When we train our missional community leaders, we show them the value of creating a healthy mix of Up, In, and Out in the life of their group. Up represents our worship and devotional walk, In summarizes our community life together, while Out is how we look outwards to engage with the world. You may well use other words or phrases, but every church - and person - operates in these three dimensions.
When I unpack this for our leaders, I do it through two practical phrases for each area, to create a simple, quickly implementable framework for living this out in missional communities. Thus we say:
Up = Creative worship + "Fresh Bread"
In = Eating + "Oneanothering"
Out = Declaring the Words + Demonstrating the Works of Jesus
Today, though, I want to focus how these three areas can be reflected in our posture as leaders. In other words, if these are the three main relational thrusts in life (to God, oikos, and world), then they should have a personal application to our character and heart. Think of this as being Up, In and Out - what can I do better in each dimension? In particular, is there a spiritual discipline that I can take on as a leader in order to grow in one of these relational realms?
Spiritual Disciplines For Up, In And Out
1. Be still
In our walk with God, learning to be still is the most critical thing.
"Be still and know that I am God" writes the Psalmist, and so we must. Too often we strive and scurry and scramble, when we would do far better to stop, still our spirits, and listen to what Jesus is saying.
For a long time I imagined that being still was about what I did with my body, and that it only counted if I did it for a long time. Like sitting still in a chair in a prayerful manner for two hours, which for an activist is not something that comes naturally, nor, to be honest, do I ever look forward to doing that much.
While it was really good to learn the value of physically being still for extended times before God, it was there that the real truth began to dawn. Being still is an internal thing. It is a posture of your heart - that even in the midst of noise and light and action, in a moment when the last thing you can do is lie on the sofa for half an hour, you can retune your heart to Jesus' unforced rhythms of grace.
You can be still in the midst of the battle, and know that God is in charge. Out of that place you can hear the voice of Jesus, speaking direction, wisdom, and discernment.
For me, that has become the most precious of gifts.
To give you a practical exercise, try doing this: every time you pray with someone (whether in a group setting, such as a meeting, or over someone, in response to a need or situation), begin the prayer by calling on the Lord, and then being quiet. Don't say anything for a minimum of 30 to 60 seconds. Simply still your spirit and your mind, focus on Jesus, welcome His presence, and listen to what He might be saying about that person and situation. It is incredible the difference this will make to how you operate.
(By the way, at first those you are with might be confused as to why you are not babbling away from the first opportunity, so in advance you might need to simply invite them to join you in being quiet and listening to the Lord.)
2. Be Present
Being fully present is the most wonderful gift you can give to another person.
So often we are multi-tasking away, with little machines warbling and tweeting away in our palms, flashing urgent lights and bossy notifications in our direction. "QUICK! Someone has liked the droll comment you posted on a friend's wall! Come see who that discerning soul is!"
Or maybe you are one of those people who, while talking with an individual, allows their eyes to rove around the room in search of someone more interesting and important. If our young kids do that, we tell them off. "Johnny, please look Mrs Snorgleglass in the eye when she is talking with you." And it is even more rude for us to so distracted, since we should know better.
It is so tempting to gratify our selfish desire for things that please us, whereas truly loving others involves putting their needs before our own. "Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one anther humbly in love" (Galatians 5:13).
Being fully present, even if the conversation only lasts for 30 seconds, is such a high compliment. You can make that individual feel like the most important person in the world, as you give them 100% of your concentration and focus. Of course, you still totally free to leave and move on when you need to - simply say so - but while you are engaged, be fully there, and it will be amazing how much more enjoyable your interactions with others will become.
As a practical exercise, put your cell onto mute and out of sight when you are with others, whether in a meeting, a meal, or a moment of brief connection. Then look the person in the eye (no, not in a weird creepy way - just do it like your mother taught you) and be fully there for as long as you are there.
3. Be intentional
Missional fruit rarely simply plops into our laps. And to make that our strategy is foolish - in fact, I'd say it is actively sinful. Yet that is precisely how so many Christians and churches operate.
Instead of relying on random strikes of God's mercy, we must be intentional about how we invest the 'talents' that have been entrusted to us to steward on behalf of the Father's Kingdom. Some of those will rightly go to worship and community, but above all they are for the task of going and making disciples.
To maximize our return as missionaries, we must be focused and deliberate into whom and where we invest ourselves. "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal..." writes Paul in Philippians 3:13. There are so many opportunities, which together can spread us so thin that we make only a very shallow impression. To make a deep and lasting Kingdom impact, we must be consistent and persistent in investing into a limited number of people and situations.
Jesus teaches us this in the principle of the Person of Peace, and we see it expressed the very core of incarnational mission (which is in a particular place at a particular time). Jesus invested in a specific place at a specific time, multiplying His influence deeply into 12 people, who in turn were to go and make more disciples.
With our missional communities, we live this out by having them clear define who is their mission vision. Put another way, we have them think about who they are called by Jesus to become One Of.
For a practical exercise, spend some time with your spouse (and children), or housemates, talking and praying through who you are called to be investing in deeply over the coming 12 months. Don't forget: the answer is a who not a what, and the clearer you can be, the more impact you will have.
Which one of these disciplines - being still, present, or intentional - are you going to prioritize working on? Are there other disciplines that you have found helpdul in these areas?