consistent attention to the three elements of gospel, community, and mission can help in minimizing resistance when it comes to engaging the common mission. The gospel, the good news concerning Jesus, is the heartbeat of the MC. It deepens our love and passion for Jesus and drives us to worship, trust, and rest in him. Such a relationship with Jesus transforms our perspective on other people as we find compassion, grace, and mercy welling up in us towards them. The gospel softens and shapes us into instruments of grace that God can use to bless others.
The mission is to disciple others toward Jesus so they begin to walk in his ways and also begin to disciple others to do the same. Mission needs to be regularly stated, formally and informally, and modeled by those in leadership. Listen as your MC family is having conversation and point out what they’re doing normally and naturally that facilitates the mission of discipling others. Suggest ideas to help them intentionally pursue opportunities to deepen relationships with the disinterested and not yet believing in their world. Mission drift is always a hazard, as when people begin to think the mission is to meet regularly, or do a quarterly service project. So, keep the MC on course with the clear mission of discipling others to Jesus.
Community is the vehicle for the mission. Remember your identity, that you are a family of serving witnesses following Jesus together, sent to declare and demonstrate the good news. Regularly check up on how you are doing in the areas of your identity. How well are you being family? Is your serving getting integrated into your lifestyle together more so than simply being an add-on group activity? Are you becoming more fluent in the gospel as you have everyday conversations with people? Emphasizing your identity and checking up on your progress keeps community in front of you.
Shepherding the heart of an individual who frequently opts out of mission is certainly going to be more personal and up close. One MC family member can take that individual with them as they serve the common mission is some way. This is life on life discipleship—modeling, including, and exhorting the excuse or objection-laden person to mission. Along the way, they share their heart for why they’re doing this, pointing the person to Jesus’ attitude and actions toward us.
We all slip into seasons of missional slumps, and it is easier to offer excuses or objections to living on mission. Thankfully, God is so patient with us to love us through those times of resistance. Ultimately we can trust the Holy Spirit to do his work in breaking down any resistance to mission.
How can excuses and objections be an opportunity to remind your people of the gospel?
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–> Check out some of our resources:
- Rethink the Ideal Missional Community
- Are Missional Communities just a Passing Fad?
- Communities on Mission Starter