Picture the scene: a family home with a table central in the dining room. There’s a mixture of children ranging from toddler to pre-teen, young adults both single and married, parents who work and parents who don’t, grandparent-aged-figures. All eating together, enjoying each other, laughter and tears, prayer and fun, living missional lives alongside each other. This is our Oikos. Our extended family. These are the people that God has called us to invest our lives into, share life with and lead the church with.
Now picture another scene: A young family. Lonely. Weary, tired, exhausted. They have tried everything they know to try and lead their church and nothing seems to work. They are at the point of giving up. They know there is more to leading church and living church but they don’t know how to get there.
The first of these describes our current reality as a family; the second describes how we were 8 years ago. As you can see from the two descriptions we have been on a life changing journey in our perspectives, training and experience as leaders. 8 years ago we were leading a small Baptist church. We were passionate for it to grow and for Gods kingdom to come in the community but 3 years in Bible College didn’t really equip us to know how to bring change, how to lead this small church into more of God’s purposes. We tried many things and none of them seemed to work. We were so weary from the trying that we put strong boundaries in place to protect ourselves, our rest and time off. We wanted the church to thrive but we also wanted our family to thrive.
The only way we knew how to do both at this time was to have both family and mission. We survived by having strong rules or boundaries to protect ourselves. It was a kind of batton-down-the-hatches approach. All our time was scheduled into seeing the church in meetings and it was very rare for us to open up our home to people unless it was a controlled event approach. We couldn’t imagine living openly with others.
Jesus led differently. He had 12 disciples who lived life with him. They ate, prayed, went to the temple, walked and talked together. They healed together and raised the dead together. They shared resources and when Jesus sent out the 72 in Luke 10 this same team went on mission together.
They were a family but also a team. A Family on mission.
We have seen through family on mission an accelerated ability to disciple people. Discipleship stops becoming programme based and becomes life on life. I chat with people over dinner and then load the dishwasher with them. I pray for people with my children playing around our feet, I teach people the ways of Jesus by being with them in normal everyday life.
Learning to lead differently has been a journey of pain and joy. At times I have completely understood why we were advised to lead as professionals creating a distance between us and the congregation. It can feel risky to open up your life to others. When your extended family hurt you, or choose to leave you it’s painful. But Jesus draws me to a different way of leading and inviting people into what he has called us to; believing that our authority comes not from a role but a life worth living.
Family on Mission is building a team that is family. Calling those who God is at work in and choosing to raise them as leaders by inviting them into our lives. Inviting them into our prayer times, tea times and our fun times. It means seeing church leadership as creating a family on mission with Jesus rather than having a task that needs completing and giving people a job. It means letting people in and letting the grace on their lives manifest as part of the picture that God is building.
We organize our team around where we see grace operating now. We care more about the long term sustainability of the organism than the short term success of the organisation.
The joy of Family on Mission is that whereas before we lived our lives as lonely leaders, we now have a team that is our family. I don’t try to protect my children from the church anymore, but instead invite them to be part of the team. My life no longer in boxes, where I feel distant from others and defined by self protection. Instead I’m seeing it marked by relationships and friendships that are seeing the kingdom come on mission together.
Andy and Annwen have 3 children, Caleb (11), Toby (9) and Elly (5)
If this story connects with you and you’d like to get in touch or hear more about the kind of journey Andy and Annwen are on, click here to contact the 3DM Europe team.