A month or so ago, I met a couple of people who live in two condo units on the same floor in Toronto. They work together during the day at a Christian ministry, but on their evenings and weekends they’re living intentionally in the condominium to build relationships with neighbours.
I’ve read and listened to a lot of material on missional community, but this is one of the first examples I’ve seen of people living this way in Toronto. Here’s some of what I’ve learned from this couple so far:
Pray. One of the two began praying about living in community and on mission ten years ago. It took nine years before God worked to make it possible. Don’t underemphasize the importance of praying that God will work in your life to make it possible for you to do this.
Don’t do it alone. One of them tried doing this alone, but it didn’t really work. It takes two or more together. People don’t need another friend; they need a community. If you are just one more friend, even a good one, then people see it as just being your personality. When two very different people live on mission together where they live, then people begin to understand that it’s God working in you. Besides, it can be a lot less creepy than if you try to initiate significant relationships alone.
Be intentional and be yourself. Living on mission together is not complicated, but it’s hard. It takes time, which is incredibly costly. Make deliberate decisions to build relationships with those around you, and be yourself. Be honest about your shortcomings and your own struggles.
Eat. Living on mission together, they say, is pretty much one meal after another. You see this in the gospels. You’re going to eat anyway, so use meals as a way to connect relationally with others.
Follow your interests. Use your passions to connect with others. This couple started a writer’s group. Use whatever hobbies or interests you have to build relationships with others.
Keep short accounts. You can’t live on mission together without working through relational issues. Deal with them before they impede God’s work. You will make mistakes; apologize quickly to those around you, both Christians and those who aren’t.
God works through imperfect people. This couple is far from perfect, as are all of us. Don’t wait until you arrive before you start to live on mission.
Trust the Word. One of the two runs a Bible study in the condo. It’s only one of the things they do as they build relationships, and not everybody is interested, but they strongly believe that God does his work as people encounter the power of God’s Word.
Expect small things. Don’t underestimate that God will work in significant ways through seemingly small things. You don’t know what God will do through the one person you love in Jesus’ name. Even if you only ever build deep relationships with six people, God can do a work through those.
This is just some of what I’ve been learning. For more on missional communities, check out some of the following: