Scale, Leverage & Conversion of the soul
Adam is a member of our community, a strategic leader – sharp, winnable personality, huge mercy filled heart and my spiritual son. He wrote this blog post on his blog, and I felt it is so well written, I wanted to share it with you. He captures eloquently us – and the challenge we face of scalability…. the hard economics of being a missionary in the post 2008 western context:
I keep a calendar these days. It never looks as packed as it really is. There are the daily events, such as prayer and work. There are the one-offs, like a dentist appointment. And there are the white spaces, where mission can thrive, and playing guitar and sharing perspectives on God and life with a friend takes up a couple hours on a Saturday night.
I am a missionary on a team that lives as a missional community. What this means, in short, is that we share life together in order to increase our capacity to go make disciples. As we share the rhythms and duties of normal life, the workload is lighter, and the energy and time for mission is increased.
We’ve been on quite a journey together these last three years. What began as a call from God to impact a single neighborhood in New Orleans has grown into a mandate to plant new missional communities called Communitas in major cities in the Western World.
Many things have begun to come together to confirm this and set the stage for multiplication. God is moving in mighty ways. Much like the early Church in Jerusalem after the Resurrection and the Ascension, we in Communitas are reaching a critical mass that will lead to inevitable and necessary expansion beyond our current geography.
Like the Jerusalem Church, we have begun to see people added to our Church body: a young neurosurgical resident from Iran studying in the States met and believed Jesus in a dream; a young man who had walked away from a childhood faith has been transformed; and there are several people here who don’t yet know Jesus, but identify as belonging to our community, and are in the wrestling stages of spiritual transformation. They are belonging before they believe, and moving closer to authentic relationship with our God.
Like the Jerusalem Church, we are raising up new leaders who will pioneer new missional communities in new locations. We have grown from six on the team to nine in a period of three months. We expect two more to join us next summer, and are in dialogue with a married couple and a single person who are exploring commitments. Like the Jerusalem Church, we will soon outgrow the space we have in our homes. It will be a practical necessity to send a number of us to replicate elsewhere.
This is the problem of capacity. Capacity, by definition, is a limiting discriptor. There are bounds to capacity – for any creature or object. Webster’s Dictionary defines capacity as “the facility or power to produce, perform, or deploy.” Communitas is reaching maximum current capacity within our context.
As missionaries, there are three limiting factors that directly affect our capacity to produce new believers and communities of faith, to perform the duties of our calling, and to deploy our spiritual gifts given for mission: time and finances. These factors are directly and closely related. Bluntly, the primary factor is finances.
Our time capacity for mission, both in our immediate context, and in multiplying future teams, is drastically reduced because of our current financial capacity. Currently, six out of the nine of us are working full-time wage-earning jobs to not only sustain life, but to finance mission. From our paychecks, we pay the basic monthly bills, and we finance our mission – including work projects, travel to meetings, and hosting dinners and events for the people we are called and sent to journey with.
Working forty hours per week limits our time for mission to evenings and weekends. There are three married couples with children on our team, and it is difficult for them to be free for mission in the evenings. The children occupy that time, and rightly so. The three single people in our community (I am one), have more freedom and flexibility in the evenings, but not much more.
If we had the financial support from committed monthly donors to cut back our work hours to part-time, or eliminate the need for a job altogether, we would be able to greatly increase the available time and energy for not only mission in our immediate context, but for planning and executing expansion!
Many people I’ve spoken to about this topic have responded, “I work a full-time job, and I still find time to love the people around me. I am able to live missionally. It sounds like you’re asking me to pay you to do things that every Christian should already be doing.”
There is a concept, often used in business, called “Economy of Scale.” What this looks like in terms of mission is this:
You, my friends, have the time and energy capacity to meaningfully journey toward Jesus with a limited amount of lost people. This is limited because you have responsibilities, commitments, and values in your life – a job, maybe a spouse and children, bills to pay, projects and activities. These are the places you put your energy, and that is good. Lost people naturally fit into these commitments, and you journey with them as you are able, but there are only 24 hours in a day, and you have only so much energy and space in your life.
How many lost people are you effectively, impactfully journeying with? What progress do you see in their relationships with you? What progress in their wrestling with God?
Because we live together in interdependent community, rotating the task of cooking dinner, sharing the burden of yard work and house work, we are able to free each other up to engage in mission with more time and energy. We also engage lost people as more than individuals. We go together as two or more to spend time with them. We invite them to have dinner with us as a community.
On average, it takes a web of six or seven missionally-minded Christians continually relating with a lost person for them to come to a point of conversion. As a team, we are journeying together with over 100 lost people. We have meaningful, intentional relationships with each of them. They are exposed to us as individuals, and to us as a body of believers who love them.
In a given week, we intentionally bring the Gospel through our words, posture, and presence to over 50 people. We interact with many of them daily, all of them at least twice per week. We are wrestling deep life issues with 17 people each week. We have been asked to pray for them, to help them sort out issues with their spouse or children, to help fix a leaky toilet. We have been invited to dinner and asked to pray for the meal. We have wrestled death and what comes after, assisted a young man in enrolling in college, housed a young man with nowhere to stay for the night, and visited widows. We host block parties for our neighborhood to gather and build a sense of community. We host anywhere from 6-40 people for dinner on a given Thursday night – friends, neighbors, a teacher from the boys’ school, kids from the lacrosse team that Mike and Chad coach.
They know we are Christians by our love. And we communicate our love for them by the time and energy we have to spend with them.
Every Christian is mandated by Jesus to go and make disciples. We are all called to bring the Gospel where we are. In the Body of Christ, some are called as apostles – “sent ones”. Many more are called to be those who send.
Each of us is either called to climb down into the pit, or to hold the rope for those who do. My life and calling, as a missionary with Communitas and CRM, is to climb down into the pit, to bring the Gospel to a lost and dying culture.
Are you called to hold the rope?
As I look again at my calendar, I can’t help but dream how Jesus could use all that time!
Adam has been working hard to raise support after 3 1/2 years here. He’s eager to get free to be obedient to the mandate on his life – and to fulfill the passion of his heart – reaching the people around him. He has so many more people lined up to spend time with him than he has time for. They email, phone and inquire when they see him for some of his time – he is so limited, it frustrates and hurts his heart. He’s starting with those he felt would most quickly catch the vision he’s communicating consistently. He’s also facing the reality of most missionaries – a prophet is not welcome in his home town. So his friends, his longest rooted relationships have not gotten on board in the numbers or the amounts one would expect. It’s always the same – “we don’t have anymore money available, sorry.” It hurts him. They buy bigger houses (in their 20’s), they go on international vacations, buy brand new cars, and new clothes with the changing of the seasons. In the mean time, Adam tells them lost people are begging his time because they smell something – hope – when they are with him. Yet, these friends don’t commit. I’m frustrated for him and as I know many of these people, I am disappointed in them. I pray for the discipleship of their souls. The purse IS always the last part of the soul converted.
He names it – it’s about scale, it’s about leveraging, it’s about souls….
Bottom line: It’s about scale – God sent us – we need people holding the rope.