In two weeks, in a suburban town outside of Seattle, we'll celebrate God's grace and the Spirit's work through baptizing a new disciple of Jesus. This is the story of how a neighborhood can look like the book of Acts, where disciples are made and we teach and preach from house-to-house, an example of how to make disciples in our sphere of influence... in today's context. We moved into our housing development 7 1/2 years ago, and for the first 6 years, we didn't know anyone who didn't live next to us. I’m serious. I didn't know the guy across the street. By the way, his name is Trevor, and he's getting baptized in my backyard. But, for the first 6 years, the extent of our reaching-out to our neighbors was leading a youth group and handing out bibles door-to-door and singing Christmas carols in the dark because people shut off their lights on us. Sometime while standing in the cold singing "O Come All Ye Faithful," I started to think, "Maybe we need a different modus operandi for bringing the gospel to my neighbors."
I decided to leave my one church to seek out help from people who have done this before, and I landed with Soma Communities. Truth be known, I am very prideful in the way I do things. Whether it is my orthodoxy or my orthopraxy, I feel like I have it down to some degree, which is a spillover from my success in business. It is wrong thinking, but I know this about myself. When coming to Soma Communities, I purposed to be a learner. What I asked myself was, "If you know so much, how come no one around you is repenting and being baptized?" So, even though I was soon asked to take a lead role in a Missional Community out in my suburban city, I decided to just sit back and learn. As I learned, as I listened, I began to be intrigued, and I finally had to act on it.
I asked a new friend of mine, Caesar, "How should I start? Where should I begin in my community?"
He suggested, "Ask the Spirit, 'What's next?'"
At that time, I rarely asked the Spirit to guide and empower me for mission because I was doing nothing that would require the Spirit. I was insular, hanging around only Christian people, and rarely ever engaging anyone with the Gospel or showing them the effects of the Gospel and how that might look in our community. There was no reason to pray. It would have been like asking God to help me flip the channels on my television.
Well. My wife and I prayed... Spirit, what's next?
If you want to open the power of the Spirit like freeing a hungry lion from its cage, then ask the Spirit what's next with a desire to show others what He's like for the sake of making disciples.
The Spirit answered by simply telling my wife and me this: On July 4th, instead of having your BBQ in the backyard, move it to the front yard.
This isn't earth shattering, but as Luke 16:10 puts it, he who can be trusted with a little, can be trusted with a lot. We agreed with the Spirit and decided that would be a good idea. Then He pressed. We ended up putting together a 4th of July wiffle ball tournament and cook off and going door-to-door handing out flyers. The response was overwhelming. This was the first time I met Trevor, my neighbor from across the street. He entered a wiffle ball team, and they won. Whatever. In the end, we had about 40 people play in the tourney and around 150 people at the 4th of July festivities. People continued to come up to me and tell me it was the best 4th of July party they had ever been to. It reminded us all of the Wonder Years. We didn't want this to only happen once a year. So, we started throwing BBQs all the time and inviting people over to have dinner from the connections we made on the 4th.
As summer was drawing to a close, my wife and I knew one thing: we needed help to build this community to reflect the community of God. We started praying that God would send helpers and had other leaders within Soma praying for us as well. God answered. He ended up moving another couple to our city from a different Soma Expression and then sent us another couple from our old bible study. It was beautiful. We came together with a plan that we felt was from the Spirit. We sought to continue the dialogue with these new couples by hosting Saturday morning breakfasts at our house. We wanted these other couples to be there with us to engage our neighbors and become part of our community. To do this, they had to be willing to lay aside some of the things they might have been more comfortable with to pursue our neighbors. But, our goal was to have these breakfasts with an eye on going through the Story of God at some point with those people with whom we were building relationships. We figured this might take a year or so to build these relationships strong enough to engage them on a deeper spiritual level.
This whole time, my wife and I kept asking the Spirit, "What’s next?" Now, we were able to put names to these prayers. We started the breakfasts in October and by the end of the month the Spirit was opening doors for the Gospel like I've never seen. People were asking us, "Why do you do all these things for the community? (We had also arranged a Halloween party, game nights, etc.) Do you sell Avon? Are you Christians? What church do you go to? etc."
We answered those questions, and then asked, "Would you be interested in walking through the story of what the Bible says about God and why we feel compelled to bring about this type of community? We can do it our house and have fun and eat like we always do anyways and then have this story time with dialogue among friends.”
We ended up asking about 6 couples from our neighborhood and 4 said yes, including Trevor and his wife. After 10 weeks of engaging in story and having a lot of fun, summer was back. We told those who went through the story that if they wanted to continue with us to dig into the Scriptures to see what the Gospel says about making disciples, we'd be happy to have them. Trevor and his wife agreed and really started to delve in. We again threw a huge 4th of July party with wiffle ball, cook off, and fireworks, and kept following up with BBQs and studied the word together as a Missional Community.
Now, this entire time, we had, as a group, been praying that God would put on our hearts those people in our lives who seemed to be pushing into the kingdom. We'd been praying (and are still praying), because we were going to once again be doing the Story of God coming up in January. We then had a study on baptism, and two things came out of Trevor's mouth: 1) I want to be baptized 2) I've been praying and talking to my brother and his fiancé and they desire to not only come to the BBQs but also to the Story of God when we start it.
In two weeks we'll be having Trevor's whole family, some friends, and our Missional Community in our backyard for a BBQ and a baptism. He's being commissioned to make disciples, but because he’s been watching me, and I've been walking this out with him day-to-day in normal everyday life for a year and a half, he's already doing it. To him, a disciple of Jesus naturally makes more disciples.
Our Missional Community started the day I put aside my own comforts and moved my BBQ from my backyard to my front yard. We went 6 years without knowing anyone. Now, if we throw a BBQ, we have 70 people show up. We have 6 couples in our Missional Community. We are doing pre-engagement for one couple and trying to save another couple from going through a divorce. We think we might have to multiply coming up in January because we could have close to 40 people that desire to go through the Story of God with us.
I'm no saint. I'm nothing special. I'm not paid by the church. I'm not paid by the community. God pays me money through my business - not to hoard it, but so I can be making disciples who make disciples in the neighborhood where I live.
This story isn't crazy. This story isn't outlandish. It's pretty normal. My family is pretty normal. That's the beauty of it. This is a small taste of what has been happening in our neighborhood and also in our own spiritual development. You’ll notice as you live this out, life, as usual, isn’t perfect. There are times of much difficulty. As a dude in our Missional Community put it, “You only get really irritated with people if you actually get to know them. It’s hard to get irritated at others if you merely wave at them when putting your garbage at the curb.”
If you're reading this, what’s holding you back from going to your knees tonight and just asking God, "What's next?" Be careful. Once you’ve let this Lion of Judah out of the cage, He'll take over the neighborhood.
Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife, and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade Seth is an Investment Portfolio Manager, serving as president of McBee Advisors, Inc. Today, he’s a missional community leader, preaching elder with Soma Communities in Renton, Washington, and executive team member of the GCM Collective. In his down time, he likes to do CrossFit, cook BBQ, host pancake ebelskiver breakfasts at his home and many other neighborhood events in his hometown of Maple Valley, Washington. You can find him on twitter @sdmcbee or at www.gcmcollective.com.