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April 17, 2012

Leaving the Neat and Tidy Behind

Being a missional small group is messy


My husband and I have greatly enjoyed being part of our current small group. We joined only five months ago, and already we've fallen in love with this group's missional mindset. The group members always have their eyes open for opportunities to bless others. It's been a growing experience for us. We've been stretched out of our comfort zones, and we're compelled to look for other opportunities to care and serve.

If there's one thing I've learned about being missional, though, it's that it's messy. It doesn't fall in neat boxes. It doesn’t stick to normal lines. It doesn't even have a clear cause and effect. Regardless, though, there's a definite sense that you're doing what God calls his followers to do—show the love of Jesus to others.

A few months ago, our group decided to throw a housewarming party for a woman who was recently homeless. Now in an apartment with a young son, she had nothing—no silverware, no plates, no pans. She didn't even know how to cook. We showed up at her apartment on a rainy night. More than 15 of us stood in her small living room, giving her our gifts, helping her put things away. One couple brought a slow cooker with several recipes, offering to show her how to prepare them. The woman was overwhelmed and quietly put the items away. We didn't know the right things to do or say, yet we stayed for over an hour just loving on her, laughing at jokes, sharing stories, and listening to music. We didn't know what our gifts would mean to the woman, but we tried to be Jesus' hands and feet . . . and that's all we could do.

More recently our group attended a baby shower for a refugee woman from Kenya. We were surprised by the differences in the culture—from how they celebrated to the music they listened to. As we worked our way through the buffet line, we didn't recognize any of the food. But we were lucky to try spicy gizzards, bananas and beans, and sweet bread. It was definitely out of our comfort zone: we were with people we didn't know, surrounded by cultural nuances we didn't understand. Yet it was beautiful to celebrate this baby with them. And we learned a lot that night about their culture. Now we can't wait to party with them again. They definitely taught us a thing or two about celebrating.

In five months, we've had more experiences like this than I've had in any other small group. And I think it's because this small group is doing something right—they're willing to be uncomfortable in order to reach people far from God, to better understand our Christian brothers and sisters from other backgrounds and cultures, and to provide for the least of these. I've wondered aloud to my husband why our past isn't filled with these kinds of experiences. But we know the answer—it's just too messy. How do you program something like this? How do you keep group members from getting frustrated when things are uncomfortable? How do you teach group members the value in simply being present with others? How do you help people understand that we should obey Jesus regardless of the outcome?

I'm reminded, though, of how often Jesus was willing to step out of the norm, including when he ate with Matthew's friends in Matthew 9. Why does ministry have to be neat and tidy? Life isn't. If we're going to meet people where they're at, we're going to have to leave the neat and tidy behind.

For more information on being a missional small group check out: Eliminating the Walls Between Insider and Outsider Activities, Resource Review: Missional Small Groups, and Instill the Vision in Your Small-Group Leaders.

posted by Amy Jackson on April 17, 2012 11:39 AM

Related Tags: Amy's Insights, Missional, Outreach, Serving

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