Five Celebrations of a Missional Community: Part Four
Celebration fosters change.
Our culture loves change and self-help, becoming the best version of you, while at the same time believing that we are not that bad. We look inwardly for the strength to change, while seeing ourselves as pretty good people. These incompatible views of who we are makes true change and transformation impossible. Sure, people around us can become different, but they stil want it done on their terms and for the sake of their own identity. They look inwardly, while we look outwardly.
We look to Christ, and in celebrating him we become more and more like him. We know that change is necessary, but we have a completely different view of what motivates that change, and how it happens.
As we gather together in Missional Communities to celebrate Christ, to celebrate connections and cultivation, we also celebrate the growth we experience in community. We also love change, we get excited about transformation because it is what God intends for us as his children.
God's will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and he wills in us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13), in a process that happens from one degree to another (2 Corinthians 3:17-18), but that he promises to bring to completion (Philippians 1:6)! Change is on God's agenda for us, and it is his gospel message that is both the motivator and the means of our transformation.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, yet deep. It is something a child can understand and something scholars will never stop studying. The gospel is the Good News of Jesus' work to save us from a lifetime of sin and rebellion, but it also infiltrates the smallest parts of our lives.
Missional Communities are groups who celebrate the tiny changes that faith in Christ produces. Gathering together in discussion is where the passage preached on Sunday mornings is studied in greater detail, where each person in the group has the opportunity to see how every passage of Scripture points us to Christ (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39). The more we look to Christ, the more we become like him.
We open our Bibles together to set our affection and attention upon the risen and victorious Christ, and as we do that together we become less and less like our old selves and more and more like our old selves (see Colossians 3:1-17). It is this change that we celebrate together!
The process of changing from one degree of glory to another is called sanctification. And sanctification is putting off the old ways of life associated with our old selves, and putting on the new ways of life associated with the new self. We are being remade into the image of Christ, and this is where we find more and more joy, peace, and love over time (see Ephesians 4:17-32)!
Missional Communities celebrate the change that we can identify, looking at who we used to be and who we are becoming.
Because the gospel infiltrates the smallest parts of our lives, we are in a position to joyfully celebrate the tiny changes we see in one another. As we sit together long enough, getting to know one another, we can start to identify in others the tiny ways their faith in Christ is transforming them more into his image.
We hope that we can help one another to see that, how something that may have caused a response of anger in the past now is met with a calm, reserved demeanor. We get excited when people share that their motives are changing, that their actions and behaviors are more in line with Christ and the gospel, that they are becoming less and less selfish and more and more selfless.
Imagine a group of people who knew one another well enough to point these things out. Imagine a discussion where members are asking questions of one another, where God is calling them to put something off and to put something on. That would be a group of people who are celebrating Christ as they become more and more like him.
This is where we can take the opportunities before us to exhort one another so that we are not hardened by sin's deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12-13). This is where we can use words that are encouraging, for building others up, as fits the occassion (Ephesians 4:29).
As you enter into Missional Community life, go expecting to change. Believe that God will change you, that he is faithful to his promises of transforming you. Involve others in this process with you, sharing with them the ways you want to grow and asking them to help. Enter into relationships with others in your group, knowing that our God may be using you to help transform others through your encouraging and helpful words. Celebrate that opportunity, and take advantage of the time you have!
When someone shares something in discussion about their ongoing transformation, take some time to point it out, to thank God for it in the midst of your group. Remind one another how this change process works, why it is so important, and how becoming more like Christ is where our true identity is actually experienced.
Our world cannot compete with this. But it tries. We must celebrate change and transformation together, based on the person and work of Christ. Otherwise all we have left to celebrate is our own ability to change ourselves, with poor motives and incomplete results. God is faithful. He will finish what he began!