Living the Missional Life Series: Joseph Franklin shares how neighborhood walks and a party reshaped his understanding of what it means to make disciples.
Three months ago I was appointed to serve New Song UMC. From early on, I knew that the vitality of the church and the re-launch of New Song would need to begin with a new understanding of making disciples. My friend and colleague, Jeff Severt began the process of relearning and re-teaching discipleship strategy through the 3DM Missional community model. I began learning at a fast pace and saturating my continuing education, devotional, and missional life with 3DM stuff. When we moved into our neighborhood, I jumped in feet first as my family and I began neighborhood walks.
It started out as a simple idea, learned from the 3DM material. We have a wonderful home and great neighborhood surrounded by privacy fences and smiling faces. The problem with the smiling faces is that no-one knew anyone in a life-sharing way unless they were your immediate neighbor. So we began cooking and sharing fun times in the front of our home as we smiled and talked to the neighbors who walked. We would purposefully invite them into the conversation with us and introduce ourselves as the goofy new couple with two great kids. That was our routine until we felt until we felt like it was time to venture out. So we began walking the neighborhood and not for exercise, we were seeking engagement. Our goal was to simply make friends and to be intentionally invitational.
We walked with a purpose of finding people to talk to, to listen to, and build relationships with. Our purpose was not to invite them to church, instead we wanted to invite them into our lives. Even these were not long conversations, the personal relationships began. We realized that people did not really know each other, and the best thing that we learned in conversation is that they actually wanted to get to know each other. So, we had an idea. We would have a party. We soon realized that if we embraced this process it would radically change our concept of disciple making and “missional communities.”
We threw a “Game Day Huddle Party.” We invited everyone on our street or that we engaged in our neighborhood to the party. We made nice invitations and personally handed them to most of our neighbors. We left them on the door of others. To our surprise, everyone showed up to our party. We had around 70 people including children and it was awesome and chaotic! There was food, laughter, kids running around, and it seemed that everyone who showed up were grateful to finally meet their neighbors. We even had several families begin to participate in New Song’s newly forming L3 Community Groups (our version of missional community).
We did not expect that walking and sharing life together could make such an impact on the lives around us. We also did not expect that the communities would change us and make us realize that an open house and an open heart is the most warming way to live. We had no idea what would happen if you just threw a party and invited Jesus. This is what it means for us to live the missional life, one party at a time.
Joseph Franklin, Pastor