Missional Living: When People Leave, Rewards Feel Scarce, and Things are Hard

In Christianity, missional living is the adoption of the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message. Or at least that's what Wikipedia says.
I've talked some about what it looks likes to "live missionally" and even some practical tips for being missional in your community. As Facebook friends watch from afar, I'm sure it seems easy enough to #missionalliving to just about anything we do around here but today I wanted to share about when people leave, rewards feel scarce, and things are hard.
While Missional Living is simple, it's rarely if ever easy.
Starting off in a new town, community, and neighborhood is all together terrifying and exciting. Nearly 5 years ago we came to land where we are with a strong call on our lives to plant a church here. We did lots of research on the town, even visited other churches in the area to make sure we weren't doing what was already being done to spread the gospel, and then of course wrangled some other hopefuls in order to begin what we now call The Valley.
In our first year, we had typical pumps like staffing a nursery even though we were all so eager to take part in the services and meet new people, muster up creative ways to serve our community with little to no capital, find those to place in leadership with all the right motives, and even figure out how to branch out our ever growing small group. As that year pasted, we finished up some details on our meeting space and were beaming with pride right before a massive tornado took that space from us. The only affordable/available property in tiny but quickly expanding town. Even so, God showed up in a BIG way; providing us with an unexpected platform to share His gospel among the despair and for a bit, an influx in nickles and noses. People were yearning for the peace we had among the chaos.
Then, slowly, those nickles and noses faded. Due to misplaced faith, self-assurance returning, boredom, or even the lack of religiosity among us, people left our regular meetings to either better suited places or back to a state of being de-churched. I'm here to share the not-so-enticing side of church planting and missional living. Not to look for pity, to scare you away, or to say everyone's experience with this is the same but merely out of realness. When I google my experiences, no one else seems to have dealt with this and I have a hard time believing no one has, just that no one had share it yet.
Missional living articles will tell you how to share Christ as you are going. {HELLO- I am one of those, hence my blog name} Don't segregate yourself. Be involved with what you love, your passionate about, things you already enjoy and simply take Christ with you. A huge component of The Valley is the truth that The Church is not a building or a service we attend. The Church is the body of Christ, the believers who have made Him Lord, and live their lives accordingly. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that so many of us have been religified, leaving us with no love, passion, enjoyment in anything that doesn't have a churchy purpose or title attached to it. We lack a life outside our churchy click. Even when we try to "share Christ as [we] are going", those we are among already know Christ; or at least think they do.
Missional living articles will tell you that leading someone to Christ takes masses of time. A true friendship takes an average of two years to develop. Reading someone the Roman Road in your first encounter will likely hinder that development. Sharing bits of the gospel as you develop is discipling. Allowing someone to belong before they behave is what Christ would have us do. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that even after investing more than two years into a relationship, gradually sharing the gospel in applicable situations, allowing and encouraging someone to belong before they behave can still lead to them eventually claiming faith in Christ, all while running from you, spewing hatred about you and how you chose to lead them there. That the changed lives around you are slow and hard to count. That teaching adults biblical disciplines seems religious when they're coming from abusive-church backgrounds thus leading to immature believers.
Missional living articles will tell you that loving people on mutual ground is beneficial for everyone. That putting down the white-hero complex and admitting our need for aid from those outside our part of the church allows mutual respect to grown, aids relationship development, and benefits The Church as a whole. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that some people will still feel like a project. No matter how hard you try to find giftings and ease your way into recruitment, we live in a consumerist world {at least as Americans} and people are very possibly looking for a church to meet their needs rather than sacrificing together for the furthering of His kingdom. People may choose to church-hop in the same manor that we store-hop looking for the best deals, only utilizing a store for parts. Caving to the pressure to offer services to keep someone will only result in them eventually leaving because no one/where can offer everything...oh, and because it's NOT about us.
Missional living articles will tell you how to live outside your home in order to love your neighbors. Be gracious with sinful lives. Be hospitable, with doors always open. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is what to do when people move away as quickly as they move in. When seasons change and neighborhood kids no longer want to play. They don't talk about people avoiding you out of their own self-shame because of their sinful lives. They don't tell you how to handle relationships that don't develop, even after two years.
Missional living articles will tell you being bi-vocational is one of the best routes for a pastor. It saves The Church money, allowing funds to be utilized in facilities, ministry, and missions. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that while that is VERY true, finding the right vocation that allows enough time, income, and flexibility to still know your family, live where you're called to serve, and lead others in creative ministry to your community is beyond difficult therefore leaving certain areas of life to suffer.
Missional living articles will tell you is this way of doing ministry: living on mission for Christ, making everything you do no matter how big for small it seems, believing every relationship -new or old- is part of how Christ wants to use you in the every day to make much of Him. What most missional living articles will not tell you, is that doing such is hard, requires constant focus, yields little tangible [worldly] rewards. Living this way feels, at times, lonely as the rest of the christian world is counting their nickles and noses asking about yours...or lack there of. Living missionally feels that your meek, humble, quiet life is making no difference; especially compared to those creating huge non-profits, new ministries, innovative ways to change lives.
But God.
But God had called us all to different parts. I have to believe that in the Body of Christ, in some seasons, you can be a leg and others be an ear hair. All important. All loved. All utilized by Christ. Some of us will be called to wait upon God to "give us a child in our old age" while the rest of our lives we sat silent but steady. Some of us will begin to follow Christ in our last season and "die a martyr's death". Either way, we are loved and called to His purposes the same. Be encouraged today that no matter how pretty the insta-filter, everyone is trudging. Some seasons are sunnier than others.
What are we supposed to do when we are living out what the Bible says and things don't "fall into place"? What are supposed to do when you have to fight to serve a community?
Love Jesus. Seek Him and His will. Search for ways to do good and be love in His name. Pray for peace in what He continues to call you to and find contentment in His joy through the hard days. I wish I had better advise. Some days suck. Some weeks, months, years, "seasons" are super hard. Persevere.
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Dear Amy Wilson Carmichael,

Dear Amy Wilson Carmichael,

I recently purchased several books in the series Christian Heroes Then and Now for our homeschool library. They do an amazing job giving life to the history of those whom God has used in our long line of Christian heritage. I was so thankful to see the book about you, Ms Carmichael was the first that wound up in my 9-year-old daughter's hands.

You see, I have dreams of how God will use the tiny humans he's put under my charge. I want to equip them for the tasks He has by giving them tools, relationships, and opportunity. These true tales of how men and women, chasing after God's own heart, have accomplished unthinkable things for their Lord is where it's at. Not for their fame, but for the aid of those less fortunate, in search of justice, in the name of mercy, and to do nothing but further His kingdom.

Your love for studying the Word, for teaching it to others, and caring for children is just what my girl needed to flame the fires God has started in her heart. Thank you for braving new world and being an amazing example for girls and women for centuries after you by simply spreading God's love as you were going. Thank you for humbly disciplining us, Amma!

Sincerely, Julie Rothacher

P.S. My daughter also let me know today that, even as a mother of over 100 girls and more than 80 boys, YOU always found time to write everyday. Challenge accepted. 

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How to Organize An Operation Christmas Child Packing Party

This is the fifth year we’ve hosted an Operation Christmas Child Packing Party at The Valley church so we’ve learned a few things each year. I've also done some research via Pinterest and Facebook OCC groups to try to improve our parties each year. From the first year of packing with my kids in my living room to becoming more and more organized, we have grown our passion for this ministry.

I would love to share with you some of thing logistics we've learned.

Collection

We choose to only “officially” collect items the month [5 weeks] before our packing party. Some like to collect all year-long and we are looking into creating a housing space at our building for this but we have several other out reaches we focus on throughout the year.

The week before collection starts, we announce what Operation Christmas Child is, what we will be collecting each week, and when our packing party will be held. We do four main focuses: Hygiene, School Supplies, Accessories, and Toys. The fifth week is a catch-all and that evening is our party.

We also have an OCC info table set up that hopefully answers any questions someone might have as well as provides resources to help get people excited. Of Course, people can bring any items during these weeks, we just try to help narrow the focus. Next to this table we have a collection space designated- the past two years it has been this big blue shipping trunk. Each week we empty it, sorting items into bens.

On the last Sunday of collection, we take inventory and try to spot areas we might be short, comparatively and announce those needs via social media so people can bring them on our catch-all week/Sunday morning of the party.

 

Prep

Several of us {sometimes me and my children} go through all the bins and take everything we can, out of it’s packaging. If we need to, we open packs of crayons, markers, and colored pencils and divide them up into bags. This not only helps items go further but it also makes sure crayons aren’t melting onto other items in the boxes.

While doing this, we sort even further into gender and age groupings [2-4, 5-9, 10-14] if possible. Bagging things ahead of time helps your party flow better and sets you up for quality assurance.

We have always gone with an assembly line format- folding tables in a long line, filled with sorted items. This year, we added very visible signage using small orange cones wrapped in green garland with wording printed on cardstock and taped to paint stir sticks sticking out of them. These were placed at the beginning of each category to help make sure those packing packed items from each section.

I spoke with several others to make sure I was thinking through everything and we decided on a flow and through items we would need to help that layout work.

Layout

We chose to set up in our main room so we thought through making the experience flow in a giant circle. We had stations that everyone worked through to make sure we covered everything.

FOOD

You can’t have a party without food, right!? We set up a small pot-luck along one wall with eating tables right next to them. This is a separate space from packing, even if in the same room, because we don’t want to send crumbs with our boxes of awesomeness.

PHOTO BOOTH

We LOVE sending pictures with our boxes so we hired a friend to run a photo booth for us. This is at the beginning of the layout because we ask that everyone take a picture Before they start packing to give the printers time to print them while they load items.

PACKING

Our long line of tables full of goodies was broken into the same categories as the collections weeks but with a couple added sections with the essentials at the start: boxes, labels [tape and markers for selection and attaching], hygiene, school supplies, accessories, WOW items, and filler toys.

NOTE/PRAYER

We set up separate tables on the opposite wall from the food full of writing utensils, specialized postcards, blank printed info pages, blank Christmas cards, and stickers.

DROP OFF

We designated the wall near these tables for drop-off and had signs hung to help sort boxes by age and gender so we could see which needed more as we went.

Start again

PARTY

FOOD

You can’t have a party without food, right!? We set up a small pot-luck along one wall with eating tables right next to them. We had a group from our local drop-off location come to share with us about the process after we pack boxes. Everyone finished up eating while they shared.

PHOTO BOOTH

We LOVE sending pictures with our boxes so we hired a friend to run a photo booth for us. This is at the beginning of the layout because we ask that everyone take a picture Before they start packing to give the printers time to print them while they load items.

PACKING

Our long line of tables full of goodies was broken into the same categories as the collections weeks but with a couple added sections with the essentials at the start: boxes, labels [tape and markers for selection and attaching], hygiene, school supplies, accessories, WOW items, and filler toys.

NOTE/PRAYER

We set up separate tables on the opposite wall from the food full of writing utensils, specialized postcards, blank printed info pages, blank Christmas cards, and stickers.

Follow Up

We have invited any family that would like to join us, to deliver the boxes to our local drop off location and we've also complete 2 different tracking labels so we can learn where our boxes went, pray for them. Most boxes have addresses in them in hopes of building relationships with ministries dispensing and or individuals receiving boxes.

I hope this was helpful. I'd love to hear about your passion of OCC, how you pack, and maybe even how you follow-up to enjoy this passion all year-long.

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When an Open Door ISN’T from God

We've all heard about how we shouldn't freak out when God closes one door, right? "He'll always open another. Or a window. Just praise Him in the hallway." they'll say. But no one tells you how to determine if that tempting open door is from God...

Most would assume if there's nothing inherently wrong with said open door, then it must be opened by God. But I'm here to say I've seen Wide Open Doors that were very tempting, with their promises of better pay, nicer neighborhoods, closer to family, less stress, ease of transition, and on and on. I've yet to find scriptural evidence that American Dream promises are part of God's will for our lives. Many will listen to your predicaments and try to offer wise counsel but most will still just look for the easy path thinking that must be God's will because things are falling into place.

Don't get me wrong, if we look for it, God's hand will be on and in what He has called us to do. When we seek where He is already at work, we'll easily find a rough path He's already blazed. BUT that path may look like a jungle to those on the outside and not everyone's path will be cut the same.

After chasing Jesus to a new town to plant a church, having our space wiped out by a tornado, and then being portable for three years, to say finding God's will is a little complicated would be an understatement. Although our church plant is now four years old, we are still in infancy stage yet few of the resources of a genuinely new church plant are still available to us. With that being said, my hubs and I still feel God is not done in this city. In the midst of what God is doing in this city, we see our part of it still playing out. We decided to give up our salary in order to afford our new space and to do ministry through the valley.

In our efforts to still give most of our time to ministry, we have been seeking job opportunities that will allow us that flexibility and still bring in enough income to provide for our family. Enter two weeks ago, where I received a message about the opportunity to sell a product I'd been ingredient by for quite a while. I read the message, thought for a while, and talked with my hubs about it. I stared through the open door and saw all the pieces falling into place. I spoke with my friend on the phone and her enthusiasm was contagious. I saw the potential for this business to not only provide for my family but to accomplish the dreams I had for us in the future.

I signed up and started full force. I'm talking, worked my way through the daily start up suggestions, checking off boxes, listening to training's...lots of training's, and feeling good. After the boxes were nearing an end, only a few remained: Share your story. Sell to your friends. Build your team.

The one thing I lacked was -passion- for what was being sold. Don't hear me wrong, the business I signed up with is selling quality products that work, they have a great business model, and it pays well! I respect each women I know who works for them; which is one of the main reasons I chose to work with this business. I just couldn't get past my gut. As I began messaging friend and family, creating posts to publish, and talking about it with my missional community---it all flopped. It flopped not for lack of effort but because of my lack of passion. None of it set right. I started going through how I got started and where I went wrong in order to make me feel this way.

Confession: I didn't pray about it.

What the smack! The door was wide open. I stared straight into it. All the pieces fell into place. It was smooth. It was a wise financial move. It all made sense. And while tempting. It wasn't God's will. It answered so many of my prayers in a nice neat little package. I could even validate it with the potential to attain my honorable dreams for my family. But it still was not God's open door. for me. at this time.

I swallowed my nasty tasting mouthful of pride and quit. Yep. Lets just call it like it is and I Q.U.I.T. Oh, how I love being a flake, not following through with things, disappointing people, and quitting one more stankin' thing. {end sarcasm}

Today, this is me, waving at you from inside a different, slightly cracked, open door my hubs and I chose to walk through together. Sometimes walking in the light isn't as clear as we'd like. Sometimes God's will and provision isn't all warm and fuzzy. Sometimes His open door leads into the middle of town, in a box on wheels, where God can show intentional love in a bizarre way while ideally providing a little income for your family.

Say hello to...The Frozen Eagle shaved ice truck. What What! This new adventure is already proving to be a fun family endeavor that seems to have been opened by God!

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Adventure Awaits {in a shoebox}

In March of 2013, God launched the valley church here in Vilonia AR. He set us out with a mission to make disciples. We plan live in authentic community, learn biblical teaching, serve here in our area, as well as through go there, where ever that may be across the world to do just that.
Clipping along through the story of the valley and what God's doing, we come to April of 2014 when a crazy tornado swept through our town, destroying many things including the building we were leasing. That allowed us to get creative in how to serve our community during that really hard time. 

I share that all so you'll understand the awesomeness of the upcoming date! 

occ-display

Since the conception of the valley, part of our attempt to make disciples across the world was to partner with Samaritan's Purse to pack Operation Christmas Child boxes that serve as an amazing, door-opening, tool to share the gospel with children and their families. In the years we've been portable, we still chose to make it a priority to commit to this campaign. 

We have had to let go of a lot of things because it's just too hard to set up and tear down big stuff for just an hour and 1/2 service once a week. This year, I decided to make a BIG display to show the importance of this campaign to our church even if that means a lot of extra work. As a bonus, I think it's helping put a little cheer in our people's already generous hearts.

This week and last week, we collected TOYS! We collect the 5-7 weeks {depending on the year} in preparation for our Operation Christmas Child 2016 shoebox Packing Party.  This year it will be November 13th. Our goal is 60 boxes but I think we May just surpass that quickly...😳 Eeek!

occ-info-station occ-item-collection-trunk

::Collection Schedule::
10-2&9: toys
10-16: hygiene items
10-23: school supplies
10-30: accessories & boxes
11-06: catch up, bring anything you missed
11-13: PACKING PARTY!!!

The biggest news!? We are shooting for hosting the packing party In. Our. NEW. Building.

This space to worship in and serve from is just one small way God has continually reminded us that He is not done in this city, through us. He has provided *opportunities to build new relation ships,*unique ways to keep serving, *new families to join in our mission, and *faithful ways for us keep making disciples locally and across the globe.

The adventure awaits! You just have to be willing to take part. God's story is so vast and He invites us into it; isn't that inconceivable?! For many children in poverty-stricken parts of the world, their hope of being apart of God's adventure awaits in a simple [Operation Christmas Child] shoebox gift that might just come from us...or you.

Adventure Awaits! How will you respond?

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