Piper + Vanderstelt + Stetzer = Awesome!

Posted: August 11, 2011 in church, community, culture, desiring god, discipleship, evangelism, missions, small groups

Glad to see the folks over at Desiring God teaming up with the likes of Jeff Vanderstelt and Ed Stetzer for this year’s Desiring God Conference.  The theme is Finish the Mission For the Joy of All Peoples: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged.  If my wife and I don’t go, we’ll definitely be watching the sessions online!

Over the past few months I’ve learned a lot from Vanderstelt in particular, after I first heard him speak at the Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago.  His talk really helped summarize and organize a lot of my own thoughts from this past year of church ministry (and from my reading of Total Church, a great book with powerful insights into what the church is called to be).  Then I discovered this interview, in which Vanderstelt talks about the “missional communities” around which his church, Soma Communities, is built.  All I can say is that the interview was compelling…  If you haven’t watched it, I would encourage you to do so right now.

Jeff Vanderstelt

My thinking was then further refined and directed during the mission trip to Denver, CO that I led this summer.  After meeting some elders from Providence Bible Church, I quickly realized that they were working hard to incorporate some of the same principles and basic strategies that Vanderstelt was talking about.  The church sees itself as a group of missionaries, dedicated to making disciples in the inner-city of Denver.  Church leaders and members regularly reorient their lives for the sake of the Gospel and the people they are ministering to, both in word and deed.  Providence alse sent a couple of their elders up to Tacoma to enroll in Soma School, a training program designed to give church-planters a taste of the “missional community” model.

And that brings us to today.  Lindsay and I have just moved to a new city where Lindsay will be working full-time while I attend grad school.  First and foremost on our “to-do” list is finding a church to be involved in.  We are praying that God will lead us to a family of people excited about and experienced in living ordinary life with Gospel intentionality in context of biblical community.  We are looking forward to getting involved in a “missional community,” for worship, discipleship, and mission.

In case you haven’t kept up with all my posts over the past few months, here is a short introduction to “missional communities” by Vanderstelt from the Desiring God blog:

A missional community is a family of missionary servants who make disciples who make disciples.

Family

First of all, a missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family. They see God as their Father because of their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit. This means they have and know of a divine love that leads them to love one another as brothers and sisters. They treat one another as children of God deeply loved by the Father in everything — sharing their money, time, resources, needs, hurts, successes, etc. They know each other well. This knowledge includes knowing each other’s stories and having familiarity with one another’s strengths and struggles in regards to belief in the gospel and it’s application to all of life (John 1:11-13Romans 12:10-16Ephesians 5:1-2).

Missionaries

God’s family is also sent like the Son by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of the kingdom — the gospel — and fulfill the commission of Jesus. A missional community is more than a bible study or a small group that cares for other believers. A missional community is made up of Spirit-led and Spirit-filled people who radically reorient their lives together for the mission of making disciples of a particular people and place where there is a gospel gap (no consistent gospel witness). This means people’s schedule, resources and decisions are now collectively built around reaching people together (Matthew 3:16-4:1;John 20:21Acts 1:813:2).

Servants

Jesus is Lord and we are his Servants. A missional community serves those around them as though they are serving Jesus. In doing so, they give a foretaste of what life will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. Living as servants to the King who serve others as he served presents a tangible witness to Jesus’ kingdom and the power of the gospel to change lives. A missional community serves in such a way that it demands a Gospel explanation — lives that cannot be explained in any other way than by the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus (Matthew 20:25-28John 13:1-17Philippians 2:5-111 Peter 2:16).

Disciples

We are all learners of Jesus our rabbi who has given us his Spirit to teach us all that is true about Jesus and enable us to live out his commands. Jesus commanded us to make disciples who believe the gospel, are established in a new identity and are able to obey all of his commands (Matthew 28:19-20).

The missional community is the best context in which this can happen. Disciples are made and developed:

  1. through life on life, where there is visibility and accessibility
  2. in community, where they can practice the one anothers, and
  3. on mission where they learn how to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.
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