Missional Events

A couple of weeks ago, Tyler described the concept of incarnational mission, as “living life among the culture of the people you are trying to reach.”

Hopefully we are continuing to understand our culture, and determine ways to integrate the gospel into the lives of those in our culture.  There are two primary means of accomplishing this.  One is through what Joe wrote about last Friday, called missional rhythms.  Remember those?  As Joe said, missional rhythms are all about “creating specific ways of orienting your life and routines so that you will come in contact with people who don’t know Christ and that you will use these encounters to build relationships that will eventually create an open door for sharing the Gospel.”  Missional rhythms are when we consider ways to intentionally integrate the gospel into the lives of folks we encounter as we go through our normal routines of life. 

A great Biblical example of this would be the woman at the well.  In this story, we don’t see Jesus asking His disciples to organize a evangelistic outreach in Samaria.  He was simply journeying from one place to another.  He was tired and thirsty, and sat down by Jacob’s well (Starbucks might be our equivalent today), and used the opportunity to introduce the Kingdom of God to a woman who was going about her daily routine.  That’s a missional rhythm.

The other primary way of accomplishing missional living is through what we’ll call missional events.

Typically when we think of “events” in church life, we think of things that revolve around the church building or even the church calendar.  We’ve seen festivals, car washes, scrap-booking events, wild game dinners, etc.  These are what I would call “attractional events”…things that the church does, and the church plans, on the church grounds, according to the church calendar in order to attract the lost to the church.  All of these are valid means of evangelism and outreach, and are probably worthy of a future post on this blog; however, attractional events are not missional events.  Attractional events are those that typically seek to attract people to the church building (or an obvious “Christian setting”) in order to expose them to the gospel.  Conversely, missional events are those that seek to attract people to YOU in order for you to expose them to the gospel.

86177435There are several key factors to consider with respect to missional events:

Relational – the event should generate conversation and promote relational connection with your lost friends.  Going with them to go see a movie might not fulfill this criteria; however, gathering at a coffee shop after watching a movie together in order to talk about the movie would be a great idea. 

Common points of interest – If you have folks in your workplace who enjoy sushi, then go grab some sushi together.  But, if you don’t like sushi, don’t fake it just to spend time with them…..they’ll see that your interest is not genuine, and you may get sick – neither of which will be helpful in communicating the gospel. 

Not overtly “spiritual” – This further distinguishes missional events from attractional events.  A missional event is where you share a common interest, build a relationship, and expose them to the gospel over time, but it is not a bait-and-switch scenario where we lure them into our home to watch a college football game, and then at halftime we have our own little evangelistic crusade.  We must do these events with integrity – remember, the point is to build a relationship and expose them to the gospel.  Its also important that your lost friend not be the only unbeliever in a room full of Christians.  Try to keep the ratio more balanced.

Gospel-focused – Don’t forget the point.  We want to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to our lost friends.  Don’t get so caught up in the event that you lose focus, and it becomes all about the event itself.  Through the relationship that you build with your friend, share the gospel with him or her as soon as you can.  Don’t wait till a year of gathering together on Friday nights to scrap book has passed to tell them about the most important thing in your life.  If you’ve waited that long, then it’s either NOT the most important thing in your life, or you really don’t care for your friend as much as you think you do – none of those are things we want to communicate.

So, what are some examples?  I’ll throw some out there….you pitch in and keep the conversation going….your ideas may generate additional ideas that may result in someone coming to know the Lord!

  • UFC Fight Night – have guys from work over to watch “the fight” on your big screen
  • Frisbee Golf Tournament – pile in the SUV with another family or two and head to the park for an afternoon of throwing frisbees (discs, excuse me)
  • Backyard BBQ – its time-tested and it works…just invite a few neighbors over to sample your grilling mastery
  • Scrap-booking – Briefly mentioned this above as an attractional event, but why not have one of these in your home once a month?

OK, your turn…..


10 thoughts on “Missional Events

  1. International Weekend. Invite international students from local colleges/universities to spend Easter weekend with different church families. Volunteer families host a couple of girls or guys or a married couple for a weekend of getting to know a Christian family. A social potluck on Good Friday where students meet at church and meet host families. (mindful of eating restrictions of other religions). A short service explaining the significance of the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. Host families have the students all day on Saturday for fun around the house, tours of the town, walking in the park, visit to the mall, etc. The students get to know a Christian family personally and can feel free to ask any questions they might have about our faith and culture without fear of being pressured to convert.

  2. Great idea Josie! Have you done this before?

    Was just thinking that having a family from the neighborhood (or from work) come over for Thanksgiving might be a neat idea too. Familis usually get together for a Thanksgiving meal, but if you aren’t going anywhere, and there are folks you know that will be alone on Thanksgiving, why not invite them to enjoy that meal with your family!?

    • At Grace Bible Church in Lawrenceville, we supported a ministry to International Students at University of Tennessee. There was a big response to the invitation. The first year I had 2 Chinese girls, my teenage daughters were all over them. We had a wonderful time. Later I had a couple from Taiwan and a woman and her daughter from Dominican Republic. Most of the students were a little older than the average American students.
      They also attended the Passion Play in Atlanta and then worshipped with us on Easter Sunday.

  3. How about being a regular at a restuarant or barbor shop…then invite them to your house for bbq, fight night, or football. Hunting, fishing, and water-sporting trips are also good bonding ideas for Gospel opportunities. Join things in the community, such as: bowling leagues, softball leauges, flag-football leagues, local social/political clubs, PTA’s, and boy/girl scout leading. Coach a little league team, do something to get away from the Church for a couple of hours a week to intentionally build gosple driven relationships with lost folks (children/youth included).

  4. Also, we should probably not neglect relationships with annoying “church” people. There are some who think they know and cherish the Gospel, but in reality are still blind. They might have a rapture card on their refrigerator, but lack love for Jesus in their heart. We need to engage them too. So, contextualization may look the same (bbq, fight night, deep sea fishing trip…), but it will be hard to establish relationships for the sake of the Gospel with these guys, because they think they already know Jesus. Nevertheless, I think they will be able to tell the difference in their religious lives and the Gospel we appeal to with our lives and conversation, God willing. That is all.

  5. Along the lines of Josie’s idea, we used to invite some internationals over to our house every year for Thanksgiving since it is a uniquely American holiday. Over the years it grew to where we had 20 to 30 people from all over the world crammed into our little apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving.

    We always had a Q&A time and that always gave us a chance to talk about the “giver of all good things.” I really miss doing that.

  6. Great ideas concerning internationals. That honors God for sure, because the flavor of heaven will sure be international. The American church would do well to remember that “English” will not be the only language spoken in heaven! 🙂

    Chris – excellent ideas! And good point about not forgetting those in the church that might “think” they’ve got fire insurance, but all they’ve had was an inoculation against real faith. Probably of primary importance with this is to constantly be clarifying the gospel in every facet of church life (pulpit, Bible studies, events, activities, etc.). As Mark Dever says, “when we assume the Gospel instead of clarifying it, people who profess Christianity are cordially allowed to presume their own conversion without examining themselves for evidence of it – which may amount to nothing more than blissful damnation” (The Deliberate Church, pg. 43).

    IN the church, we must be constantly clarifying the Gospel, and fighting for gospel-transformed living.

    OUTSIDE the church, we must be doing the exact same thing, but it may require greater intentionality to forge relationships with those we don’t already spend a ton of time with (like our church family).

    Good discussions…..others?

  7. I know that a lot of people in our community and our own church are out of work or working less hours and are really pinching pennies. We have a real good location for a community rummage sale. Set aside a date like November the 29th, send out some flyers in Hamilton Mill, other subdivisions, grocery stores, etc. for people to sign up for a table. Church volunteers can set up tables in the parking lot on that Saturday morning. The Student Ministry could have their own table, selling coffee or cokes and maybe some homemade baked goods.
    I’d be happy to coordinate, prayerfully…………………

  8. This blog was really good for me. I had never made the distinction between missional and attraction based situations. Thank you for the clarification. And I am praying to have my eyes opened more to the opportunities that God has given me in this area.

  9. Within the student ministry, we think of missional events as spiritually-neutral (meaning that the event is not one of a spiritual nature like inviting folks to church, etc.) events that are carried out without the church’s “sponsorship”

    There are many good church-sanctioned things that we can do and should do and HAVE DONE, but there are also many relationships out in the community that ought to be cultivated, where we have largely neglected to do so.

    In short, missional events are ways to deepen relationships with non-believers. The event should match your personality and interests.

    Fight Night would be good for me, because I am into UFC. However, inviting folks over to watch golf would not work out for me, because I’d rather watch grass grow…

    As a church, we must have more and more conversation on what this kind of thing looks like.

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