by: Samuel Smith
cover photo by @brenton_clarke
A few years ago I committed to slowly read through the Gospel of Luke. The ideas I took away from a year with Jesus still influence how I think about life, mission, church, culture and community. One theme I picked up on was that of “Along the Way” rhythms. As I watched Jesus interact with his disciples and the people in his context I saw that while he did go to scheduled events in large venues like the synagogue (a religious place of worship and teaching), most of his time was spent in everyday spaces as he was going. He ate a lot of meals, went to parties, hung out at the lake, went fishing, took long walks, visited the city, got away to the mountains and went to the market. And he didn’t do this alone. Jesus almost always had his crew with him and was often over at someone’s house discussing the Kingdom of God over food and drink. As Jesus talked and told stories he used vivid analogies that he derived from the everyday stuff of life, things such as trees, wine and bread, fishing, and mustard seeds.
Here’s what I’m getting at: Jesus fostered true community as he was going, along the way. He was among the people and within the culture much more than he was in an office, in a meeting, or at an event. Now this doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t do all of those things -- he most certainly did. He gathered his disciples together for meetings to go deeper into what the parables meant. He showed up at synagogues to teach, and sometimes he held a teaching event on a hillside or by the water. But these were not the primary places where Jesus spent time with his crew and reached the outsider or skeptic. What I learned in Luke was that a majority of Jesus’ mission and community building time happened out and about in the everyday rhythms of life.
So what does this mean for us today? I think it means relief. Our culture moves fast, we have information coming in every which way and our invitations to the next event never end. For many of us the weight of trying to raise a family, work a job, study at a university, enjoy a hobby, be a friend, attend events and go on mission is a bit overwhelming. Within the example of Jesus lies wonderful news: we have been released to simply be intentional in the everyday rhythms of our lives. We don’t have to put on impressive events to get people to listen to us. We don’t have to push our calendars past the breaking point to prove our commitment to living on purpose. We can just be human. And suddenly community and mission stop being impossible ideals, and start being attainable realities for all of us.
Here’s how “along the way” mission and community can happen in our everyday contexts. Most of us live the vast majority of our lives within three spheres: 1) Where we work or study, 2) Where we partake in hobbies and leisure activities, and 3) Where we live in a neighborhood. Living on mission in these places doesn’t require us to add something to our calendar -- these are places we already are -- we just need to start being in them on purpose...you know...the way Jesus did.
Let’s look at some ways we can be intentional in our everyday spheres.
Work/University // For those currently working a job, looking for a job, or preparing for a job by going to school, a huge amount of time is spent in this sphere each week -- and most of us are not alone during our times of work or study. No, we typically work and study with others, and even stay-at-home parents find themselves around other parents each week at the park, at the library or some other space. The reality is that each of us work and study with a unique set of people that the rest of us are unlikely to work or study with. God has uniquely orchestrated who will be in our path each week. So then, how can we begin to think about who God has sovereignly placed in our path? What would it look like for us to be intentional with getting to know their stories, inviting them into our stories, and ultimately sharing the Story of God with them? How simple might it be to have lunch with a co-worker or classmate, to invite them over to watch the game on Sunday, or to have them and their family over for dinner with your family and friends?
Play // All of us nerd out about something. We have hobbies and we spend time investing in those hobbies because we genuinely enjoy them. For example, I enjoy watching and playing sports, craft culture, going on adventures, and taking pictures with my iPhone. These things don’t feel like work for me, and I don’t add them to my calendar -- I just do them. What is it that you enjoy? What is the thing you do for play and leisure, the thing that fills you up? Regardless of what your hobby is, it’s a near-certainty that there is a whole tribe of people in your city that enjoy the same thing. What would happen if you commit to enjoy your hobbies with a new level of intentionality? As we go, we are called to engage with others and we meet others along the way. Something happens in such moments; we talk about our common love, we laugh, we debate, we open up, we deepen our relationships and we share stories and experiences. Our hobbies are the perfect natural place for us to foster true community. Who can you invite to your next leisure time? Who else in your neighborhood, workplace, university, Missional Community or city also nerds out on your particular hobby? Is there a group or league or space that already exists in your neighborhood or city around your hobby that you can enter into?
Live // Lastly, each of us live somewhere. We live in a particular neighborhood with particular neighbors. And along with the places we live are the places we frequent in our neighborhoods. Chances are you have a specific park you frequent as a family or with friends, a specific grocery store you frequent each week, and a specific cafe you depend on for your daily fix. God has uniquely planted you in a place and surrounded you with others who share that place. We should probably at least say “hi” to these people when we have the chance. What could it look like to have a cookout once a month in the summer and invite the whole block? Can you host the game on Sunday? Every day we typically eat 3 meals -- there is no better place to welcome others than around the table. This space, the home sphere, can serve as a place to invite in people in order to develop true community. Your home and neighborhood is an open door to both declare and demonstrate the good news.
How can you and your friends foster true community by going on mission and being intentional in the everyday spaces of life?
Sam Smith (@samindecapolis) grew up on the East Coast, is a husband to Astaire, father of five, pastor/network leader for 10 years in downtown Chicago, co-founder of Folklore, Pastor of Missional Communities at Reach Church, a resident of Seattle, WA, and the West Coast Director for the Table Network.