“The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.” -Eugene Peterson

Missional community life is a journey, not a destination. We ask people to commit to the process. And that’s what it is. There isn’t an arrival. You can’t have been there, done that, and moved on. You’ll always be pushed forward, moving forward, giving, and calling others to go deeper. Each person participates in the pilgrimage to Christ and in Christ.

The gospel breaks new ground as you attempt to deepen community, grow in gospel understanding, and seek the renewal of your surroundings. This may sound discouraging at first: “You’re telling me it doesn’t matter how long or hard I try. We are never going to ‘get there’?” Sounds like an Orwellian dystopia and practical joke by God. But God’s grace will always lead you forward and will never leave you feeling like you’ve mastered the transformation of your community.

Not Checking Boxes

Your missional community is not slowly checking boxes and inching towards missional perfection, but inching towards becoming in practice who you really are: God’s holy children. The process is toward loving Jesus and your neighbor and it doesn’t stop. The process is toward loving others and you can’t arrive there. The process is toward loving the world. This journey is one of deepened awareness of our hurts, sins, and brokenness that brings us to all into the arms of Jesus. The process beckons us to see the humanity God made and grow to love it. The process is much of the beauty and reward: that through it, God is making himself known to you and through you.

I love missional community life because it challenges me to return to Jesus and experience his joy as the end. It challenges me to give more of my life to him. I share my life in community and give it away on mission because I am growing in my understanding of his love for me–not to achieve top missional marks.

Changing Metrics

I love that a missional community burdens us not to live up to an ideal picture but to listen to God: What is next? What does obedience look like? What do we need to repent of? What do we need to believe afresh?

If your community is centering on the gospel and leaning into a process of growing in faithfulness to believe and obey the truth about God, you are making disciples. You are being discipled. You are being transformed, by God’s grace. If your community is growing in speaking the gospel clearly, it is working! If your community is hindering people from seeing Jesus more clearly and understanding how to walk in his ways, you aren’t a missional community.

This is what we are sent to demonstrate above all.

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.