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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