Vineyard Christian Fellowship-West

 Vision and Strategy for Embracing Our Missional Calling

The following is intended to help sharpen the vision and strategy for the Westside Vineyard regarding what has been discussed among the Council during the latter half of 2006.

I. Vision and Goals

To Embrace and Emphasize “Missional Living” in Our Personal Lives and Corporate Culture

Our goal is to become a positive ‘spiritual reference point’ for our personal spheres of relationships and the community at large by allowing Christ’s authentic and active compassion to engage those around us.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” - Matthew 9:36

This will involve:

  • Reclaiming the empathy of our common humanity as a means to becoming ‘natural witnesses.’
  • Reclaiming the relational moments and opportunities that really matter and mean the most.
  • Learning to listen and explore the hearts of co-workers, neighbors, and anyone in our sphere of relationships.

This will involve a fresh perspective on the life of the church as a whole.  The shift in the missional paradigm is not about a change in purpose, but in process.

It’s a reclaiming and reframing of our identity… of what it means to be builders of ‘the church’… from a primary focus on ourselves as ‘gathered’ towards that of ourselves as ‘sent’(scattered.) It involves a continued high value on the church ‘gathered’ but with more of a sense of how it connects and serves the ‘church sent.’

The above model recognizes strengths in both modes.

Strengths of more structured ‘Attractional’ mode:

  • Corporate Worship/Prayer/Confession
  • Affirmation of Unity in Christ through our diversity
  • Programs that serve spiritual formation and support various life needs
  • Structures that provide stability and continuity amidst change

Strength of more ‘Organic’ and ‘Incarnational’ mode:

  • Envisioning and empowering Christ at work in the workplace, neighborhoods, various networks, etc.
  • Empowering and equipping more natural dialogue with unchurched
  • Envisioning and empowering the ‘living body of Christ’ as His servants to the community, especially the least and left out.

II. Components Involved

1. Continue with an honest and open sharing of where we, as pastors/elders/leaders/staff, are in our challenges to live missional lives in whatever networks and connections we have with the community at large. In evaluating our lives, let’s take the lead in overcoming the tendency to just add new guilt and imposed expectations, and instead really search to renew that authentic missional compassion that is within each of us.

2. Approach process as one of molding, modeling, and mobilizing… rather than guilt motivation, idealism, or negating those less missionally able.

3. Seek and secure a pastoral role on staff for whom half of their job description is to help mobilize us as a community in missional living. It is important NOT to have our missional calling relegated out to them, but rather that of serving us as a church community in leading and supporting missional life. (Currently seeking someone who naturally embodies this spirit and can serve in a matrix like fashion to help every segment of our church community, such as children, youth, adults, home groups, to find their own expression.)

4. Offer missional focus in teaching series/campaign (?) for all spheres of the church community. (Post Easter)

5. Share more directly about the missional vision/values as part of All Church annual meeting.

6. Discipleship must be understood as inherent and integrated into the very nature of missional community… rather than as a competing quality or separate program. A key is not to separate this out into a process void of a missional heart and life. Jesus addressed character IN MISSION… not the other way around.

This process may be served by developing a more immediate assessment of new member’s life issues (character) and missional opportunities by developing a process whereby an individual meets 2 to 3 times with a pastor/trained pastoral leader. This could help work through major hindrances (marriage problems, addiction, beliefs) that could be vulnerabilities...and to help support relating and reaching their circle of family and friends (i.e., Join them in a party they hold.)

7. Cultivate six key qualities into our lives.

  1. Confidence to convey our faith
  2. Identifying relational opportunities that already exist or which could most naturally be developed.
  3. Empathy to relate to the common humanity we share with others.
  4. Listening skills to explore the hearts and spiritual longings of others.
  5. Hospitality to provide space and time to deepen relationships.
  6. Prayer that is related to action.

8. Help create and support time for members to connect and care for the relationships around them… to go out with co-workers, hang out with neighbors, host friends from a particular network, or serve in a community service organization.

9. Define a balance of outreach between some strategic corporate initiatives and empowering personal opportunities. Each have their own strengths and neither can fulfill our ultimate goal of becoming a ‘spiritual reference point’ alone. This will involve 1) larger initiatives such as car washes, etc. and even a more intensive SERVE-FEST type of event in which we serve in a more expansive/intensive way for a week— perhaps with other churches; 2) helping individuals identify and step out with opportunities to exercise compassion in their personal lives with neighbors, co-workers, etc.; and 3) connecting members who may feel called to serve the same community needs… often through existing organizations.

10. Consider designating one or two Sundays per year in which we serve the community during our normal weekend gatherings. (This would most permeate our church community culture and not simply add an activity.) This is best to be pursued after new pastoral role is integrated into our team.

11. Continue to embrace ourselves as a culture of gatherings (weekend worship services) that are inclusive and meaningful to all while being centered in the controlling presence of God (not manipulation) and His calling/purpose (not a simple commodity of religious goods or feelings.)
In terms of how we help cultivate this type of church culture… the key is more about being inclusive in terms of including others in a conversation… more than choosing what we do or don’t do/talk about or don’t talk about. I think it does involve limiting the extent of ‘family’ focus, i.e., avoiding too much talk in our primary public gatherings about what relates only to those already fully incorporated or relationally assimilated. This includes limiting the length and nature of baby dedications, focus on issues not generally meaningful to newcomers, etc., as well as thinking towards how to make those elements meaningful to newcomers (i.e., a baby dedication can be an opportunity to affirm that unique value of every life.) More importantly, it is about recognizing and overtly speaking to the unchurched newcomer. We can and should gather to worship God… hear His challenges to us…invite God’s Spirit to come minister and empower us. The unchurched newcomer just needs to know that we can speak to where they are in their limited understanding and affirm their process even while challenging it. If we do this well people will bring unchurched seekers.

12. Make a gradual shift in resources to reflect a missional value – time, talent, and ultimately treasure. Develop a mindset that becomes as intentional about exploring and supporting a persons ‘sent’ life… as much as their ‘gathered’ life. Consider boundaries or ‘caps’ on operating expenses that will help us direct some resources to strategic means of serving the community around us. (It should be noted that much of our budget is already missional in the broader sense...including starting Alter, Spanish service, coffee fellowship, etc., but reflects the ‘attractional’ more than the ‘incarnational’ dynamic.)

13. Accept the cost. Some of the choices reflected above will naturally come with tension because the priorities and practice of church life has often been shaped, on an actual level, in relationship to those already gathered as believers. Many ideas may naturally be misunderstood or misinterpreted within the “Christian culture.” These are good tensions. We must maintain solid orthodoxy and well rounded discipleship. We must value the tension while seeking to keep it as constructive as possible. We must also recognize that many hold deep convictions which can get correlated with particular outward forms and activities. As always, we ‘choose who we lose.’ That statement is not to be taken lightly, nor to become a casual dismissal of anyone. It is however important to take hold of our vision and values deeply enough so as not to feel tossed or torn at every point of tension.

Relevant Reading:

  • The Shape of Things to Come – Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
  • The Present Future – Six Tough Questions for the Church by Reggie McNeal
  • Shaped by God’s Heart – The Passion and Practice of Missional Churches by Mildred Minatrea
  • Organic Church - Growing Faith Where Life Happens by Neil Cole
  • An Unstoppable Force by Erwin Raphael McManus
  • The Church of Irresistible Influence by Robert Lewis
  • Making Room for Life – Trading Chaotic Lifestyles for Connected Relationships by Randy Frazee
  • Velvet Elvis – Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell
  • A New Kind of Christian by Brian D. McLaren
  • Dallas Willard (All Writings)
  • Irresistible Evangelism by Steve Sjogren, Dave Ping, et al

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