How could our partnership have been done differently? We shared with our friends the points below and then explained our hearts, which desired to move toward a lifestyle of ministry.
- We did not see the need to have many meetings in order to serve in an established area of outreach. We encouraged them to come to the site ready to serve. We will spend time (30 min.) before the outreach with visitors in order to cast vision of what we are doing and why we are doing it.
- Instead of a big breakfast, eat before you get there and bring a snack while you are serving. People did not come to eat, they came to serve and we must free them to do so.
- Our continuous service outreaches (Pace Outreaches) are done in 1 hr. and 15 min. It is hard to ask people to serve longer than two hours consistently while asking them also to have energy and passion to live missionally throughout their week.
Moving toward a lifestyle of ministry
We wanted our friends to understand that we encourage events but they are a vehicle to teach people to have a lifestyle of ministry. We are convinced when ministry is event focused, it replaces a lifestyle of ministry instead of encouraging it. Please don’t misunderstand me, we have events at our local church but they are used as an environment to encourage skills and courage as we learn to live missionally.
Let me explain, when we first began to serve in Detroit, we had many different opportunities for people to engage our community with the gospel. We did not make it clear if these events were mandatory or not and therefore people inferred they should attend every event. If they did not make it to an event people felt they were not doing their part. Not to mention our sinful desire to please people made you wonder if people questioned your dedication because you were not present at most or all the events. The result was instead of learning how to minister, people begin forming guilt based habits. In addition, they were ministering out of duty and not delight and finally, because they are trying to model their dedication by serving at all the events, our people were finding their gas tank empty to be missional in their daily lives. This all occurred because we thought our major expression of the gospel was through the event. Not only were our people not learning how to engage their neighbors, they were also exhausted.
In our experience, it seems events are best used when they help strengthen a lifestyle of ministry and not hinder it. Because of this reality, we wanted to make sure that our environment matched our belief system. First, we cut down on our momentum outreaches (outreaches in which our whole body serves). Although we share the gospel interpersonally and corporately at these outreaches we realized it was unwise to think these venues should be the main mode for people to clearly grasp the gospel. We conceded that the main role of event based ministry is to serve our community and build goodwill in order to eventually have platforms in which the gospel can be proclaimed.
Another way we changed the environment to reflect our desire for missional living was to divide the ownership of outreach within small groups. This gave everyone a chance to lead. At the same time, people were only leading a major outreach once a year and smaller outreaches once every two months. This is compared to having some form of outreach every other week. Obviously, people were freer to strategically love their neighbors versus trying to continually pull events off.
Also, we made it clear that there is no mandatory rule to be at an outreach but the goal is to learn how to live a missional life. We want people to come or not come based on their individual missional rhythm (how their life flows). In this environment there is the freedom to say I am not going to an outreach because I am having my neighbor over for breakfast.
As a result, outreach is being used as a tool to encourage development and not to replace a missional lifestyle. It is used as a tool for people who are learning how to reach out. It is used as a tool to gather contacts and build rapport in the community. It is used to keep us honest—so everybody does outreach, but it is sporadic to remind us that we are expecting you to be experiencing the grace to learn to live missionally.