Mega churches are starting missional communities in many areas around the country. (Exponential, the largest conference available for church planters, has several organic church people speaking at the main sessions this year –I've even been asked to take a workshop!) But I haven't yet heard that many stories from slightly smaller churches. However, here's a great story of what can happen in a more typical legacy environment. It's slightly longer than my usual posts, but you'll enjoy hearing what God is doing.
Jim Street contacted me, and when I asked for his story, shared about Listening Posts–which are based on the Life Transformation Groups started by Neil Cole and Paul Kaak. Here's part of what he wrote:
"I started Listening Posts after attending one of Neil's Greenhouse events. The one I attended was led by Ed Waken. I was looking for a way to engage legacy church folks in a more missional way. Some are, frankly, a little afraid of bold evangelism and many have been shaped that way by churches which have left the 'heavy lifting" in evangelism to paid staff. Further, they have been well trained by the attractional model of doing flashy things up front.
Anyway, I thought the emphasis on listening would provide them a way to be out in the marketplace, etc. without feeling intimidated at the prospects of being "bold evangelists." (Little did they know they would find those opportunities once they got out there! ha! The Lord has sent many people our way.)
We have the same emphasis on reading scripture but have not insisted on the more direct approach to accountability. I've taken the approach that if they are listening to the Spirit as He speaks to them through the word that they will have plenty to share when they get together. We also pray for 3 people but are emphasizing what I call 'implicating prayer'…that God would use us as answers to our prayers as God wills.
Our church is very small…about 60 members. About 40% of our adult members are currently involved.
I approached Atlanta Christian College, where I teach in their adult program, about the possibility of engaging their students in LPs, especially as a way to get them off campus and into the community. They went for that and so LPs are a major component of their students' spiritual formation. Not sure how many groups we have there but there are many.
I have also taught LPs in almost every class I teach. Pastoral Counseling (where I teach that the church and not the pastor-as-therapist-in-residence is called to provide the care and counsel for the people.) I have suggested that LPs would be a good way to get out into the community as a way to provide such care and counsel to the lost and hurting.
I also teach LPs in my class on Administration and Leadership, which I teach as admin and leadership of a missional movement…I use Alan Hirsch's Forgotten Ways as the text. There the emphasis is more on the missional side of ministry but, in many ways, mission through the provision of "tiny missional communities of disciples of Jesus."
I also approached a large legacy church on the SW side of Atlanta, one pastored by an old friend, about starting up these groups. They are on board and I am hearing some incredible stories of transformation as people actually sit down and read the scripture together and open themselves to the moving of the Spirit!
I spoke a couple of weeks ago to another large legacy church, a church, which at one time, was a very large mega church but which has now shrunken down to less than 400 members. They meet in a gargantuan building. The Lord impressed on me that they should start at least 50 groups by the end of January…and that's what I told them. (One very well-heeled woman has begun one with another woman I know who is a recovering drug addict with an armload of felonies…homeless, unemployed, penniless. Wow!
We are seeing people come to the Lord through this ministry, seeing people being reconciled, being transformed…people who were afraid of being seen with a Bible in a public place boldly praying in those places.
It is a great, great thing to behold!
I am pressing on to speak in as many churches as I can as a way to encourage people in legacy pews to get out into the community where they listen to God, to one another and to the world.
It's all about discipleship, community and mission and these little groups are helping people get that.
Sorry, if I rambled on too much…I'm stoked. 🙂
And, it's great to be stoked at 60! "
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4 replies on “Organic/missional principles in a legacy environment”
This is awesome to read. As a member of a legacy church, and a 55-year-old, I must admit to some discouragement at my difficulty finding people in our church interested in attempting this. Not too much missional thinking is present. We’re still working through it, but my wife and I are leaning toward seeking new wineskins.
Dan, I’m sure the Lord will lead you clearly. You might want to start something yourself with not-yet-believers. When you tell the stories, you may find others are more interested. We’ve found that example speaks more powerfully than anything else.
We’re thinking along those lines too Felicity. Just kinda feeling it lately about all the time I’ve wasted.
Hey Dan, if you and your wife have learned something through your journey, it was NOT wasted time. You can’t do what is not yet deeply embedded in your heart. The past is done with and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
My advice is to do today what Jesus is telling you to do today.