BELLS: A New Set of Habits

In the hopes of attempting to better fulfill the mission of God, I would like to put in a place a set of habits that we as a church can adopt, commit to and use as a guide in our pursuit of missional living.

BELLS, which I will breakdown over the next weeks, is a set of habits that help mobilize Christians up, in and out into mission.  UP into a deeper connection with God, IN to a stronger sense of community with other believers and OUT into the neighborhoods and mission fields.

I believe we all here recognize the need to live generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christ-like lives as missionaries to our own neighborhoods.  BELLS helps us stay focused on doing just that.

We have to get to the place where we see the church as "an army of ordinary people" sent out to announce and demonstrate the reign of God.  That is where these missional habits come into play.  The key of the church is to equip every believer to see themselves as a missionary, a sent one, and foster a series of missional habits that shape our lives and values and propel us into the world confidently and filled with hope. 

We Must Live "Questionable" Lives 

We are most effective in pointing people to the reign of God when we are living generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christ-like lives as missionaries in our own neighborhoods.  It is also helpful if those who are gifted with Evangelism are among us doing their thing.

There is a TWO-FOLD Approach to Evangelism:

First, Paul affirms that there are those who are gifted in Evangelism (APEST - Eph 4).  Second, he also writes as though all believers are to be evangelistic in their general orientation.  In other words, we all have to do the work of an evangelist and point people to Jesus in both word and deed.

We see this in Colossians 4:2-6.
Type of Minister
Type of Spoken Ministry
Gifted Evangelists
Clarity in the gospel; looking for opportunities
Bold proclamation
Evangelistic Believers
Prayer; watchfulness; wise socializing
Gracious answers

Not everyone is going to be able to turn normal conversations into gospel conversations without weirding people out, some will, those who are gifted in that, but most will not.  If you have that gifting, then go do that, if not, then your job is to pray like crazy and to conduct yourself in word and deed, in such a way that it causes people to question your motives, their beliefs and start gospel conversations.

Living a questionable life, just like the early church,  is super important if we are going to point people to Jesus. 

The World's Response: The Julian Decree 

They devoted themselves to sacrificial acts of kindness. They loved their enemies and forgave their persecutors. They cared for the poor and fed the hungry. In the brutality of life under Roman rule, they were the most stunningly different people anyone had ever seen. Indeed, their influence was so surprising that even the fourth-century Emperor Julian (AD331-363) feared that they might take over the empire. Referring to Christians as “atheists” because they denied the existence of pagan gods, and believing their religion to be a sickness, he penned this directive to his officials: 

We must pay special attention to this point, and by this means affect a cure [for the “sickness” of Christianity]. For when it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the [pagan] priests, then I think the impious Galileans [Christians] observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy. And they have gained ascendancy in the worst of the deeds through the credit they win for such practices. For just as those who entice children with a cake, and by throwing it to them two or three times induce them to follow them, and then, when they are far away from their friends cast them on board a ship and sell them as slaves… by the same method, I say, the Galileans also begin with their so-called love-feast, or hospitality, or service of tables—for they have many ways of carrying it out and hence call it by many names—and the result is that they have led very many into atheism [i.e. Christianity]. 

Julian was concerned that the Christians’ acts of hospitality and philanthropy were winning too many of his subjects. He decided to launch an offensive against them by mobilizing his officials and the pagan priesthood to out-love the Christians. He decreed that a system of food distribution be started and that hostels be built for poor travelers. He wrote: 

“Why do we not observe that it is their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism? I believe that we ought really and truly to practice every one of those virtues … For it is disgraceful that when the impious Galileans support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.” 

The early church were literally the most surprising alternative society and their conduct raised an insatiable curiosity among the average Romans. 

What Kind of Life Will Evoke Questions? 

People are bored with predictability, they already know what is mostly likely gonna happen.  When people are intrigued or surprised, it forces them to think long and hard about what they have witnessed.

Remember that one of the primary acts of believers is the arousal of curiosity among unbelievers leading to questions and faith sharing.

We need the drive to propel us outward, into our neighborhoods and workplaces, but also inward towards a deeper intimacy with Jesus.  We need to become a... godly... intriguing... socially adventurous... and joyous... presence in the lives of other!  The habits will help with that. 

A New Set of Habits 

Let's be blunt, missional is a habit!  Who we are is made up of our habits!  Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do."

We need to be fostering a set of habits as a church that will help shape our values and support our beliefs.  That is what BELLS is.

Let me start by defining again what "missional" is.  By missional, I mean all that we do and say that alerts other to the reign of God.

Those of us who are not gifted evangelists (APEST) need to foster habits in our lives that draw us out into the lives of unbelievers and invite the kinds of questions that lead to evangelistic sharing. If our only habits are going to church and attending meetings, it’s not going to connect us with unbelievers nor invite their curiosity about our faith.

The trick is to develop habits that unite us together as believers, while also propelling us into the lives of others. We also need habitual practices that don’t just deplete our energy and burn us out, but which re-energize us, replenishing our reserves and connecting us more deeply to Jesus.

I believe the following habits do just that.  The five habits of highly missional people are:

I will bless 3 people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
I will eat with 3 people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
I will spend at least 1 period of the week listening for the Holy Spirit's voice and direction.
I will spend at least 1 period of the week learning from Christ.
I will think and process throughout the week all the ways I alert others to the universal reign of God through Christ.

Over the next few weeks, I will begin to unpack these. 

For more information on BELLS, check out Michael Frost's Five Habits of Highly Missional People.

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