It was a beautiful spring day last April, and the members of the small community my wife and I belong to were gathering at a trailer home in Logan County for our class mission project. As we pulled my truck to side of the dirt road, people from our group were already assembling. We were about to have an experience that would change the fabric of our group.
Rather than share all the laborious details of that day (the pics the next couple of days are from that project), I'm going to give some highlights and then share some reasons why I believe every small community should do a mission project at least once a year. But before I proceed, I want to make sure we understand that doing a class mission project does not make your group missional. But… missional groups do mission projects. The involvement of a group in a mission project helps the group look outward at its community rather than inward at itself.
So why should your group do a mission project together? First, it will help your group get over yourselves! Read Isaiah 58. The Israelites are complaining to God because they fast and pray and God did not seem real interested in what they are doing. The fact of the matter is… He wasn't! Read further down the chapter and you will see that the people were ignoring the needy, the hungry, the homeless, basically anyone having a tough time. God actually tells the "pious" people of Israel that they are oppressing these people and that no amount of prayer and fasting will soften Him up.
If your church is like mine, there are certain things that are expected each week. You read your Bible, pray, attend your Bible study small group, attend worship, and tithe, for example. No matter the size of your church, you have many people that participate faithfully each week in the activities that make us "good Christians". In spite of these faithful people (and I'm not criticizing these people or their activity-may their tribe increase!), the statisticians tell us that my denomination is slowly declining in size. Obviously, the church in many places is losing its impact in the culture. My belief is that the aforementioned spiritual activities are not wrong, but they are incomplete. At some point, our spiritual disciplines have to put us in a position that we can be salt and light in the culture, not just in the church building.
A class mission project that is focused on the community around the church will help the people attending your group see its community through a new lens, the lens of the gospel. I have seen these projects get some good people involved in meeting community needs, and it changes perspective. The gospel suddenly becomes something we can touch and grasp, because we are seeing Christ at work through our own hands and feet. In essence, we are becoming incarnational. The church is no longer trapped inside a building but is spreading good news in its neighborhood.
This post has gotten rather long, so tomorrow I will post some benefits of doing a mission project and also provide some ideas to help your group get involved in your community.