Are We There Yet?Written by Bret Wells on March 19, 2013 | Found in: Academy
A recent message to students in the Academy:
As I've begun responding to final papers and week 6 missional challenge journals, I've come across several statements to the effect of
"While I'm seeing things differently, noticing things and people more, I'm not really seeing the next step yet. I can't really visualize how to launch a missional community here."
If this describes your own thoughts, let me say that it is not only okay, it's somewhat preferable - for a number of reasons. For one thing, it suggests that you aren't getting the cart before the horse. I'd wager that if you set your mind to it, you could come up with all kinds of strategies to "serve" this place... But that isn't really what's needed, is it? We don't need more brilliant strategies - we need to see, we need to hear, we need to discern. And that should take time, especially if it is a new context.
It's also preferable because...well, my goal in this course is to prepare you for "the next step," not to push you there yet. This is why we don't start the coaching process until the end of the first year of work in the Academy. For now, it's about training ourselves to see differently or, possibly, to see more. In coaching I often have to work to keep people from making too many plans too soon because in doing so they set themselves on a course before they've had a chance to survey the landscape...and there's no telling what they may miss if they do so.
This reminds me of an episode of the philosophically brilliant, Phineas and Ferb. Older sister Candace goes through amazing trials to reach the top of a mountain...only to discover upon attaining her goal that there was an escalator on the other side. Let's at least notice the mountain before we climb it.
And yet one more reason it's preferable to not already be envisioning ways to launch a missional community in your chosen space, is that I don't want folks coming away from this course thinking that the value of a place (or the people there) is found in the potential for a missional community. There is beauty, value, and the presence of God everywhere we look. I'm much more interested in you learning to see every place with this kind of expectation than I am in helping you learn to analyze and quickly "sum up" a location's potential. We're not scouting new real estate investments, we're opening our eyes to the kingdom of God which is breaking in all around us.
One of my hopes and prayers for this course is that participants find themselves noticing the sort of stuff they saw in the missional challenges everywhere they go. That it will become second nature to notice the way a particular place encourages or discourages connection with other people; whether a place attracts a homogenous genre of narratives, or serves as a cultural stew of diverse story-lines. That you will find yourself more open to others, even in an unfamiliar environment.
In your next course, Wes Magruder is going to walk with you through a similar process regarding Scripture and then Larry will continue the journey in "seeing" the Church.
The next steps come next. It's okay to simply experience the current step for now.