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As the a missional community leader you don’t have to do everything during the meeting night, but you need to make sure the pieces are in place for the meeting to be extremely hospitable. This is huge because the meeting night is going to model hospitality for your people, and extend it to those who are visiting. The following is a list of questions we have our missional community leaders think through with their core team about displaying hospitality in their meeting night.
- Is the home you are meeting in providing a clean and welcoming space for people to meet in?
- Are your people seeing the MC meal as an opportunity to lavish grace on each other by bringing their best, or are they looking to find the easiest thing they can signup to bring?
- Is your core team greeting people with you, and making sure that any visitor is greeted at the door and warmly welcomed into the home?
- Are you being respectful of your guests time and following the agenda you set for the night?
- Are you being considerate of children and creating a space for them to be cared for when the adults need space for discussion?
- Are you considerate of guests making sure to explain different parts of the meeting night and introducing them to the group?
- Are you leading the group to help cleanup after the meeting (family helps with the dishes)?
- Are you being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and flexible enough to adapt to the needs that might arise during a MC meeting?
- Are you we praying together as needs arise (not just saying we will pray later but going to the Father in our time of need)?
- Are people being walked out to the door? If they are a guest they should also be followed up with by multiple people on the core team. This means you should get their number/email and make sure they are followed up with.
I wanted to share this from a breakout session I sat in this morning with Jeff Vanderstedlt and Caesar Kalinowski. Someone asked them what they would recommend to a church trying to move towards missional communities. I thought it was a great question since many people don’t have the luxury of starting from a clean slate and are operating with a structure that cannot easily turn in a new direction. I have tried to summarize what Jeff and Caesar mentioned below.
- Be willing to repent.
- Lead by example. Don’t call your people to something new that you are not willing to model for them. This means you don’t decide to hire a missional communities pastor, but your pastors begin to lead missional communities. They are not a program to add to your church. This starts with you.
- Identify whether your specific situation is an organ transplant (replacing a few vital components), a wineskin issue (is your current structure able to carry this DNA), or a situation needing yeast (slowly allowing the yeast to work through your whole church more organically). I would love to hear Jeff expand on these a bit more to help some churches in transition.
- Defund the old stuff that you don’t want to keep producing. Don’t get up and pull the plug on your current small groups (this is a way to kill your church), just over time quite giving the time, energy, and resources to support the old structures. Affirm the good going on in groups and invest your time in the areas that will move them towards becoming missional communities.
- Tell the stories of those who are starting to see missional communities lived out. Awaken a taste for mission in your people by showing them the fruits of what a life lived in Gospel community on mission can be. If the Spirit is in them they will desire this life. It’s who God has recreated them in Jesus to be.
- Get some practical tools. Jeff mentioned two specifically here - The Tangible Kingdom Primer & Barefoot Church.
Reflections On Soma School
I spent the last week of January in Tacoma, Washington doing a week long immersion with Soma Communities. Going into the week I was fairly familiar with Soma and had borrowed much of what they do for our church plant. Heading into the week I hoped to nail down a few questions I had about their systems and solidify my understanding of what they are doing. I expected to enjoy my time but did not expect anything spectacular out of the week. That would happen to the dudes going who had no clue about Missional Communities and were hearing about it for the first time.
What happened over the course of the week was unexpected. I have still not completely unpacked it but I know the Holy Spirit was moving. I had expected to come back with a refined system and what I returned with was a renewed awareness of my need for the Spirits power. In fact, Soma was less impressive than I had imagined. They were ordinary people desperately in need of an extraordinary God to show up and move amongst them. The missional communities we visited were messy and full of real people with real problems. There were stories in process that didn’t yet have a clear cut beautiful ending.
I got to spend most of my time with the Ticas family. Sam and Dina Ticas hosted Jonathan Dodson and myself. From the first day we stepped into their home we were treated with hospitality and treated like family. They didn’t just provide us with a place to sleep, but a place to be at home for the week. Sam is a pastor at Soma and all throughout the week he let me pick his brain as he answered my numerous questions. Dina fed us with some amazing(healthy as well) meals. As the week went on I felt as though I had gained a new brother and sister. Their three kids (Katie, Mason, and Lazaro) were hospitable as well. They were shy at first but after a few days of having me in their home they went on as if I was a regular part of the family.
During the days we had long hours of classroom training. Each training allowed us to pop the hood of Soma and see what they are about. I picked up some valuable nuggets here, but overwhelming message that came through was a huge love of the Gospel and a desperate dependance on the Holy Spirit. It couldn’t have come at a more critical time for me.
The highlight of the weekly trainings was Friday. In the morning Jeff Vandersteldt unpacked Gospel Fluency (the ability to speak the gospel into everyday situations) and Abe Mysenburg closed out the day by taking us through the 4G’s (God is Great, God is Good, God is Glorious, God is Gracious). As Abe was unpacking the 4G’s I realized that it had been a few months since I had dug deep into my own heart and motives. The Spirit was pressing in on my heart and moving me towards repentance. I realized that I had been going so hard and fast with church planting that much of what I was doing was in my own power. My dependance was rooted in my reason, not in the Holy Spirit. This had manifested itself in the prior weeks as I found myself more and more easily frustrated and stressed. I had begun to carry the weight of church planting on my shoulders when only Jesus can bear it.
After Abe walked us through the 4G’s we broke up into groups of 3-4 (gender specific) and took turns confessing to one another. The Spirit was at work as every guy in our group very honestly confessed junk in their lives while the other guys pressed into the ugly reality of that sin and then proclaimed the truth of the Gospel in a way each guy needed to hear. For me it was a breath of fresh air. It had been several months since I had confessed sin this honestly or even considered the inner motives of my heart. Here I was with guys I barely knew freely confessing the junk in my heart. It was a much needed grace for me.
The day was capped off with a time of worship. During worship our group of 4 guys went and took communion together, proclaiming Christ’s provision to each other. It was the first time I have experienced communion in a way that felt like more than me and Jesus. It was a family around a table, all in need of Christ broken body and blood shed to sustain us.
By the end of the week the Soma school participants felt like family. We had shared a common experience and an undeniable move of the Holy Spirit. The last night we were all there we met at the Shakabra (Restaurant owned by some people from Soma) for a time of reflection. Each person went around the room and shared what God had taught them over the week. It was obvious that nearly every participant had been deeply impacted by the time they had spent there with the Soma family. After everyone had shared one of the Soma school participants asked if we could pray for Soma. For the next thirty minutes the entire room prayed together for Soma and a continued move of the Holy Spirit as people go back to their own cities.
Over 60 people packed in a room and all together in one Spirit asking God to continue the work he started. People desperate to see their cities transformed with the Gospel realizing their deep need for the Spirits empowering. It was an unexpected and yet fitting ending to the week. I went home changed by it. Not because Soma is special or because I learned some new strategy. In fact, I learned very little that I did not already know. I walked away changed because I witnessed and experienced a community where the Holy Spirit is alive and well. A community where everyday people are living ordinary lives with Gospel intentionality, trusting in the power of the Spirit.
*For a more detailed and better written review of Soma school you can check out Steve McCoy’s blog HERE.
One of the most important parts of our Gospel Community meeting is the meal. Meals have a sacred quality to them and have a way of bringing people together around the table (see Tim Chester’s book for a in depth exposition of this). Just consider how many important events throughout the bible took place around a meal. In our Gospel Communities, meals provide a simple way for people to start sharing the work of the group together. They connect people and provide a great environment to discuss the good news of Jesus.
Pulling off a meal in a Gospel Community setting takes effort and planning. Over the past few years my wife Lauren has often served as the hospitality leader for our group. She has become a pro at organizing and planning meals that work well for our groups. At Redeemer, the hospitality leader in each of our Gospel Communities is responsible for organizing the meal around a theme. Each week they communicate the needed meal components to the group and the group members signup to bring something for the meal. Even first time visitors want to contribute once they learn that the group is sharing a meal.
Coming up with with a meal theme is the first step of planning the meal. After a while it can become a struggle to come up with good ideas for the meal theme. So I decided to start putting down theme ideas to help our hospitality leaders get started. Here are my five favorite meals that we have had in our Gospel Communities over the past few years.
- Breakfast For Dinner - Why don’t we do this more often? That is my typical response after we have a breakfast themed meal at our Gospel Community meeting. Pancakes, waffles, french toast, eggs, biscuits and gravy, all of the good stuff shows up on this night. People get excited about breakfast for dinner and typically bring their ‘A’ game. Thank you Jesus for breakfast, especially when we get to eat it for dinner.
- Taco Night - Taco night is a no brainer (especially here in Texas). It is simple and nearly everyone loves tacos. Taco salad, burritos, nachos, all things that show up on a Taco night. If the meat doesn’t turn out great you can always drench it with queso and move on. Taco night is also an easy theme to divide out amongst your group. There are so many toppings and options available that everyone can contribute to create a great meal.
- Soup Night - On soup night nearly everyone brings their favorite soup to share. It is a great chance for people to share old family recipes or to test out new ones. Soup night works best during the colder months but is certainly a valid option any time. It is easy to plan as well. Just have people bring their favorite soup!
- Pot Luck - Pot luck (or pot providence as one of my fellow reformed friends calls it) is a wild card. What if everyone brings a side dish? What if everyone brings broccoli? This is the risk you take with a pot luck night. But in my experience pot luck night tends to see more solid main dishes than any other theme. My theory is that everyone is afraid there will not be enough food, so everyone overcompensates and brings a solid main dish. Pot luck also gives people the freedom to bring their “signature” dish. This provides an array of foods that come together to form a delicious feast.
- Baked Potato Night - Baked potato night takes some careful planning but with a few key ingredients it can turn out to be one of the better community meals we have. Along with the standard baked potato toppings (cheese, sour cream, chives, chili, bacon) we like to throw in some Rudy’s chopped beef for some extra Texas BBQ goodness.
Other meals we have done that didn’t make the list:
- Sandwich Night - Super easy when you can’t think of something better.
- Italian Night - I get heartburn easy but most people like it.
- Burgers and Hotdogs Night - Great summer meal and best enjoyed outdoors.
*Each group uses the Table’s serve app to organize their meals.
How does your missional community organize their meals? What meals have you found to work well in this setting?
Every time I talk with someone interested in learning more about missional communities, I usually end up pointing them to the three resources I listed below. They have been extremely helpful for me and have influenced much of what we do at Redeemer. I hope you find them helpful as well.
1. Soma School Manual - This 32 page PDF was extremely helpful to me over the past two years as I hashed out what we wanted Redeemer to look like. Soma has been planting and multiplying missional communities for the last seven years. Just in case you need a little explanation to what your reading in the manual I put a link to the audio for the training sessions below the PDF link.
2. GCM Collective Website - The GCM website is loaded with resources for missional communities. You can also signup on the site to discuss missional communities with people trying to live it out all over the globe.
3. Total Church - Total Church is a book written by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. I read it a few years ago and it was foundational for what we are doing at Redeemer. Along with the book there are several other great resources that you can access for free. I recommend picking up the book as well as checking out the free resources online.
Here are a few other sites to check out:
As a church planter I quickly discovered that in the early stages of a church plant you wear nearly every hat in the church. Thankfully I have been able to find a few resources that have proved to be a huge help to me and our young church plant. I hope that other planters and pastors might find these helpful as well.
1.The Table Project – Just after we moved down to the Austin area to plant I came across the Table project. As a infant church plant we wanted to have some way to link our people together as they came into our community but couldn’t justify spending money on some of the other social tools for churches. The Table turned out to be a great solution. Early on it gave us a place where we could organize our people and keep track of what was going on. We use the table for prayer requests, discussions, service projects and meal planning for our missional communities. As we multiplied our missional communities it allowed us to create separate groups for each community while also having a larger group for the whole church. Just a few months ago the table came out with an iPhone app which was a great addition to already great software. The Table is continuing to expand and add new features. Did I mention it’s free? Check out The Table Project
2. Gmail – Email is unavoidable in church planting (or anything today). I have found gmail to make the pain of email a little lighter. Gmail has a host of great features including push to your Iphone/Android device, integration with other google products, and great spam filters. The two features that I have most recently grown to love are filters and canned responses.
Filters allow you to block certain types of emails and neatly store them in folders that you check on a much less frequent basis. I have setup my filters to only receive important and personal emails on my iPhone. A couple of times a week I will go through and check the bulk mail folders I have the filters route my non-important emails to. This has cut my email checking at least by 75%. Helpful Article on Filters for Gmail
Canned responses are a Google Labs feature that you have to turn on inside of Gmail. This feature allows you to create email templates inside of Gmail. When you’re sending out weekly updates that typically follow the same structure, this tool works great. It is also good for those regular emails in which I am frequently asked about the church. I can write the email once, save it as a canned response, and then slightly tweak it the next time I get a general info request about our church plant. This has given me a simple solution for creating email templates within gmail and not having to log into another service. Read more about canned responses for Gmail
3. Evernote – Evernote is a great notes app that syncs across multiple platforms and has very well done mobile apps for a variety of devices. Evernote has a variety of potential uses but I use it primarily for three things; Meeting Agendas/Notes, Scripture memory flashcards, and expense receipts. Each time I have a meeting I create an agenda in Evernote that automatically syncs to my phone. Evernote allows you to attach important documents, record voice notes, and photos to every note. I have also used Evernote for scripture memory. I created a notebook within Evernote that I copy verses into each week. Evernote has an Ipad app called Evernote Peek which allows you to use your Ipad as a big flash card. My third notebook in Evernote is for expense receipts (I tend to lose receipts). As soon as I use the church card to make a purchase, I snap a picture of the receipt and leave necessary info in the notes section. I can then share this folder with our finance team so they get real time tracking of my receipts. Check Out Evernote
4. Vanco Services – Financially this has been one of the best tools we could have invested in. Your financial supporters can setup an account and give one time or reoccurring gifts that come directly from their bank account (no credit card fees). The cost comes out to roughly $25/month and .25 cents per transaction. I highly recommend checking them out if you are looking for a simple and effective online giving solution. They also customize your give page to match your website (preview our page here). Check Out Vanco Services
5. Church Plant Media – I am somewhat familiar with technology but would by no means consider myself an expert. I knew I wanted a decent looking website when we planted but wanted something I could quickly update and change without any coding or frustration. Our church had used a private vendor in the past and while the design was cool, it was like pulling teeth to get information changed. With a church plant things are constantly changing. It is very likely that in the early stages the first impression people will have of your church is from your website. With church plant media we were able to get a professional quality website up and running within a few weeks. They had excellent customer support, clearly communicated pricing, and gave a discount to church planters. I think they have recently lowered their prices and upped their features. This is money well spent for any church planter. Check out Church Plant Media
Lastly, here are a few other resources I don’t have time to explain but wanted to throw out there.
Goodreader – Excellent Ipad app that I use for reading PDF studies and sermon delivery.
GroupMe – Great iOS/Android group texting app for quick communication to a group.
Google Calendar – Schedule Meetings & plan out the work week (syncs across multiple devices)
What technology resources have you found helpful for church planters/pastors?
I am constantly reminding our people that Gospel Community is not a meeting, just as the church is not an event on Sunday mornings. Nevertheless, every Gospel Community at Redeemer meets on a weekly basis. The meeting is an important part of the community life, and for many it is the starting point for understanding what exactly Gospel Community (GC here after) is. So let me give you a brief snapshot of what we typically do with our Sunday night meetings.
Key Components Of Our Gospel Community Meetings
Shared Meal (45 Minutes) – This could easily be overlooked or brushed aside, but I have seen people get connected time and time again through the meal time. It is a valuable part of our meeting. It provides a warm welcoming environment where guests are welcome and regulars get to see hospitality modeled right before their eyes. Everyone in the group chips in bringing food for the night. The week before our hospitality leader sets a meal theme that we use to coordinate what type of food to bring. We use the Table to organize the meal. The meal typically lasts around 45 minutes, and is sometimes chaotic with kids running around and people sitting everywhere- but it creates a great space for our people to grow as family over good food. Check out Tim Chester’s book, “A Meal With Jesus”, for more on the importance of shared meals.
Discussion (45-60 minutes) – After we finish eating the younger kids go upstairs for a kids lesson and play time (led by a rotation of people in our Gospel Community). The adults then transition into the living room bringing unfinished food and drink with them as we move to our discussion time.
- Content - Right now we are going through the “Story Formed Way” which is a 10 week curriculum put together by Soma Communities. Typically we follow a pattern of Fall/Spring sermon follow, and use the sermon to do a book study or curriculum that fits the needs of that specific Gospel Community.
- Family Atmosphere – We try to keep the discussion as natural as possible without just becoming a social time. We have no desire for this time to be an hour long exegesis of scripture, but rather a family discussion that the leader keeps on the track. This isn’t a proving ground for aspiring preachers to give 30 minute monologues, but an intentional discussion that the leader guides keeping focused on Christ.
- Vision Casting – It is also during this time that the discussion leader will look for opportunities to cast and recast the vision of the community. Ideally this is on the front and back ends of the discussion. The leader can refer back to the Gospel Community Focus to help cast vision.
Prayer (15-25 minutes) – At the close of our discussion we break up into groups of 3-4 and pray for the needs in the group, for our city, and for the nations. The prayer leader is responsible for leading and organizing this time. We try to integrate the kids into this time occasionally we bring them in to participate and pray with their parents.
Hang Out Time – We encourage people to hang out and visit if they want after our prayer time concludes. At our home, the rule is out by 9pm. It is always a good sign when you have to kick people out because they want to stay and spend time together.
This gives you a good idea of what a typical Gospel Community meeting night looks like for us at Redeemer. Once every 4-5 weeks we will have a party night where we hang out and invite neighbors to join in. Another occasional thing we are starting to do is have “Family Discussion Nights”. These are nights that we devote to refocusing as a group as we revisit our Gospel Community Focus and discuss how our community is functioning together.
The last thing I will mention is that our GC’s do not have seasons that they take “off” nor do the terms of the GC’s expire. We have built into our GC meeting schedule a few nights spread throughout the year that they do not meet, but we try to avoid consecutive weeks without meeting. Once again the meeting night is not the Gospel Community, but it plays a vital role in focusing each Gospel Community on Jesus and his mission.
Life has a variety of contexts. Contexts are the surroundings or environments in which we all live. We believe that Jesus is Lord over all contexts of life. To help us see how Jesus transforms each context of life, we speak of everyday contexts. Everyday contexts include a variety of settings in which we hope to distinguish and define what it would look like for Jesus to redeem each context. Traditionally, it seems as though churches have focused on a “sacred” or “gathered” context and relegated Jesus to the sidelines in the other (secular). We want to be a church that recognizes Jesus authority in all of life. The gospel changes everything.
To help our people get a grasp on the different places we live out life as Christians, we started using the two categories of gathering and sending. We want to gather together as well as be sent out. We found it helpful to break this down into the contexts of the church gathered, and the church sent.
The Church Gathered
Traditionally it seems that most people connect the context of the gathered church as the only context of the church. We want to preserve this idea of gathering together as the church, but place it in the proper context of being sent out. We break this into four general contexts of the church gathered.
- Household - Our immediate family is the smallest and most intimate church-life we experience. In fact, all other expressions of family and community flow out from this small unit. We believe that the father is the pastor of his household, and he is responsible for care and discipleship of the family. The wife functions like the deacon of the home; she operates in a critical, secondary leadership capacity. Together, they care for one-another and their children’s spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. Our desire is to equip households to function as the church in miniature as they live life within a Gospel Community. In some situations—because of divorce, death, or other circumstances—one parent may carry a larger or full portion of this load, but this is where Gospel Communities support, encourage and step in where needed.
- Gospel Communities - Gospel Communities serve as the primary place that we live out life as a church. Each Gospel Community meets on a weekly basis to consider Christ together through prayer, discuss scripture, and share a meal. These are the people that we’ll spend the majority of our time with as we live out ordinary everyday life together. They work to bring the gospel story to merge with our lives and to relate the stories of our lives to the gospel. Each Gospel Community has a Leader who leads the group with the support of a core team. The core team consists of 3-5 couples/individuals who share the leadership responsibilities of the GC. We believe that each new GC plant has the potential to be a new expression of the church.
- Fight Clubs - Fight Clubs allow for deep relationship, trust, and accountability for gospel encouragement, healing, and correction. Realistically, Gospel communities will serve as an extended family gathering. You will know those people pretty well and will be able to share a good percentage of life’s ups and downs together. However, there are some struggles and issues that will be more appropriately shared in even smaller groups (2-3 people) where trust and accountability levels are higher.
- Sunday Gathering - There are some churches that see the Sunday gathering as the most important thing the church does. Other’s in the house church movement have totally discounted the importance of Sunday gatherings. We want to hold our Sunday in high esteem without elevating above the other vital aspects of the church. Sundays gatherings are a time for all of the Gospel Communities scattered around the city to gather together to celebrate the risen Savior. It is a time where we come together as one large family to worship Jesus together.
The Church Sent
While the church is constantly gathering together, it is also called to be sent out. At Redeemer, we want to be a church that is constantly gathering and sending. This gathering and sending starts with our city, and extends to the most unreached peoples groups of the world. Just as we gather, we are also sent out as the people of God to a variety of cultures. For many the call to send will be to your workplace and other parts of the city. For some, we pray that God would send you across cultural boundaries to take the Gospel to the nations. Wherever we are as Christians, we are sent people. We summarize the context of the church sent into four main categories.
- Neighborhood - Everyone lives somewhere and we believe that God has sovereignly put us there for a purpose. As the people of God, we are called to proclaim (word & deed) the gospel of Jesus to a specific people in a specific place. This means that our neighborhood is an obvious starting point for who Jesus has called us to love. In a culture of isolation (suburbia), we want to change the culture of our block. We want to be familiar with the names and stories of the people around us and constantly seek to show them and proclaim to them the love of Christ. This means that we spend more time in the front yard than in the back. It means we live out our rhythms of life with our neighbors with gospel intentionality.Your neighborhood includes your immediate neighbors as well as the regular social places in your part of the city.
- Workplace - After the fall of Adam, work has been something that for most is a burden. People tend to hate their jobs and constantly complain of what is required of them or they worship their jobs and get so wrapped up in work that they lose track of other things in life. We believe that the Gospel radically changes the way we work. Christians are working for the glory of God. Because in the Gospel Christ has provided all that we could ever need, we work to express the fullness of grace we have received not to get something as if we are lacking. This means that we see work as a calling to bring glory to God through the gifts he has given us. We serve our coworkers and seek their good. It means that we work as hard as anyone and do it with excellence, creating good culture that reflects the greatness of God.
- Margins - Every city has a group of people living in the margins. Whether it’s the impoverished inner city kid or the struggling single mom, we believe the church is called to be present in the margins. There are a variety of margins (social, economic, racial, spiritual). Even though here in the suburbs we can easily overlook this context, we are committed to seeking out and remembering those in the margins. We want to bring a Gospel presence to those places in our city.
- The Nations - Every believer has been commissioned to be a part of the global purposes of God. While we want to live as sent missionaries here in our local context, we must keep the nations in our prayers and on our minds. Jesus is lord over all, and our prayer is that many of our people would be compelled to leave the comforts of home to take the Gospel to a foreign land. While we recognize the need for missionaries in all places, we want to focus on partnering with our sending church (Redeemer Lubbock) to send our teams to the most unreached places on earth. Missiologist refer to this as the 10/40 window.
A few weeks ago I posted some very practical ideas for engaging your neighborhood with the Gospel. To follow that up I have compiled 30 ideas for engaging people in your workplace. The workplace is an everyday context where many people spend the majority of their time. It is important for us to know what it looks like to bring gospel intentionality to our jobs. Hopefully this will help spark a few ideas for connecting with and blessing your coworkers.
1. Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.
2. Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.
3. Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.
4. Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others.
5. Bring breakfast (donuts, burritos, cereal, etc.) once a month for everyone in your department.
6. Organize a running/walking group in the before or after work.
7. Have your missional community/small group bring lunch to your workplace once a month.
8. Create a regular time to invite coworkers over or out for drinks.
9. Make a list of your co-workers birthdays and find a way to bless everyone on their birthday.
10. Organize and throw office parties as appropriate to your job.
11. Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.
12. Find others that live near you and create a car pool.
13. Offer to throw a shower for a co-worker who is having a baby.
14. Offer to cover for a co-worker who needs off for something.
15. Start a regular lunch out with co-workers (don’t be selective on the invites).
16. Organize a weekly/monthly pot luck to make lunch a bit more exciting.
17. Ask someone who others typically ignore if you can grab them a soda/coffee while you’re out.
18. Be the first person to greet and welcome new people.
19. Make every effort to know the names of co-workers and clients along with their families.
20. Visit coworkers when they are in the hospital.
21. Bring sodas or work appropriate drinks to keep in your break room for coworkers to enjoy. Know what your co-workers like.
22. Go out of your way to talk to your janitors and cleaning people who most people overlook.
23. Find out your co-workers favorite music and make a playlist that includes as much as you can (if suitable for work).
24. Invite your co-workers in to the service projects you are already involved in.
25. Start/join a city league team with your co-workers.
26. Organize a weekly co-working group for local entrepreneurs at a local coffee shop.
27. Start a small business that will bless your community and create space for mission.
28. Work hard to reconcile co-workers who are fighting with one another.
29. Keep small candy, gum, or little snacks around to offer to others during a long day.
30. Lead the charge in organizing others to help co-workers in need.
Would love to hear other ways you have connected with the people you work with.
Over the past few years I have grown a great appreciation for the importance of meals. Our family has slowly grown into a lifestyle of regularly sharing meals with friends and neighbors. There is no doubt a great measure of grace conveyed through a thoughtfully prepared, slowly shared meal. As our family experienced this practically, I wanted to develop a deeper understanding of why meals are so important. I wanted to grow in my ability to connect the ordinary nature of meals with the extraordinary nature of the Gospel.
This led me to begin reading, “A Meal With Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission around the Table” by Tim Chester. Currently, I am about half way through the book and have already got a wealth of great take aways. So far I have found Chester to be biblical, practical, and consistently pointing to Christ.
As I continue to read through the book I plan to share some of the more valuable content I find here. Below is an excerpt on the significance of praying before meals.
What do we express when we say grace?
- Our daily dependence on God as creatures and sinners.
- Our dependence on others as we give thanks for those who grew, processed, bought, and cooked our food.
- The goodness of food, thereby transforming our food from fuel to a gift to be relished.
- Our gratitude to God, thereby reorienting ourselves away from self and back to God.
- Our gratitude for community as we ask God’s blessing on our fellowship over the meal.
Excerpt From - A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester, Chapter 3 pg. 74
You can purchase the book here - Amazon Link
Recently I made a list of 100 ways to engage your neighborhood. I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:
- In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people
- Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.
- Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.
Below is a list of my top 25. The full list of 100 is available to download below the list. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors. Would love to hear stories of how you have lived some of these out or other ways you have engaged your neighbors.
1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard
2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood
3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard
4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)
5. Invite neighbors over for dinner
6. Attend and participate in HOA functions
7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors
8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved
9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)
10. Art swap night - bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors
11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors
12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards
13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home
14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute
15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety
16. Host a sports game watching party
17. Host a coffee and dessert night
18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night
19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)\
20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards
21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood
22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents
23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas
24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team
25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer
We recently finished our core values. Here they are.
Redeemer’s Core Values
1. Gospel Centered
The Gospel is wonderful news. God has not left humanity in its own mess, but graciously acted in history to defeat evil and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Everything we do is rooted in and empowered by the Gospel. We will always go back to the Gospel, never moving beyond it and increasingly believing in it. It is by Jesus finished work that we encounter the spirit filled gospel power that radically changes every aspect of our lives. All of our methods flow from the centrality of the gospel.
Consider - John 3:16–18; Romans 3:23–26, Romans 1:16
2. Biblically Formed
We will always hold to the authority of scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the centrality of justification by faith alone. We desire to be a church that is formed by the bible. We are committed to the authority of the scriptures as God’s personal revelation to man which tells the grand narrative of redemption through Jesus Christ. The majority of our preaching and teaching will go chapter by chapter through books of the bible therefore teaching the whole council of the word.
Consider - Psalm 119, II Timothy 3:16–17
We are committed to being simple with our resources and our programs. We want to model that God works through the everyday rhythms of life, and isn’t dependent on complex and expensive events. The more simple we operate the more we can use to send missionaries, church planters, serve our city, and use for the Kingdom. This means that we are not going to invest large amounts of money in facilities and that the primary place of ministry will happen in homes, public places, and everyday venues.
Consider - Romans 12:1–8; II Corinthians 8–9, 12:7–31; I Peter 4:10–11
4. Life Together
In a culture where isolated individualism is the norm we are committed living everyday ordinary life together. The people of God where not made to be lone ranger Christians, but a functioning body. If a body is to function beyond the doors of the church on Sunday, they must be together. As we live life together we desire to be honest with each other, fully leaning on grace so that we might be our “real” selves with one another. This means that we will see each other’s messiness at times and have plenty of opportunity to speak the truth in love to one another.
Consider - Psalm 119:97, 105:1–2; Acts 2:42–47; Hebrews 10:23–25, 1 Thessalonians 2:8
5. Spirit Led
We will always be a people in need of the power of the Holy Spirit to bring life to dark places. We are committed to being a people who pray fervently for God to move in us, around us, and through us and to use us to redeem our city. We recognize that while strategy is necessary, it is only by the Spirit’s working that anything of true value will be accomplished.
Consider - Colossians 4:2, Acts 2:42, 1 Timothy 2:1, Ephesians 6:18
6. Incarnational Living
As Jesus came to us he was incarnated and lived in and among a culture. He spoke in terms that people understood and related to them as a friend. We must also express the Gospel in a way that is understandable to our culture. We believe that God is calling all types of people to himself and that the Gospel is not confined to one culture, but will be expressed in every culture. Therefore, we must learn to engage the people around us sharing not only the gospel but also our lives.
Consider - 1 Thessalonians 2:8, John 20:21
7. City Renewing
We believe that the church exist to work towards renewing the city as opposed to consuming it. We want to be deeply invested and involved in the issues of our city and work with existing efforts and organizations to make it a better place. We desire for the city of Round Rock to be a preview of the City that is to come.
Consider - Matt. 5:14-16, Jeremiah 29:7, 1 Peter 2:12
We always want to be sending our people out with the Gospel. We are committed to sending away our people to plant new churches in our region and all over the world. We want to constantly send our best leaders away to start new works. This is done at a micro level in the starting of new gospel communities, and on a macro level of planting new churches. We believe that sending is at the heart of God, who sent his own son.
Consider - John 20:21, Matthew 28:18-20, Genesis 12:1-3
Before we decided to go with Redeemer, we had some fun thinking up creative names for our church plant. Feel free to take any of them if you want. Just don’t give me the credit for it.
Our List of Possible Church Plant Names
- Round Rock Stone Church
- Maranantha Communty of Exuberant Praise
- Round Rock Hearth of the Earth Church
- Soma Deo Missio Eclessia Imago Dei Church
- Spirit Lives Here Foursquare Church of the Rock
- Round Rock of Ages Church
- Journey of Humanity & Art Church
- Leviticus Church
- St. Timothy Keller Reformed Church
- Parade of Souls Imaginative Church
- Mural of Life Artisan Church
- Sports Fan Church
- The Shack
- 3rd Baptist Church
- As The Dear Contemporary Church
- Jehovah Jireh Temple of Adoration
- Propitiated Through the Nail Church
It’s hard to believe that we have already been in Round Rock nearly a month. It feels like we are finally starting to find a sense of normalcy to our daily routine. Transitioning to a new community was a bigger change than we anticipated but God has given us a ton of grace in the move. Here are just a few on the things that we are thankful for in our move.
- Help Moving Out & In - From packing up breakables (thank you Erin) to loading up the moving truck (Mike, Jason, Jordan, John, Dean, Micah) we had a ton of help getting moved out. My good friend & former neighbor Mike Fox even volunteered to drive our Penske truck down to Round Rock for us. Mike stayed several days with us, helping us unpack, hanging light fixtures, installing a sink, and doing a ton of other stuff. We were able to get all of our boxes unloaded in a couple of days and feel slightly settled for Christmas.
- Girls Adapting Great - One of our biggest concerns about the move was how it might affect our girls (Autumn 5, Emily 2). Amazingly, they adjusted great and actual seem to be getting along better. For Christmas they got bunk beds and are now sharing a room so that we could have the extra room available for guests. Their transition to Round Rock has been an answered prayer.
- Austin City Life Church - We miss our sending church family at Redeemer Lubbock, but feel extremely blessed to instantly have a church to land with here in Austin. I am doing a 6 month residency at Austin City Life and we are going to be actively involved with the ACL community during that time. We have already been encouraged by spending time with our City Group at ACL. I have only been a resident for two weeks now, but I am already learning a ton from these guys. They will no doubt have a huge impact and influence on our plant. Check out their website here: http://www.austincitylife.org/
- Getting Involved In the Community - We love the city of Round Rock and one of our goals in the first year of being here was getting as deeply involved in the city as we can. Even though we have only been here a month we feel like we are already meeting people and making friends. We love our neighborhood here and have already got to meet several of our neighbors. I have adopted StarCo Coffee as my second office and have been able to meet a number of other people there through a co-working group that meets on Fridays. Lauren and I both got memberships at the Clay Madsen Rec center and will be spending a good amount of time getting in shape and hanging out there. Round Rock is starting to feel like home.
- Warm Welcome From Other Pastors - Next week I will be having lunch with a pastor of an existing church here in Round Rock, and I have already met with three others who have been very welcoming to our family. While not every church will be like that, there are a good amount of churches here that want to work together for our city instead of competing with each other. It has been such a blessing to come into a city with that kind of kingdom mindset.
Those are just a few of the things we have to be thankful for in our first month here in Round Rock. Looking forward to another great month and praying that God continues to show us ways we can serve this community.