Living on Mission Where You Are (Shift 2 of 4)
By Mitch Jolly
Shift 2: From Programs to Domain Engagement
This second shift is more organizational than personal. In other words, if you are in church leadership, this shift should affect how you organize for the mission of discipling the nations.
This shift can feel a little out of our control because it requires us to let the Holy Spirit lead members to take responsibility to make disciples.
Don’t misunderstand. This is not a lazy excuse to fail to organize and call it dependence on the Holy Spirit.
True story: One time I was offering a potential church planter to help assess their gifts and construct a prospectus, which is a fancy word for a detailed plan based on gifting, location and strategy. The potential planter’s response? “I don’t see what an academic exercise has to do with planting a church. We will depend on the Holy Spirit.” They never planted a church.
The Holy Spirit created the cell and the atom. He’s kind of into details. To shun an “academic exercise” in favor of the Holy Spirit is to deny the work of the Holy Spirit. My point? When I say “Spirit-led” I don’t mean like this. What I do mean is that we are going to have to release our members from our programs and allow them to go to their local mission field and make disciples.
This does not mean “programs” are bad. There is a level of programming necessary to organize any church. What we have to be careful with is over-programming to the point that our people are always in our programs and don’t have the time or bandwidth to make disciples and lead those new disciples to make disciples themselves.
Often programs can take the place of personal responsibility to engage in the mission ourselves. Jesus tasks all of us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:16-20), and He gave us prayer as the means of getting “fruit that lasts”.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)
Wrestle with Jesus’ purpose of prayer in this passage. Prayer exists so that we can get the lasting fruit we’ve been tasked with producing.
Back to the main thing. We want to shift from church programs to domain engagement.
What are domains?
Domains are the structures that society is constructed on. For example, here are a few domains: agriculture, medicine, education.
Check out this domain map. It’s not THE domain map, but it’s a good working domain map.
This map outlines some of how society is structured. What is missing? Some may recognize that there is not a “church” domain. Why? Because if we isolate the church to a domain, guess where the church is not? Right! Everywhere else!
The church in Acts operated in the public square. She did not have legal access to temples and facilities. The church operated in public. It’s members preached the Gospel everywhere they went.
Consider Acts 8:1-4:
“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:1-4)
Who preached the Gospel? Those who were scattered after Stephen’s murder.
Everyone preached the Gospel, and if you follow the story, you’ll end up getting to Antioch—where the first missionary journey was launched.
So, we don’t want to isolate our people into programs, we also don’t want persecution. We want to release our members to their domains, or their vocational fields, to preach Jesus and make disciples as Jesus commanded us to do.
This is where trust in “Spirit-led” disciples comes in.
So, how does something like this look organizationally, what are some “things” we can do to live on mission as a church with every member?
1. Preach and teach to disciple your people to know and how to know themselves.
We have to make sure that when we preach, we don’t leave people wondering how we got to the conclusions we present. In other words, our preaching has to train in two ways: inform and show how to get the information themselves. This equips church members to be the priests of God the Bible says they are.
2. Know your organizational breakdown and narrow it by cutting non-mission essentials. Then, focus the essentials on disciple-making.
This work right here can be painful. It’s painful because if you are long-established, you may have added a ton of good things, but non-essential things. We want to release our people to spend the majority of their “church” time making disciples not attending another church event.
3. Do you know what partnership looks like and how to define partnership? Who do you partner with? Are they on the same heading as you? How do you know?
Part of getting your people living on mission is being careful who you partner with. Just because they are a “good organization” does not mean you should partner with them.
Try this criteria: Vision – relationship – collaboration – family
Start with a common vision. Are they working toward discipling the nations with every member playing their part? Do you have relationships based on a common vision and biblical love for one another? How can you collaborate on projects? These three become spiritual family and long-term partners.
Snowbird and Red Oak asked Three Rivers to come alongside and help provide some training for a disciple-maker in a harsh region. They asked us because we share a vision for the nations and making disciples. We have a long-term relationship based on vision. We were, and still are, able to collaborate. Snowbird and Red Oak feel like family to TRC.
4. You may have to change your metrics of success.
We stopped counting rear ends in seats a long time ago. Worship attendance is a poor metric for success.
We have begun to ask the question: How is our city? Is our city better because we are here? How are our people engaging the hard parts of our city and the world? How many nations are our members scattered among? How many churches have we started?
Begin to think about your metrics. What are they, and do they need to be adjusted?
5. Do your members know they are empowered and free to go, leave the nest and are sent to do Jesus’ work?
We end every worship service with this benediction: “Three Rivers, you are sent!”
Make sure your members know that they are the tip of the spear of the Great Commission as priests of God, and release them to His good care as they obey His Word and preach His Gospel.