Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nurturing Your Church into a Sending Community

The Fruits and Roots of a Missional Church: Essential Roots (Part 2) - Cindy Wiles

We had no idea what we were doing. I had been challenged by my spiritual mentor, a 30-year missionary and church mobilizer with the IMB, to lead my church beyond its boundaries to become an engaging church. All I really understood of that challenge was that God wanted my church to move beyond partnership with missionaries to begin working independently among an unengaged segment of a people group. The term unengaged is used to define a people group that does not have an indigenous church or any missionary personnel working among it.

My church sent out its first scout team in the fall of 2005 to locate Fulani villages in an unexplored area of SW Niger. Although we had been working among the Fulani of West Africa for several years, we had never attempted to enter an unengaged area without the assistance of missionary personnel. With GPS in hand and a local translator at their side, our two scouts set out on foot for a course destination 40 miles away. They were in search of scattered villages of nomadic Fulani people. More specifically, what they really hoped to find was a man of peace.

His name was Amadou, a young man who gathered with others to listen to a story from God’s Word. At the end of the story, Chad Hullender said, “We have told you a couple of stories we know. Do you have any stories to tell us?”

“Can you tell me how to follow the Jesus Way?” the young man asked.

“What?” Chad reacted with surprise. Just a couple of brief stories from God’s Word and the door so easily swung open? So this is where our story of engagement began. A year-and-a-half later, we are continuing our work in Amadou’s home, the village of Sounga, Niger. Through medical/dental clinics, sharing Biblical stories, spending time in relationship- building, sending in indigenous believers and simply loving Fulani people in the name of Jesus we have seen our first person choose to follow Jesus. The brother of the Koranic teacher has chosen the path to life.

I have just returned from Sounga in January. As our team was preparing to depart the village, the chief’s oldest adult son came to us. He said, “You care about us. You have held and kissed our children even when they are sick and dirty. You have brought us medicine. And you have taught us about Isa [Jesus]. How would we have ever known about Isa if you had not come here to teach us? You must continue to teach us so that we can learn and then teach others.”

We remind ourselves daily that we are seeking three fruits in Sounga: saved souls, mature disciples and a reproducing indigenous church. Every action we take must somehow lead us toward this end.

How did we get to Sounga? The same way we have gotten to Mission Arlington, Russia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Mexico, Indonesia, New Orleans, Congo, GCPN, Texas prisons, the gay community and West Africa. It all started with some basic roots that are deeply embedded in the Foundation of our church. I have come to view these roots as the essentials for a missional body of believers:

  • Authentic Worship – the primary motivation for a missional body of believers is to see God glorified. Worship that glorifies God is worship that pleases God. It is worship in spirit and truth. When God is the recipient and sole audience of our worship, personal preferences about style and genre play no part. God desires authentic worship of many kinds. Only He can determine what is pleasing. He sees the heart. Missional people are worshiping people.

  • Biblical Foundation – God’s Word is a story about a loving God who desires relationship with all people. It is the story of a God who would go to the most divine extreme to bring man back into relationship with Him. It’s a story about God seeking man and it teaches believers to seek man as well. An understanding of the God who gave his Word is essential for a missional people.

  • World Awareness – Just how lost does the world have to be in order for God’s people to be bothered by that fact? In order to for us to be motivated to reach a lost world, we have to understand the measure of that lostness. In order to effectively relate to that world, we have to understand its realities. A missional church spends time and energy studying the world.

  • Covenant Obedience – The Old Covenant and the New Covenant are based upon a commission. In God’s call to Abram (which He further clarified to Moses) the Covenant is about all nations being blessed through a royal priesthood and holy nation. Jesus’ Commission to the New Covenant people is to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded. Missional churches embrace the responsibilities of the covenant.

  • A Commitment to the Greatest Commandments – Jesus was asked, “Which is the greatest of the commandments?” His reply . . . "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” A church committed to living-out these commandments is a church that will be missional by nature.
The next five issues of the Communiqué will be devoted to further exploration of these essential roots. You will hear words from pastors and missional servants who have lived and led their churches to establish this root system. The community would love to hear from you as well. Please share with all of us the truths you have learned in leading your church to be a missional people.


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