Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw’s new book Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians (InterVarsity Press, 2014).
Too often, Christians approach church as consumers who are focused on using the best religious goods and services they can find. But the irony is that the more they try to get what they want for themselves, the more frustrated and bored they become in church, because a consumer mindset creates discontented attitudes that can never be satisfied.
God intends for his people to approach church as missionaries whom he has sent into the world to help redeem it. Participating in church with a mission mindset requires a sacrificial change in focus from self to others. But ultimately, it leads to greater satisfaction with church as people go on the exciting adventures God wants to send them on.
Don’t settle for anything less than the best God has for you in your church. Here’s how to participate in church in a way that helps you go where God wants to send you on mission:
Stop shopping around. Rather than moving from church to church, constantly shopping for a place that you think would best suit your desires, ask God to lead you to a healthy church in your local area. Then make a commitment to participate in that church community for as long as you live locally. Get to know other people in your congregation well, building friendships with them that grow close enough for you all to get together outside of church. Serve in at least one way (from volunteering as an usher to teaching children) to contribute some of your God-given gifts to the life of your church. Use what you learn in church to prepare yourself to represent Jesus well in the work you do outside of church, in the rest of your life. Instead of looking for the next best something that meets your needs, start something new to help meet other people’s needs. Stop simply going to church and instead decide to be the church.
Act as a sent person. Since God accomplishes his mission work of redeeming this fallen world through the worldwide church, he sends everyone who is part of a church on a mission to join him in that work. Realize that God has sent you wherever you are so you can play the unique role he has prepared for you to play in the great story of how he is redeeming the world. So act as someone who is sent by using your time at church well. Instead of just seeking inspirational sermons, exciting music, and interesting programs, seek to prepare yourself in church for the mission work that God has given you to do in the world. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to fulfill his purposes as you go about all of the little moments of ordinary life, creating good work that has eternal significance in every situation you encounter. Be constantly available to God and engaged with the lives of the people around you.
Submerge yourself into ministry. Follow Jesus’s example of incarnational ministry by being present and deeply involved among the people in your life. Submerge yourself fully into your networks of people both inside and outside of church: family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Rather than trying to come up with clever ministry programs at your church and asking God to bless those efforts, ask God where he is already at work, and then find ways to join him in that work. When talking with the people you know, ask questions and listen attentively to discern and celebrate what God is doing in their lives. Figure out what is driving people’s ambitions and directions in life, and how you can best encourage them to seek God to meet their needs. Pray with and for the people in your community regularly.
Pursue shalom spirituality. Shalom is a Hebrew word that expresses a state of peace and wellbeing between God and His people, in which everything works out for the best according to God’s design. As one of God’s missionaries, you should seek restoration for your community and the people in it. Regularly engage in conversations with people in your area about what matters to them, listen carefully, and encourage them to seek God as they wrestle with finding purpose and direction for their lives. Keep strengthening your own connection to God through spiritual disciplines (such as prayer, worship, Bible reading and memorization, journaling, silence, and solitude) so you’ll be prepared to keep ministering to others. Do your best to inspire people to join you as you work with God to help bring compassion and justice to this fallen world.
Create safe places. Invite people from diverse backgrounds to find faith and community at your church. Create an atmosphere in which people feel safe to be open and honest about their sins, doubts, and struggles as they explore moving closer to God. Ask God to help you love people unconditionally, as he does. Listen to people’s stories without judging them. Share your own stories of faith with gentleness and respect. Give hurting people opportunities to heal in church, welcoming and fully including them as members of your congregation despite their challenges and pain. Permit everyone to contribute to the life of your church by serving in some capacity, so every person at your church feels valued and is able to put his or her spiritual gifts into action.
Share life with others. Unite in your church around a common vision of strengthening relationships. Stay with people even when doing so hurts and it’s easier to leave; be willing to help them carry their burdens as well as celebrating their joys. Ask God to help you see the best in people, tell them how valuable they are, and encourage them to live up to their fullest potential through relationships with Jesus. Welcome diversity in the ages, genders, backgrounds, culture, faith stages, etc. of the people in your congregation. Resolve conflicts with love and forgiveness.
Stand in the gap for people. Empower pioneering leaders who are trying mission experiments by caring for, investing in, and affirming them as they take risks to go where they think God is sending them. Encourage everyone in your church to discover and pursue God’s dreams for how they can make the world a better place and point people to the ultimate hope that Jesus offers them. Keep asking people in your congregation to consider what it would look like for them to incarnate the Gospel message wherever God sends them.
Adapted from Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians, copyright 2014 by Kimm Hammond and Darren Cronshaw. Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Kimm Hammond serves as the international director for Forge Missions Training Network. After being the Victorian director of Forge Australia for several years and the national recruiter and networker for Youth for Christ Australia, he moved to the United States in 2009 to launch and lead the work of Forge in America. An engaging international speaker with a background in theater and comedy, Kim also serves as director of missional imagination for the multiple sites that make up Community Christian Church in Chicago. Kim lives with his wife and three sons in Aurora, Illinois.
Darren Cronshaw is passionate about training, coaching and resourcing leaders and missionaries through his work with the Baptist Union of Victoria, a network of churches and congregations in Victoria, Australia. Along with serving as pastor of AuburnLife Baptist Church, he is an honorary research associate at Whitley College (Melbourne College of Divinity) and Associate Professor in missiology and pastoral theology and practice with Australian Colleges of Ministries.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Her Twitter handle is @WhitneyHopler.