Everyone gathered around the table as we presented a decadent fudge chocolate oreo cookie brownie cake lit with candles, loudly singing “Happy Birthday.” He smiled while looking slightly uncomfortable from all the attention, yet simultaneously glad about all the fuss we were making to celebrate him.
For some reason he’d thought that no one was going to remember or do anything for him on his birthday, even though it’s a known fact that you can’t join our Friday group and not have your birthday celebrated with cake and activities, friends and fun.
Then came present time. He’s the kind of guy that likes practical gifts, things he can use, so we decided to collect money from everyone for a gas fund to help with the 40 minute commute he made everyday between home and school, along with a card signed by all of us.
He didn’t know what to say. Thank you didn’t seem like enough so he went around hugging everyone one by one to express his gratitude. Then he got to me, and I saw a couple of tears in his eyes. And as we hugged, only one thought came to mind:
It’s worth it.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to that particular Friday night. Everything seemed to hit all at once that day. The work week had left me exhausted, I had the party to plan, Andre, my best friend and co-leader was out of town for work AND I had to play for worship for the women’s conference at church which meant me racing home as soon as worship was done just in time for people to arrive and for me to spend the next hour and a half cooking.
I was tired and grumpy, and feeling pretty bratty about the whole situation. But then the cake and present time came, and I saw exactly why we do this missional community, and all my excuses went flying out the window. See when it comes to missional communities, it’s not about me, it’s about learning to sacrificially love the ones who have been placed in my life.
No Investment, No Return
Sometimes I hear people say they want to do a missional community but don’t for the following reasons: I don’t have time, I don’t know anyone, we don’t like the same things, we have nothing in common, I can’t relate to them, I’m tired etc. And then they sit there and get frustrated over the fact that God doesn’t seem to be doing anything with the people they’re around.
The reality is, I think sometimes we make missional communities more complicated than they need to be. Maybe it’s just my understanding, but it seems like Jesus’ basic ministry principle was very simple – hang out with people, eat food, build relationships and share about what God is doing in my life whenever possible. (Mark 2:15 – 17)
If you’re really serious about doing a missional community, then besides praying about it and saying you want to, it’s requires that you be willing to put in the investment needed too. It can be very simple things like asking someone to lunch or coffee after class, studying or doing homework together or simply striking up a conversation with them and seeing with it leads.
The point is, you have to actually step out and do something, otherwise nothing will ever really happen. And forgive me for being harsh, but if you’re not willing to put in the effort to do these things, then not only do I think you’re missing out on some wonderful opportunities to see God work, I also think you’re just hiding behind a bunch of excuses.
The Change Within
Doing a missional community is hard work, and sometimes we get tired. Friday was a great example of that. But I also think it’s one way in which God teaches us the importance of perseverance and consistency when it comes to reaching out to others. Most of all, I think it causes a big change within.
The truth is that leading a missional community has changed my life. It has taught me to look outside of myself and to recognize that even when I am tired and upset, there are many others around me who are also hurting and who don’t know there is a God who loves them unconditionally.
I have learned that the measure of a person lies not in how they appear, but rather that they have the same creator as I do. I have learned to laugh with others in the good times, cry in the bad, pray unceasingly and regularly for them, and serve them in whatever way I can. In short, I have learned to love them because Christ loves them and died for them too, not just me.
So today I write to simply share this: missional communities will change and impact the lives of many people. But before you ever expect to see change in others, expect to BE changed first. And then? Enjoy the ride!
Kimberly Chung is the National Media Director for Campus Renewal Ministries, a ministry focused on forging partnerships in prayer to build missional communities that transform college campuses with the gospel of Jesus. She is a campus minister to The University of Texas at Austin and can be reached at email@example.com