Missional Pattern 4: Practices That Demonstrate God’s Intent for the World
The missional church understands that its life together as a community is to be a sign of God’s future. Its way of life is to demonstrate what God intends one day for the whole world. So, it is not just outreach activities that are witnesses to the reign of God. The life of the congregation itself is also a missional witness.
The way of life of the reign of God can best be seen in the congregation through its practices. Practices are regular, habitual activities of the community, developed over time, that give the congregation and those outside it a glimpse of what it means to be a citizen of the reign of God. Practices help people experience the reign of God—where they can see, hear, taste, and touch it in the life of an actual Christian community. These practices help form Christians in the congregation. These practices also witness to the world. These practices include:
• Listening to one another, taking enough time to be with each other so that speaking and hearing can happen.
• Listening to God in regular prayer, both individual and corporate.
• Active helpfulness to one another. Members are willing to be interrupted and diverted from their plans be the requests and claims of others. They want to “love one another as I have loved you,” in the words of Jesus to his disciples.
• Bearing with one another through difficulties, irritations, and hardship.
• Hospitality, engaging those who are different from oneself. This will undoubtedly involve crossing boundaries of ethnicity, class, economic status, and culture.
• Loving accountability, being willing to give and receive counsel in the congregation.
• Forgiveness and reconciliation. Learning how to forgive one another in the congregation is vitally connected with forgiving and loving enemies.
These practices are carried out before the watching world. It would be possible to do most of these things within the congregation in an isolated way, and not be missional. A missional congregation understands that these practices are not just about the internal life of the church. These practices are done “in public.” Others outside the church are watching the church. What kind of life do they live? Do they practice what they preach? Would I be welcome there? How are these people different because they are Christians?
The church’s life as a community is a demonstration of what God intends for the life of the whole world. A missional church is indicated by how Christians behave toward one another—with the world watching!