The Missional Incarnational Pathway – Imagination, Innovation, Improvisation

In a previous post, we shared a diagram that maps out a pathway for doing incarnational mission. The first step is Immersion – spending time in the neighborhood. 7-is-of-incarnational-mission-triangle The goal is to be present and quietly participate in the life of the community. We’ve been doing this for about a year now.

The next step is Interaction  with people. This is basically about connecting with people who live in that context. We’ve met lots of stakeholders in the community, people who really care about the future of that neighborhood, and people living there.

After spending time with people in that context, we pulled back and went through a process of discernment. We asked ourselves “What are we hearing?” and “What are we seeing?” We asked this from both a practical and spiritual perspective.  The goal was to observe, reflect, and discuss our insights about the cultural and spiritual realities of that context.

With that insight, we moved into the Imagination phase. We asked ourselves the question, “What would it look like for the kingdom of God to come in a fuller way here?” After a time of prayer and discussion, we felt like four focal points emerged:

  1. Live out a weekly rhythm of being present in the neighborhood. This would, over time, increase our capacity to model and minister the good news of Jesus.
  2. Participate in efforts to disrupt the school to prison pipeline. The reading levels of elementary students are low in that area, which is a major contributing factor to that pipeline. We wanted to demonstrate the restorative justice of God that we see so clearly in the gospel.
  3. Work on developing bridges between the neighborhood and the local hospital and health clinic. There are amazing health resources within a few blocks of that context, but after meeting with representatives from those organizations, we discovered that there is not a focused effort for creating awareness of those resources in that community.
  4. Partner with already existing organizations in the North Nashville context who is advocating for the development of that context, and the greater Nashville area. We wanted to walk and network with people who had experience of doing ministry in that context. Partnership is how God works, so we wanted to mirror that in our efforts.

Each one of those focal points provided us with a starting point for the Innovation process.  These are some of the things we started doing as a result:

  1. We’ve played basketball in the local park once a week.
  2. We started tutoring in the local elementary school.
  3. We passed out flyers in the neighborhood about free health screenings at the hospital, and hosted a OneLife table at the health clinic’s annual community block party.
  4. We started partnering with One Nashville, a non-profit of Christian activists in North Nashville who distribute food and supplies to local churches, schools, non-profits, and families, and mobilize participation in the local political process via City Council meetings and local elections.

Each one of these focal points has opened up opportunities for us to participate in what God is doing in this community.

After about a year and half, we are stepping into the Improvisation stage. This is where you look back at what you have been doing, and make adaptive changes based on what you have been experiencing. This too requires a process of discernment, so we want to invite you to help us do that. Here are 4 things we are requesting your prayers for:

  1. Despite our weekly presence in the park to play basketball, we’ve had marginal participation from kids in the community. There is drug activity in the park, and each time we show up, sometimes in less than 5 minutes (we timed it one day) one or two teenagers or young adults show up and “watch” us. We think it’s the local drug dealers doing surveillance of the area. We ask them to play basketball, but they always decline. Please pray that we can find a creative way to engage the youth in that area using the park. It’s a majorly under used resource in that neighborhood that could be used for so much good.
  2. The tutoring program we were involved in at the elementary school has been de-funded. 😦 We recently met with the schools community liaison and he was excited to see that we still wanted to find ways of investing in the school. Please pray for opportunities to add value to the school’s students and teachers.
  3. Building bridges between the neighborhood and the health organizations has been good, but there is still a lot that can be done. Please pray that we can hear from God on what we should do next in that area.
  4. The partnership with One Nashville has been super helpful in so many ways. The leader of the organization has been a person of peace for us. Please pray that we can discern next steps in our partnership with them.

Thank you for investing your time and prayers in what God has called us to do. You’re a blessing!

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