Of the three circles, it is probably community that has historically presented the most problems for Jesus followers. As Christianity reigned in Western culture for hundreds of years, life in the community (a mission oriented approach to life) became unnecessary. It was believed that everyone was Christian, and an attraction based model of ministry (come to us) became the norm.
As our culture has become increasingly post-modern however, it has also become more noticeable that a mission-less church is failing. We often chose other things (prosperity, large facilities, paid professionals) as more important than empowering people to live in their communities.
Our church is currently leading several people through a baptism class leading up to easter, and every week I ask people to submit questions about things that they want to know. One week, a person submitted the following question: “Can I still have a hobby if I’m a Christian?”
I think it’s a great question to ask, because it gets at the heart of what Jesus followers have so often missed in that we’ve made Christianity about a withdrawal from a standard life instead of about embracing our full humanity.
Instead, quite the opposite is true: our hobbies, passions, and interests are what allow us to make inroads into a culture that has become increasingly skeptical of the Christian faith. Joining a model airplane club, coaching youth soccer, or planting in a community garden are practical ways to meet neighbors, make friends, and share faith.
There is one phrase that I use frequently for people in our church: we should be doing than just being in our community, we should be decidedly for our community. It creates a key distinction for the Jesus follower: simply owning a house in a neighborhood isn’t enough, we must find ways to live on the mission that God has given us, to be people of hope and peace to those around us.
Our lives in our communities should reflect the mission of Jesus, who in Luke 4 said,
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
For us to live in the Missional Sweet Spot, we must be active in our community. We must do more than own houses or attend a local church. We must find ways to use the gifts and passions that God has blessed us with to shape, influence, and draw our friends and neighbors closer to God. We, like Jesus, must find an opportunity to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.