For the next few weeks I will write about the eight practices of missional communities, what Campus Renewal Ministries calls “Spark Groups.” These eight practices are described with greater detail in CRM’s Spark Course, which trains missional community leaders.
Prepare the way for the gospel
The fifth practice of missional communities is to be prepare the way for the gospel. The gospel is received by faith after hearing the word (Romans 10), but hearts are more open to hear the words of the gospel after they have been prepared by the loving witness of a Christian community.
Love prepares the way
Missional communities should model the gospel by loving one another and by loving the community of unbelievers in their midst. Jesus said people would know that we are His disciples if we love one another (John 13:34,35). He also said that the second greatest commandment, after loving God, is to “love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).” Indeed, love is the greatest Christian apologetic.
Love can be shown in your missional communities in a number of ways. Missional communities should love their neighbors by showing hospitality, hosting parties, befriending the lonely, tutoring struggling students, carpooling to the grocery store, cleaning up the fraternity house, generously sharing everything, and more. Missional communities should always be asking the question: “What can we do to love and serve our neighbors this week?”
Holiness prepares the way
Jesus told us to “let our lights shine before others so they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).” Peter said it this way: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (I Peter 2:12).” Friends in your people group should be drawn to Jesus by witnessing the peculiar way that you live. Your convictions and lifestyles should be evidence to all watching that Jesus is your Lord.
When we live out the gospel in community others take notice, leading them to think about the gospel. They notice when you’re the peacemaker during times of conflict. They notice when you are the first to rally the community to meet the needs of an individual. They notice when you speak kindly to one another and about one another. They notice when you freely give of your time and possessions because you know that you have been given much so that you can give much. Your life becomes a living parable of the gospel.
Power prepares the way
You can also prepare our communities for the gospel by inviting them to experience the presence and power of God. Throughout scripture we see people respond to the gospel after experiencing God in a tangible way. Some, like the demoniac, believe the gospel after being healed or delivered (Mark 5). Some, like the Philippian jailer, respond to the gospel after seeing a miracle (Acts 16). Some respond to the gospel after experiencing the presence of God in worship (I Corinthians 14). In each case, people’s hearts were prepared to receive the gospel after an encounter with God.
Missional communities can create opportunities for their peers to experience God in many different ways. They can ask a friend if they can pray for them in a tangible way where they can witness God’s answer to prayer. They can pray for a friend’s deliverance from addiction or physical pain. They can invite friends to encounter God by joining them worship in their small group or by inviting them to worship at their church. Such bold steps give seekers an opportunity to experience God, and thus be drawn to receive the gospel.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the misssonal community movement at the University of Texas.