Great intentions do not always result in great experience. Most communities desire to experience some sort of shared mission together. Most try to go from concept to all out implementation. Here are four straightforward steps to get started and break through the inertia. Step four is not arrival but gets you through the initial wall of inertia. These are four shepherding steps that will engage the hearts, minds, and imaginations of your community. This lays the crucial foundation for shared mission not only to those around us, but also to the marginalized and vulnerable of our cities.

Step 1: Understand The Mission

What is a shared mission? The mission is to make disciples, right? Exactly. But each of those words carry baggage and years of misunderstanding. Does that mean evangelism? Does that mean teaching people the Bible? Does that mean caring for the poor? Does that mean shepherding the heart? Does that mean challenging people to worship God instead of idols? Usually we major on one thing and call it God’s mission. However, miss out!

Furthermore, people often separate the gospel of Jesus and the mission of Jesus (God’s grace and what God wants you to do). If your community is going to share mission for the long haul, you have to begin with a full scope understanding of the gospel, mission, and the role of Christian community in both. Begin by giving your community an explanation from the Scriptures of our missional God, his mission, and his missional people.

Help the people in your community see the places God has already sent them to by equipping them with a robust view of mission.

Step 2: Talk About The Mission

Keep this aspect of being a gospel community at the forefront by talking about it. One of the best ways is to begin your weekly meals is with conversations about making disciples of the people in your life. Simply ask: Any stories, issues, struggles, joys with children, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc? After people share, pray for everyone involved.

Step 3: Pray About The Mission

Not just when you are together, but when you are separate, too. The understanding and discussion is foundational for our hearts and consciousness; however, our lives follow our prayers. Furthermore, how can you truly love someone without prayer? How can we love our neighbors and city if it doesn’t include prayer? Spend time praying as a community, this is how shared mission goes from being a theory to spiritual reality in a community.

Step 4: Create Welcoming Spaces

Finally, as a community you can create welcoming spaces where people can literally invite their neighbors, friends, and co-workers into community. Community and mission are not events; however, events are helpful parts of being in community and on mission. This is where communities really begin to be creative! They ask questions like, what would be fun, enjoyable, and a good opportunity to welcome folks into relationship with our gospel community? What is culturally relevant in our neighborhood, city, or town? I’ve seen communities do all sorts of things, here’s just a small list:

  • Grill out and invite folks over
  • Watch a sporting event together
  • Game nights
  • House Show (Concert in a house)
  • Craft Night
  • Fire-Pit Night
  • Front Yard Ice-Cream Parties
  • Easter egg hunts
  • Movie Nights
  • Picnics in the Park
  • Run clubs
  • Book clubs
  • Home Brewery Night

The options are endless. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

You are not cruise directors. You community doesn’t exists to throw parities and events. Guard against this and think through ways to take the next step in including people in the life of your community.

Also, what is truly important is the the attitude of your community. How can you welcome and engage people that come by asking them questions, and listening to them? This is how you can be truly hospitable. It is sad but true, I’ve seen groups have great events but when a neighbor comes or co-worker comes, the community essentially ignores that person.

Lastly, this isn’t a bait and switch. If you invite people over to grill out and simply enjoy an evening with your friends, don’t turn the music off half way and preach a sermon, unless you invited everyone to come hear you preach a sermon in your back yard. The goal of these things is to build relationship with new people, not stay in your pre-existing huddle.

Moving Forward From Here

Through all these steps you are creating a missional culture and engaging your missionary identity. From here, you can move toward conversations about caring for the people you know together, about loving the poor and welcoming them in. Now you are a welcoming, serving, and praying community. The possibilities are endless.

Brad A. Watson serves as a pastor of Bread&Wine Communities in Portland, Oregon where he develops, coaches, and trains leaders to form communities that love God and serve the city. Brad is passionate about helping people live lives that reflect their belief and hope in Jesus. He lives in southeast Portland with his wife and their three kids.