Today I want to share an excerpt with you from chapter 7 of our book, “Marriage On Mission”. The following represents our top 10 learnings from the past two years as we seek to live UP, IN, and OUT as a couple. (If you missed my blogpost on this topic, be sure to check it out first.)
- UP is loving God and growing in our relationship with him (think about what Jesus taught in John 15 about abiding in the vine)
- IN is loving and serving his church (think the “one anothers” of the Bible and equipping believers for the work of the ministry)
- OUT is loving a lost world, one person at a time. (Think about Luke 15 and Jesus’ stories of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son)
When it all comes together we model, make, and multiply missionary disciples and missionary churches!
- Establish these patterns (UP, IN and OUT) and stay focused on them, but give yourself grace. There will be weeks when one of the kids is sick, when you have to travel for work, or when you are just too busy with other things that popped up. Don’t sweat it! Our goal is to hit 3 out of 4 times. So, if we hit 75% we feel great about it. If we dip to 50% or lower we make adjustments.
- Be flexible, but stay stubborn. Tomorrow night is Tuesday but we are having a family from church over for dinner (normally that would be an IN focus for us, which should happen on Thursday night). So, we will do our UP as a family on Thursday this week. We are able to interchange Tuesday and Thursday nights (UP and IN respectively), but so far have been unsuccessful switching to another night of the week.
- Be creative. I have joined our family for UP on speakerphone, and we have Skyped our oldest daughter into family meals. These are not ideal, but some connection is better than no connection.
- There are certain seasons of the year that just don’t work well – like Christmas vacation, major holidays, and certain weeks during the summer. Rest up during these periods and come back strong next time. Remember, 3 out of 4 on average is the goal. (Also, be open to experimenting with something new. Try mixing it up from time to time when the normal rhythm is not workable.)
- For our UP nights, I read a chapter of the Bible and then, without commentary, pass the Bible around the table. Each person talks about what stood out to them and why. Resist the temptation to preach a sermon! Keep your input brief, personal, and sincere. When possible, ask everyone to share a prayer request and to pray for someone else.
- Prayer walking our neighborhood consistently is the key for us. We walk 3 or 4 days a week, sometimes more often (living in South Carolina helps!). Our secret? Smile, talk with those who smile back, and invite them to the next brunch (our monthly OUT focus in the neighborhood) if they seem open. Also, be sure to clean up your dog’s poo from their lawn – we want to be good news as we earn the opportunity to share the Good News. Seriously.
- Look for other Christ followers in your neighborhood and ask them to join you. We are developing friendships with a few Christian families and I have asked some to partner with us. So far that just means come when you can, pray for your neighbors, and invite someone new to our next brunch.
- Be very discerning about inviting people to church. We live in the south, so just about everybody will tell you they belong to this or that church. Some of them are faithfully worshipping and serving, others are not. Either way, if a church invitation comes too quickly your brunch (or whatever you do for OUT) can quickly turn into a recruiting conversation that turns people off. Focus on building a friendship first. Once you get to know each other better and they see your heart for God and people conversations about church naturally arise. Be patient, no one wants to feel like your project.
- Set the dates for your OUTs early. Whatever you decide to do get it in the calendar so that you can talk to people about it and extend invitations. The old, “Let’s get together for dinner sometime” usually means, “I want you to like me and believe I care about you, but I am honestly too busy to invest time into a relationship with you”. That may sound harsh, but let’s call it what it is.
- Pay special attention when people are under tension or experiencing transition. We recently brought a meal to our neighbors after a death in the family. A few months back we prayed for a man facing an amputation. This past year we have cut the grass for an older couple grappling with cancer. And just yesterday I mailed a card to the man who manages the restaurant our son works at who is recovering from neck surgery. These little touches mean so much to people under tension. Also, pay attention to new people moving into the neighborhood. A plate of cookies to a new neighbor can be the most spiritual thing you do all week!
Would love to hear what a few of you are learning!